True Leaders AWOL in Brexit

 Posted by Jean      

We now know the result of the referendum in the UK to decide whether to leave the EU – known as Brexit.

An overriding feature of the campaign, both in the run-up to the vote and since the vote, has been the nature of leadership, or rather the lack of true leadership. Many commentators are describing how egos and politics have overridden the ability to present a balanced view.

Not just in the UK but in the US, we see challenges around egotists posing as leaders, with little evidence of leadership for the good of the people.

In his seminal book, From Good to Great, Jim Collins identifies "Level 5 Leaders". These are leaders who rise above ego to lead. They combine genuine humility with tremendous will. They are leaders who lead for the good of the organisation and have the strength and courage to do this without concern for themselves.

His HBR blog in 2005 describes level 5 leadership as required for transforming companies and teams – and presumably countries.

Robert K. Greenleaf makes a case for what he calls Servant Leadership.

“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.”

Robert K. Greenleaf

Both men see a true leader as one who leads to help people be their best selves at work. Servant leaders create conditions in which the people they are leading can do their best work. They empower and enable, and have the interests of both the people and the organisation/country they are leading.

So back to Brexit...

What is noticeable about many of the world leaders we see is a lack of true leadership. They appeal to fear and base instincts such as blaming scapegoats in order to win votes. In the UK and the US, some political leaders play on the people’s fear of being flooded by immigrants.

Last week, the UNHCR said there are more refugees today than at any time in history. Other political leaders bang the drum for economic growth but gloss over the rich-poor gap and do little for the many who feel left out. So more than ever, we need level 5 leaders, we need servant leaders, to lead us through these challenging times.

The UK and EU are going to have to find a way to sit down and have leaderful conversations. To bring about a separation which is win/win and where the interests of the people of Europe, including a very divided UK, are at the centre.

For those of us who are leading on a smaller scale - we too can start with our own teams and organisations. My commitment is to be more aware in the coming weeks and months of helping the leaders I coach and train, leaders in organisations, to model this leadership. And of course, starting with myself as a leader and the way I lead Bailey Balfour.

Photo by Dave Kellam / CC BY 2.0


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