Leadership lessons from Brexit

Leadership lessons from Brexit

Brexit has brought a number of significant social and business changes to the UK, amongst them a pressing problem in the form of the current leader vacuum.

Tory favourite Boris Johnson’s resignation, Labour’s on Jeremy Corbyn and Nigel Farage's declaration that he "wants his life back" illuminates the fragmentation within British politics at present.

In order to prevent a re-occurrence of this turbulent crisis, there are some challenges to our current concept of leadership that need to be acknowledged moving onwards.

James Brook, Joint Managing Director at Strengths Partnership, shares his insight on how we can learn from the negative events following Brexit. He said that the tactics employed by both sides of the campaign used fear-mongering to execute their aims: “Both sides of the debate engaged almost in fear-based leadership and scaremongering, reminding us constantly of all the short-term problems and issues associated with the opposing campaign’s end goal.

“The Leave side focused on problems and issues with immigration and bureaucracy whilst the Remain side focused almost exclusively on speculating about the economic fallout from Brexit. David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn failed to show unity on remaining and also failed to provide any positive, coherent vision for the near or long term future of staying in the EU.

“Cameron, George Osborne and Corbyn - as well as the bulk of their party leadership - were entrusted to lead the Remain campaign and failed miserably in their responsibilities to build a strong case around the many benefits and strengths of being in the EU. Similar to England’s performance against Iceland in this year’s European Championships, their performance lacked vision, cohesion, passion and confidence. Unfortunately, the discord and disunity caused by negative campaigning will now be difficult to shift and has deepened divisions within our tolerant and open-minded society.”

Brook outlines that we need for the future, is clarity in campaigns without self-interest. “To rebuild our divided society and avoid further political and economic meltdown, leadership must be built on a new, stronger foundation of solutions, strengths, possibilities and tolerance for diverse perspectives. Our leaders, both in politics and business, need to build a culture of hope, optimism, resilience and confidence by inspiring people from all backgrounds around the UK to connect with, and help deliver, a longer-term vision for a future outside the EU.

“To deliver this change, trust needs to be rebuilt with voters and this can only be done by addressing challenges in a positive, transparent and solutions-focused manner.”

In addition, speaking at the Henley Business School, Peter Hawkins, Professor of Leadership at the aforementioned educational institute, outlined the leadership challenges of tomorrow. Speaking to HR Grapevine, he posed the question: “What if we stopped voting for leaders, but for leadership teams?”

Hawkins research - where he interviewed a range of CEOs, HR Directors and Millennials - found that the pace of change in leadership is unprecedented, and the impact of digitisation is driving these changes. He found a threat of ‘disintermediation’ where web competitors are concerned, as more businesses are becoming ‘Uberised’.

He deduced that leadership development is becoming more collective, rather than based on individuals with so-called “leadership traits.” As partnerships grow, the number of people being employed is decreasing, which means that power is shifting to be more shared, rather than controlled down a value chain. He said that the future CEO needs the ability to build leadership team which can grow with stakeholder input and less resources. 

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Comments (1)

  • Bryan Edwards
    Bryan Edwards
    Wed, 20 Jul 2016 2:49pm BST
    Messers Cameron and Osborne fell into the trap of poor influencing - they banged on with one influencing tactic repeatedly - 'use of facts and figures' and then went on to abuse the figures by quoting exactly how much each household would lose, and exactly how much we would lose in value in our houses (based on speculative data up to 10 years in the future).

    They both employed zero leadership skills by failing to communicate a positive vision of remaining in Europe.

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