Leaders who face huge criticism of bad things that happened ‘on their watch’ can avoid being stuck between a rock and a hard place by resigning their position. This sends a clear message that they take responsibility for being the leader when things went bad and preserves some semblance of personal honour on their part.
In the recent BBC report on the widespread child abuse in the Rotherham area between 1997 and 2013 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-28962144 the Rotherham Council Leader Roger Stone appears to have done the decent thing.
In direct contrast, the South Yorkshire Police & Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright has refused to resign his post. In not resigning, he’s implying either he was negligent (unaware of the mounting evidence) and therefore borderline incompetent, or that he approved of what was happening and was therefore corrupt. Either way, his position is untenable and the ongoing criticism about him remaining in the role will not only overshadow his ability to do his day job but tarnish the brand of the organisation he works for.
The famous phrase of ‘plausible deniability’ constructed to protect leaders in high office from events taking place in their name clashes directly with another phrase of ‘the buck stops here.’ Unless leaders are required to resign in the wake of significant failings, there is unsufficient deterrent to being negligent. Furthermore, where failings are significant, the organisation they work for should not feel obligated to fight any civil case on behalf of such leaders, brought against them by the victims’ families.
Finally two quotes from Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman philosopher, politician & lawyer (106-43 BC):
‘Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error.’
‘The safety of the people shall be the highest law.’