The Dearth of Leadership

Leadership lessons from Brexit?

It has taken me a full week to even begin to gather thoughts about the outcome of the European referendum that can be articulated in a business blog.  At the end of a tumultuous week I am, with many others in business, still processing what this means for us and what lies ahead.  The chaos engulfing us right now as I write this, doesn’t feel as if it will resolve itself any time soon and I am concerned as to how this will affect companies like ours.  Business hates uncertainty and in my lifetime I have never experienced such a deep unease as events appeared to spiral out of control this week.

Most worrying of all is the dearth of Leadership at the very top of our political system.

So what can be learned about leadership and leading change from Brexit?

Well here are 5 points I’ve considered:

  1. Never, ever get caught without a plan.  I find it unconscionable that a question was put to us, the electorate, without one.  You would rightly be thrown out of any boardroom in any business for being so utterly, utterly stupid…
  2. Never think about negotiating with your pants down, it’s not a good look … or indeed talk about negotiating after you have insulted the people you are negotiating with.  Our current negotiating position is risible and you would be laughed at in business.
  3. Never advocate change unless you truly believe it will lead to the greater good and never, ever advocate change just because it benefits you personally or politically.
  4. Never ignore the people who are most affected by the change.  If  only 36% of young voters turned out, that’s not THEIR fault, it’s YOUR fault politicians and media people!  I need only point to Scotland’s Independence Referendum: the voting age was lowered, young people took part in televised debate and 80% of them turned out to vote.  So always, always make sure you communicate change, listen to people’s concerns and explain how THEY will be affected by change.
  5. Never allow yourself to join the “Post Truth” movement.  I heard this phrase on a BBC Radio 4 debate about Brexit and it disturbed me.  Apparently: “If you repeat something often enough, even if it isn’t true, people start to believe it”.  Well that might win you the battle but it won’t win you the war and I think as leader you’ll be held accountable for that untruth and, ultimately, held in contempt.  Always speak the truth and never be afraid to ask the difficult questions in your organisation that we so failed to ask our politicians.

I’m hoping these points, which seem to have evaded our political representatives, are blindingly obvious to those of you in leadership and management positions in businesses and organisations large and small.

We all have a huge task now and whichever side of the debate you were on, I know that like me, you will want a new and better country to emerge.  One that understands true leadership rather than the cult of “the leader”, one that thinks before it acts and one that puts truth and decency above all else.



No Guru provide a range of training to develop leaders, managers, people and teams.  John is also available to deliver seminars and talks on themes covered in the blogs.  Get in touch, we would love to hear from you.

Posted by John Drysdale
1st July 2016
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