Britain’s historic vote to leave the EU is instantly one of the most important political and economic stories of the 21st century. Its implications will impact businesses, and the accountants who help run them, all over the globe.
I have a view on how this dramatic event manifested and it’s a subject that lies so close to my heart – this is organisational health.
Poor organisational health meant that the UK government caught the cold, the media developed influenza and before we knew it the UK developed pneumonia.
I firmly believe that strong organisational health is built on the back of Leadership, Communication & Culture. So what went wrong?
Leadership: Professor Theakston offers an interesting insight into the Leadership style of Cameron http://www.britpolitics.co.uk/academic-articles-all/evaluating-david-cameron-as-prime-minister
My view is that if you compare the collective law maker/ political influencer community, which includes both the government and opposing parties to a private organisation, then you would likely conclude that there was lack of clarity in the strategy, vision and values from the outset, at leadership level. This naturally resulted in poor or incomplete top-level communication, which at times became muddled and contradictory, with positions moving frequently, which ultimately created a ripple effect of confusion and apathy. To compound matters the whips on both sides of the house failed to get complete censuses within each parties’ leadership ranks, which was evidenced by some of the post vote resignations and lack of confidence votes that we have now witnessed.
Communication: Clear and authentic communication is vital to any organisation’s health. As a result of lack of clear strategic value and vision setting, communication was not clear, nor perceived at times as being authentic. The cascade effect was that the party members on all sides of the house themselves were unclear on the pros and cons of the Brexit scenario, which in turn manifested itself in unclear interactions with the press and hence with the wider voting public in whom the decision to exit or not had been entrusted.
Culture: Culture is the causal effect of communication and leadership. Inconsistent messaging, un-transparent leadership, lack of values, high populism and management by fear all led to a culture of in-fighting. Long before he became a Member of Parliament, David Cameron was a Special Adviser to the Treasury in the early 1990s. In this role, he would have witnessed the way that Conservative MPs rebelled against John Major over Europe, and will remember how Europe completely destroyed that Prime Minister.
Understandably, Cameron did not want that fate for himself, and in order to silence and placate the Eurosceptics (who had become increasingly rebellious about him) and UKIP (who had ‘stolen’ a lot of votes from the Conservatives in 2015), he agreed to a referendum. At the time of the 2015 general election, when Cameron first promised a referendum, the opinion polling showed ‘Remain’ consistently ahead.
However Cameron’s Leadership was inauthentic. In his endeavour to please different opinions he became a puppet-on-a-string. Strong Leaders have a vision that they follow with strong values and with conviction and credibility.
The conclusion. Governments, Organisations and Corporations are all people systems! There is, in this most turbulent world a great need to create a wellbusiness™ philosophy in each system which is sustainable and people-centred.
Those that do will thrive and those that don’t will fall apart.
About the author
Rachel previously worked in the global financial services sector and has a vast experience in managing multi-cultural teams for FTSE and Fortune 100 companies. Rachel was awarded Most Inspiring Women in Entrepreneurship in 2012 and is a founding member of Dress for Success (Luxembourg) and Competence asbl as well as being a co-author of the book Unlock your Mind. She has regularly lectured on the University of London MBA programme.