11th Nov 2011

Leadership in Crisis

Political leaders throughout the west are facing a crisis of confidence. Approval ratings for Angela Merkel (40%), Nickolas Sarkozy (20%) and David Cameron (33%) have plummeted in recent months. Papandreou has resigned. Berlusconi will probably be next. Obama’s current approval rating is one of the lowest since Nixon’s after the Watergate scandal. Trapped between the conflicting claims of resentful electorates on one hand, and market calls for increased austerity on the other, the response of western governments has been fatally indecisive. This, in turn, weakens the potential for co-operation. A consensus or near-consensus is much easier to achieve when things are going well; but in a crisis, effective co-operation is almost impossible without strong leadership. Last week, the G20 failed to agree on a plan to restart growth and fix the Euro zone.

There are also signs of a worsening epidemic of stress and exhaustion among top-level executives. A recent article by James Moore for the Independent claims “growing numbers of powerful bosses are giving up their jobs, blaming pressure and exhaustion.” He cites a litany of business leaders who have recently resigned due to stress-related issues, including the head of Lloyds Banking Group Antonio Horta-Osorio, CFO of Barnes & Noble Joseph Lombardi, CEO of Boots Andy Hornby, and CEO of Pfizer Jeff Kindler, along with half a dozen others in equally high-profile roles.

Unstable markets, massive debts, global power-shifts, accelerating technological change – all over the world the stakes have been raised, the rules are changing, and the future looks more uncertain than ever. Few would question the idea that the present historical moment is replete with reasons for anxiety. The real question is;

How can we cope with it?

Put simply, successful leadership relies on three elements; a clear vision, the ability to bring people with you, and delivering results.

It is impossible to predict the future, but a leader must have the courage and confidence to venture into the unknown in order to facilitate change. Clarity of direction, and a specific plan on how to get there, will make for an easier and more successful journey.

In terms of progress, the leader must bring his/her team with him/her. Communication is crucial – people will spontaneously follow when they understand and believe in the vision of their leader.

Of course, vision and co-operation are nothing without a measurable return of investment. The delivery of results reflects the quality of leadership. Successful leaders prove the clarity of their vision, and the effectiveness of their leadership with tangible results. The stakes are high, and now more than ever, our leaders must step up to the plate.



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