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The Challenge for Leadership

Apr 9, 2020 | Blog

A simple search on Amazon reveals 70,000 leadership books.

Yet no guru has written the script for the current scenario.

The immediate focus is on saving lives and saving businesses. Yet, here is also a need, in this time of lockdown, to consider how life must change when we emerge.

The challenge for leadership is how to create a new world order. As Zen put it, “The obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.”

We have already woken up to the fact that it’s a waste of time and energy making millions of workers take agonising daily commutes to soulless city offices. After the virus, the challenge is to create an entirely new world of work.

We have been given the starkest notice of the fragility of humanity and the world we inhabit.

People will travel less. Local produce will be preferred. The doctrine of globalisation will need re-thought. The Health Service must be properly funded.

Attitudes to physical and mental wellbeing will change. We must re-think the treadmill of corporate life and seek a better way.

The many leaders who have glibly claimed their business is being conducted for a purpose beyond profit will no longer get away with that.

Employees will demand there is a better way to lead them.

The current crisis is proof that the real potential of any group of human beings is only realised when they are united behind a common purpose which they believe in.

Take our NHS heroes; take the 650,000 volunteers; the men and women who are creating the field hospital at the Excel; and the engineers and entrepreneurs who’ve moved from vacuum cleaners to ventilators. They are leading at every level in every way.

In normal times, in so many organisations the bosses still stand at the top ineffectively barking command and control and wondering why the team just stare back. The troops (through no fault of their own) focus mainly on their next mortgage payment or the clock striking 5pm. Purpose is non-existent. So potential is left untapped.

May we also see that people are no longer willing to thole corporate hypocrisy? Take Easyjet paying a dividend of £174 million while asking for a bail out – shaming capitalism and insulting every other business-person who needs government cash to survive.

When the normal rules don’t apply, it’s no defence to say they do.

The challenge for leadership is to take these issues and create a new world order. In time, this will be as great a challenge as dealing with the deadly virus itself.

Published in The Times newspaper on 9 April 2020

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