When we ended 2017 Brexit dominated our thoughts. As we end 2018 it still does but in a distressingly negative way. The past 12 months have seen widening fractures within our political leaders whilst business scrambles to understand what is happening and desperately attempting to make their voices heard. To no avail it would seem.
I have written before about Theresa May’s leadership and the glass cliff phenomenon. Sadly I fear that the theory is being proved: a woman is brought in to solve an impossible solution, goes so far but fails, was bound to fail, and then a man comes in and ‘rescues’ the situation.
She has attempted to square too many circles and her leadership style has not fitted the environment in which she has been forced to operate. Who then can ‘rescue’ her? In normal circumstances the CEO would be sacked by the Board and another parachuted in to bring clarity of thinking to the issue and re-energise the team. That’s been tried in this case and failed.
How then do you enable the leader to step back and review when they are driven by one ideology? In this case it is fulfilling a democratic mandate, the wish of the people. Do you work with them to find a way to address their leadership style to regain the trust and commitment of the team? Or do you challenge their assumptions about their ideology?
In a business scenario the ‘wish of the people’ would be the customers. We all know that customer tastes and expectations change over time. We have to adapt our own products and services to take that into account – and to take advantage of that. Customer preferences from two years previous may, or may not be the same today. That would be seen by buying patterns or focus groups to test out new products.
Could that then be the route out of the current predicament? Could we test our ‘customers’ preference’ again?
I cannot see that anyone in the next three months could change May’s leadership style. It seems to be that she’s hoping people will chicken out at the end and back her. It’s a huge gamble and one that I do not think our economy can bear.
There’s certainly a lack of cohesion in her team and indeed in the wider political team in Parliament. There are a variety of scenarios which some are attempting to put before the House (the Board if you like) to at least narrow down what is possible.
Is that leadership? I think so. Will it work? I fear not.
Perhaps then the only route is to go back to the people, to the customers and ask them which flavour of Brexit they would prefer. The sour taste of no deal, the less sour taste of a deal, or the neutrality of remaining.