Mar 31 2022| Leadership | leaders | crisis | Values
Leaders - the time to step up is now
April Business Brief
by Phil Eyre Leaders' Founder
This is an unprecedented moment in global history. In Phil Eyre’s latest article in Business Brief, he discusses how unprecedented moments are always the case, but in recent conversations with leaders in large businesses, local businesses, government and charities, there is a growing and strong sense that right now will be a critical moment in history. There are paradigm shifts in beliefs, expectations and challenges. The geopolitical environment is intense. The climate prognosis is urgent. People, especially young people, are speaking up about hard-nosed practices that ruin lives and destroy the environment.
The time to act, to lead, is now. Leaders – and all of us - are judged not by our good intentions, but by our actions. If there’s no action and no change, there’s no leadership. Titled positions of authority - Director, Managing Partner and CEO - are meaningless if those with the authority fail to exercise it in practice. Wonderfully crafted statements of intention can be appealing and good intentions are comforting, but they are just empty words without action and change.
The need for active leadership has become desperately urgent. Most leaders recognise the conditions that we are in and the potential threats and opportunities that lie ahead. Yet it can be too easy for leaders to baulk at taking the right action. Many things can hold us back. I’ve recently observed three particular hurdles:
- Fear. A small amount of fear can be healthy. We need a little fear in order to avoid reckless bravado. However, an overdose of fear can crush creativity and decisiveness. Fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of consequence, fear of being ridiculed and fear of losing money, all of which we’ve observed in a handful of clients in recent months, will hold us back from acting. The best leaders face their fears and act regardless. The worst salve their fear with platitudes, ‘good intentions’ and distraction, acting instead on things that don’t really matter.
- Comfort. In the early stages of a business, founders and leaders assume and embrace uncertainty. As the company gains traction, success, a decent balance sheet and healthy pension plan, it can be all too easy to enter a preservation stance rather than a future-thinking attitude. ‘Let’s not rock the boat,’ said one CEO recently, ignoring the fact that the boat is already being rocked whether he likes it or not. For leaders who would rather not put the effort in to address the challenges ahead, it may mean it’s time to hand over the baton to those who will.
- Tradition. Making difficult decisions is, well, difficult. Once a series of difficult decisions has been made, this can too easily become the default approach. Rather than address today’s problems with a renewed focus, we draw on yesterday’s solutions even if they’re no longer suitable. We use an old system, recruit in a particular way, budget for things that no longer matter, fail to see what will matter tomorrow. Leaders must - now more than ever - look ahead for solutions, not behind.
This environment is demanding and therefore wildly exciting for true leaders. It’s time to step it up - what is your first move?