The True Test of Leadership
I am going to be quite specific about my opinion and what the BREXIT result means.
It is in essence the true test of leadership.
Leadership is only really tested in times of uncertainty, in times of confusion and when the clarity that comes with management is not directly available. The truth of the matter is that BREXIT is irrelevant to leadership, as it is at its core, an aberration to the norm, it isn’t right or wrong, BREXIT does not have sentience or emotion, it just is. The outcome was the reality we have today, and this may or not be the one we have tomorrow.
BREXIT isn’t right or wrong
BREXIT is a moment in time to which we are reacting to.
Some people got the outcome they wanted, some did not and some just don’t care. We all have our realities, hopes and fears, as well as, our intellectual positions and perspectives, some fluid and some fixed in stone.
This is then the abode of the leader. Where leaders learn if they are up to the job or whether they have been getting by on niche knowledge, time served and position. Leadership is made up of many component parts, primarily in times of uncertainty or wicked times if you will.
The leader’s role becomes about defining:
- Purpose that helps people engage and commit to the ‘why we exist’
- Identity that spells out the way this business frames the world, defining ‘who we are’
- Judgement in the mechanics of decision making competence showing ‘how decisions are made’
- Behaviour that is role modelled and everyone is held to, demonstrating ‘how we do what we do’
The leaders that will resonate and stand out are the ones that will have a strong skillset and motivation, to not only get actions done, but to do so in a manner that sets the tone for what happens post disruption.
Question: What is the story that will be written as this timeline moves on?
Will it be one of hardship, back breaking timelines and emotional overload? Will it be one of fear, gossip, lack of clarity, saving own skins and a sense of fighting for survival? Will it be one with leaders focusing on the micro disregarding of human emotions racing through the environment and validating themselves through promising the impossible by making everyone else deliver to that?
There is another perspective on this. It’s the one that understands the nature of the moment, taking a “moment to breathe” and makes a conscious decision to move at pace. Getting a march on the confused and the panicking reactionary competitors, at the same time, writing a story that defines the purpose of the business, defining its identity confirming how we think and what good looks like.
Doing things right is not an issue of context, it does not have an opt in or out clause, it is written into the behavioural DNA of the business, and is seen as a commercial imperative to ensure that:
- Talent engages and is attracted
- Clients experience leadership and believe in the strategy
- Teams carry the story of the hard things being done the right way
What is this about?: “Holding the line and staying on message”
Trust is what all this boils down to and we aren’t arguing that point, trust me on that.
If the message in the good times is different to the message in the more complex times, then you are not to be trusted.
Yes, you can up the wattage and change the emphasis, however what you can’t do is alter the tone. You cannot shift the messages on accountability, integrity, relationship, meaning and purpose.
People have long memories and the story of the way things are around here is being written right now.
- Emotional responses
- Choice of vocabulary
- Purpose of Task
- Levels of communication
All are factoring into the conversation, which becomes the story, and after time, the myth that will either enable or sabotage your business.
The question then is: How to focus on the right things?
Busy? That’s rhetorical.
Confident of the future? That’s rhetorical as well.
These questions are red herrings as they are both a relative constant. The thing that makes it more or less palatable is the sense of urgency and proximity of impact on oneself and those around us. This is now where we see individuals, teams and businesses rise and flourish or not….
So to succeed:
- Have an absolute focus on the purpose of the business. Not the actions of the moment.
Do not allow the moment to distort this focus, the repercussions are long lasting, as trying to reconnect to a moral and human focus retrospectively is nigh on impossible.
- Be unrelenting in the development and nurturing of leadership.
This is the time to examine talent, to coach, mentor and develop, not in a linear manner that only answers the needs of now, but in an adaptive learning perspective that develops:
- Tell a compelling story.
Now more than ever people need to aim for something that is bigger, bolder and more exciting than the thing they are dealing with, give them that, that is your responsibility!
- Use the power of the “10th Man”.
In a film called World War Z, there is a scene explaining how the Israeli government had a “10th Man” principle. This meant, whenever nine people looked at the same information, they came to the same conclusion. It was the “10th Man’s” duty to disagree and actively look for evidence to the contrary.This story was actually born from the experience of the Yom Kippur War (1973),which took Israeli military intelligence by surprise. Institutions were put in place to reduce the chances of group thinking and to stop over dominant commanders preventing diverse opinions from reaching decision makers or being initiated at all. One of these units were often referred to as the “Devil’s Advocate Office”.So, be it a Devil’s Advocate office or a Devil’s Advocate mind-set, the businesses that navigate to the future will make a space for the curious and elegantly disruptive.
Question: What does all this mean? | Answer: The future does not belong to the fearful. It belongs to the brave.
- “When this is all done, what do we want the story of it to be?”
It means the capacity to hold two truths. The truth of getting the job in hand done and the truth of doing it the right way. It also means that we have to look very hard at ourselves in the mirror and ask:
- “What am I made of?”
The answer to that might well sit in a quote from Goethe:
Ultimately I hope this helps in your thinking and the writing of your own story, and how you contribute the story around you.
On that note.