Editor’s letter: Leading from the front…will you step up?

I am reminded of a particular quote from Ram Charran at the European HR Directors Summit last month which seems particularly relevant: “Please note, companies don’t die, leaders let them die.”

The last few weeks have served to highlight the importance of being prepared and able to lead in challenging circumstances – to make the difficult decisions that others do not want to make, or that have been thrust upon you.

As the UK is now learning, there is a significant gulf in its political leadership – with few people either willing or able to confront and tackle the results of the referendum on membership of the European Union.

The surprising result of the vote itself created a wave of instability, but the following upheaval among the political leaders is perhaps more worrying for the nation.

The lack of a plan from any source for this eventuality is of greatest concern.

As former UK chancellor Alistair Darling emphasised at the CFO Agenda last week, while the political classes are losing their heads, it is important the business world does not lose its – good corporate governance will be vital for the coming years of uncertainty.

Sporting analogies do not always fit well with the business world, but the ongoing European football championships provide a couple of examples that illustrate the critical nature of leadership quite well (Not to mention the bringing together of the most talented people in one industry from across the continent is a rather timely irony.)

The success of smaller nations, particularly Iceland and Wales, compared to more illustrious opponents is perhaps the biggest story of the whole tournament.

These sides arrived with low expectations, which always helps in perception, but also brought clear plans of how to play set out well in advance – every player knowing their role and making the most of their talents. This structure gave them the best chance for success.

Compare these to teams which arrived with unsettled management or other structural issues. Despite having more talented players; a lack of focus, direction and strategic plan from above has seen several big names fall early.

Sporting upsets happen frequently enough, but the warning signs were there for many of these teams beforehand.

As it was with the UK, the warning signs were present before the referendum too.

In this situation, business leaders need to be aware of the warning signs that are now flashing around the UK and EU.

This will not be a short solution – negotiations, whenever they begin, are likely to take two years just to complete the UK’s exit – and let’s not mention the ongoing row about freedom of movement.

How long renegotiating all the individual trade treaties will take is anyone’s guess.

But life will go on and there will be opportunities – it is important that your business is in the right position to take advantage of them when they appear.

 

Related reading