EU Referendum: How Should Leaders Respond to Brexit?

Posted by: Nigel Girling Post Date: 24th June 2016

The sun has risen on a historic day. Britain has just voted to leave the European Union (in many parts of England and Wales, by a wide margin), and waves have already hit the stock market and currency exchange rates.

The Prime Minister, having strongly advocated the ‘remain’ vote, has given his resignation speech, and sent his party’s leadership challengers into overdrive.

The sun has risen on a historic day. Britain has just voted to leave the European Union (in many parts of England and Wales, by a wide margin), and waves have already hit the stock market and currency exchange rates.

The Prime Minister, having strongly advocated the ‘remain’ vote, has given his resignation speech, and sent his party’s leadership challengers into overdrive.

This situation presents the biggest leadership challenge most of our senior leaders and managers will ever have faced – beyond anything generated by the economic meltdown, Black Wednesday, or even the Winter of Discontent.

I was recently at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, where an ex-army commander told me that ‘officers don’t run, as it frightens the troops’. This strikes me as an excellent mantra for our senior leaders to consider today and in the coming weeks.

Now is a time for leaders to stand up, keep calm, breathe deeply, and engage their people with compelling visions and intelligent action. This is no time for panic, knee-jerk reactions, or any of the inflammatory and ill-considered rhetoric that has appeared to characterise some of the media-driven and polarised debate in recent months.

If you are reading this as a leader, whether it be of a team, department, organisation, sector, location or region, then consider this:

  • How are you going to use this opportunity to refocus your people and organisation?
  • What will you say to them, today and tomorrow, to reassure them?
  • How will you take advantage of the ripples this event will cause?
  • How will you LEAD in these turbulent times?

We need leaders and leadership most in times of crisis when people look to key figures to reassure them, give them confidence, show them the way, and lay out plans to which they can contribute and feel that they are making a difference.

Funnily enough, that’s what we always need. That’s leadership.

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