Vulture Cultures
by Leanne Faraday-Brash

ISBN: 978-1-922117-03-8 Publisher: Australian Academic Press (2012)
Reviewed by: Julie Garland McLellan*

Vultures don't always wait for carrion to die before they strike; often they will target the most sensitive and delicate parts as these are the most succulent feed source. In corporate life, as in the wild, vultures survive by picking on the weak and unwary as well as feeding on the carcasses of those who have recently given up the struggle. In the wild they are a useful part of the ecosystem; cleaning and carrying away festering remains. In corporate life they can roost and feed in the heart of even vigorous organisations, ravaging performance, profit and public perception.

This book begins with a clear guide to recognising the different types of corporate vulture, both lone and in flocks (or committees to use the correct collective noun). Of course, corporate vultures don't always hunt in broad daylight and the book has some handy hints to help you diagnose their presence from the inevitable traces of their presence even when they are not in clear sight. The behavioural checklists allow even an EQ dunce to work out what might be wrong and the later chapters provide simple ideas for fixing it.

The sections on bullying, harassment and discrimination are written from a practical stance rather than a moralistic or legal one and, although the book is published by an academic press, there is little dry or esoteric academe in it.

Throughout the book Leanne's voice can be clearly heard. At times the book feels like a conversation with the author. It is a comfortable chat with a caring mentor rather than a lecture from an expert but the expertise and experience shine through. This is a book with a purpose.

The book has taken some gutsy positions and illustrates its points with recent Australian case studies that caused a press sensation. Leanne is capable of adding insight to well-known stories that readers may find familiar and enhances this by providing anecdote from her own consulting and executive career that build upon and extend the material into unknown and exciting territory.

This book extends the science of organisational culture whilst providing a toolkit for modern managers and directors to diagnose and correct the prevailing culture in their organisations. It frightened me with its casual references to legislation that deposits the responsibility for provision of culturally appropriate workplaces, free from harassment, bullying, discrimination or oppression, clearly into the arena of board activity. The legislation exists; few directors consider it in an ongoing or pervasive manner as they go about the business of creating successful organisations. Fortunately the following chapters give some easily applied strategies for dealing with the issues and instilling a decent culture.

The advice on handling an incident investigation is clear and avoids recommending the procedural unfairness of many other authors who seem to deem that any accused is automatically guilty. There is a chapter for 'victims' (I prefer to use the word 'targets') of vultures which contains sound strategies for coping with vultures, either alone or in concert.

Regardless of whether you feel yourself, like Conan, to be bound at the mercy of a vulture, or like, like Mandela, to be responsible for the formation of a new and decent culture this book will give some thoughtful insights and some irresistible calls to action.

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* Julie Garland McLellan is a professional non-executive director, board and governance consultant and mentor. She is the author of  "Dilemmas, Dilemmas: Practical Case Studies for Company Directors",  Dilemmas, Dilemmas II: More Practical Case Studies for Company Directors (Volume 2),  "The Director's Dilemma",  "Presenting to Boards",  "All Above Board: Great Governance for the Government Sector" and numerous articles on corporate strategy and governance.