Why corporates must engage their grassroots potential to thrive and survive


Failure to Face the Uglies: Chaos, change and conflict

Even as little as three years ago, very few people would have predicted the extent to which the political landscape would erupt and change. Heralding in a new era of the triumphant unexpected; Trump, Brexit and Macron flagging up a paradigm shift in leadership and provoking the question of where influence now really lies. What role do politicians and leaders now have to be meaningful in an uncertain world?

The signs were there for a while. Had there been any meaningful reflection on the causes and fall out from the financial crisis, links may have been made between questions raised about morality and judgement of leadership and the erosion of trust in our politicians. But sadly not. The old school players wound up for action, approached campaigning in the traditional way, “we say, you listen, we pretend to hear” showing an absence of evolution in the narrative, a lack of vision and no real understanding of underlying needs and opportunities when communicating key messages.

The hackneyed approach relied on the age-old gimmick of making illusory promises to excite and convince.  This inability to see the value in engaging people properly, the lack of investment in delving below assumptions to face the realities, the fear of appearing uncertain, has led us to a darker, more divisive path that threatens our sense of security and optimism for the future.

During campaigning, neatly planned campaign strategies became redundant almost as they were written. Grand speeches given with authority, melted in the face of bold, unproven statements that resonated with a frustrated emancipated electorate.  What once worked no longer did; experience, became symbolic of rigidity, curved ball contenders bounced seemingly fresh new ideas, energy and hope that created sense of direction and new possibility that the electorate were hungry for.

Who is in control?

Ironically, despite these seemingly radical and outlandish new captains of politics catapulting into power, very little has changed.  The electorate still sit back, watching accusingly from the wings, at the spectacle of political farce in motion with very little sense of their own responsibility and possibility to address their own challenges. The parent/child relationship remains intact and the opportunity to garner the hidden potential to meet new challenges, has been lost.

As politicians cascade into an ineffectual state of flux, desperate to find traction, contain uncertainty, and create the appearance of control, we watch through our fingers at their unravelling with sinking feeling.  Who ​is in control? Who will make this alright for us? What do we want in the first place?

It’s like watching a watercolour slowly melt away in a downpour, as we slowly but surely lose faith in our leaders, and patience with the political system. In some ways this was inevitable, as how can leaders remain credible when so much of their role is to accurately predict an unknown future and demonstrate certainty and authority in uncertain, rapidly changing world? We can blame and accuse as much as we like, but ultimately if we expect our leaders to be predictors of the future we will always be left feeling let down and they always left wanting.

What can leaders learn from the tuition the politicians have so richly made us pay for?  

  1/ Invest now in getting to know your grassroots potential​​. Recognise that within your organisations there are people with front line information, ideas and understanding that will improve your outcomes. There will be people within your organisation who are making work better for others and contributing more than perhaps their pay check or job title suggest. Get to know them and value them,

2/ Engage, engage, engage​​ to increase loyalty, commitment, and mobilise people so they are part of the journey and are willing and able to go the extra mile. Contrary to previous belief, it is the small things that really matter and motivate people. Actions speak louder than words, and small actions can make a massive, sustainable difference.

3/ Build momentum. Learn to unlearn those unhelpful vestiges of bygone days when leaders needed to demonstrate control and certainty to be seen as successful and effective. Instead, develop ability to expect the unexpected, and develop a resilience in uncertain world. Make successful failure a new empowering narrative for everyone to live by.

In the long term, we may look back and see a natural order begin to emerge from this current political wreckage, but it may take several years for this to be recognised. In the meantime, it’s time to recognise that answers to complexity demand far better questions.  It doesn’t take a lot to make a massive difference just something different to be done.  We need to release our leaders from the sole responsibility of always ‘being right’, instead help to create a narrative that excites interest, wider involvement and introduces freedom to innovate.  There is no question in my mind that that we already have what we need, we just need to release it, so lets get cracking together towards a stronger, brighter future for all.