The Brexit outcome came as a huge surprise with a very close 52% vote to exit. The Leave Campaign was highly successful given that the incumbent Prime Minister David Cameron advocated staying. It was only six months ago that David Cameron was recognized globally as the third most popular political figure after Barack Obama and Angela Merkel!
Following the Brexit vote the political scene has been stark. The PM David Cameron resigned; the face of Brexit, Boris Johnson, was torpedoed out of his assumed leadership role as heir apparent of the Conservative Party by Justice Minister and perceived Brexit architect, Michael Gove; and the pro-Brexit congenial right wing leader of the Independent Party, Nigel Farage, has also resigned believing that his work towards independence is now done.
While this has had significant political and economic repercussions, this uncertainty is essential to pave the way for the new. It seems that finally people have an appetite for change and are no longer satisfied with the status quo or business as usual. While the exit was a surprise, change and a certain degree of chaos is essential to cause a rethink from a broader more strategic perspective.
Brexit brings into play a number of opportunities. First the EU will undoubtedly review its bureaucratic processes and costs of membership, Substantial reform will be expedited by the possibility of other referendums. Second, I cannot see the UK ever giving up its own currency, so without the UK, the EU may well find new ground to forge ahead and create a more sustainable and synergistic interdependent community of nations. And third, the UK is now primed for new leadership to transcend the previous white male elite.
We will have to wait and see who emerges as the next Prime Minister although my money’s on Home Secretary Theresa May as a voice of reason and person of purpose with a solid track record resolving issues in the EU. She’s received just over half of the votes cast in the first round. I also favour her as someone who has been outside the Brexit propaganda yet supportive of staying, and yes, she’s a woman, so that’s a +1 for me too. Any woman in the 50+ generation who has braved politics, corporate or federal, to realize a position of authority while retaining their personal authenticity, has earned their place well and truly.
One other thought on Brexit that I think is important to note is the power of language. First, Brexit, the name given by the media to the referendum, implies an exit. Second, the use of the word “Remain”, notwithstanding its incorporation of the word “in” accented in some promotional material, is weak. It implies staying behind when others are leaving. It carries a weak, negative energy. And the associated word “remains” has an even less palatable taste. The choice to “stay” would’ve been emotionally much stronger attuning people to the principles of integrity and loyalty.
Further, the words n the voting paper to either “Remain a member of the European Union” or “Leave the European Union” would also tend to push any fence sitter to tick the second option. Why were the explicit words “to be a member of” deemed necessary? It sounds much more complicated than the second choice which is just to “leave”. The vote would have been fairer from a language perspective if both options had been stated in simple terms – “Leave the EU” or “Stay in the EU”.
In Australia there is a similar level of post-election uncertainty with neither main party yet realizing a majority of seats. The end result of a hung parliament is almost a logical outcome of two unconvincing boring campaigns. There was little in the way of aspiration or activism, purpose or principles. Just a trade in attacks, denial and defense, and the usual name-calling and bickering. Medicare might have brought a bit of life to the debate but still without advocating substantive policy. In my view, where there's smoke there's fire and a belligerent denial is always suspicious.
It seems that the people in Australia are also over business as usual. Instead of stability we want change including new parties and independents, left, right, up and out, to help create the shift to a new and better society. While a round of negotiations to arrive at a new government may succeed, it’s bound to be an uncomfortable compromise of sorts that will only see us through a short to medium term.
I've had Katy Perry's song "Hot N Cold" playing in my mind ...
"You're hot then you're cold
You're yes then you're no
You're in then you're out
You're up then you're down"
In decades past, the two main parties have sought control of Parliament and Senate, like a seesaw shifting from one to the other and back again. Arriving at a balancing point where neither has the majority represents the opportunity to move beyond polarizing politics between capitalism and socialism, and finding a new path to more conscious purposeful and principled leadership where shared economic growth and stronger community wellbeing are held together as parts of a whole.
We need new political leaders with a broader, more expansive integral perspective based on universal principles so that everyone in society rises together in terms of health, wealth, education and wellbeing. Isn’t this much more rewarding than celebrating the building of more prisons, hospitals and casinos to cater for the ever-growing populations of prisoners, patients and punters?
With the US election also in train, it seems that the world is hanging in the balance as we shift from 20th century conventional thinking focused on control, competition and compliance, to post-conventional 21st century thinking embracing uncertainty to stimulate creativity, collaboration and the emergence of a better future for us all. Activating and navigating the VUCA world that is Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous, is essential to making this shift from one age to the next. From chaos comes new order.
Transcending and transforming the 20th century conventional corporate norms and oppositional politics requires the transformational leadership capacity that only becomes available at the level of Strategist, attained by only 5% of leaders today! It’s essential for more leaders with positional authority who are high Achievers, the final conventional stage in leadership development, to take the Hero’s Journey and get to know their intrinsic worth in terms of personal authenticity and purposeful endeavour that unites people to realize higher aspirations for all.
As Gandhi said, "We must become the change we wish to see in the world", and in the words of Einstein, "Problems can’t be solved at the level they were created!" If we stick with taking sides, oppositional confrontation and competing agendas, our society simply cannot evolve. Instead we must embrace the unknown and take full advantage of this vital opportunity to create anew.
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All the best,
Antoinette Braks is a Transformational Executive Coach in Strategic and Holistic Leadership with more than 2,500 hours executive coaching experience. In recent years she has coached more than 50 Senior Executives, led many Strategic Offsites for Executive Teams, presented at workshops and Conference events, and led Leadership Development Programs in organizations with outstanding results.
Her coaching capacity builds on 25+ years global corporate experience leading Leadership Capital Solutions with Korn Ferry Asia Pacific, People and Culture with Shell in Latin America and Africa, the Culture Transformation of Businesslink NSW and as the GM People and Culture with energy infrastructure company Vector in New Zealand.
Antoinette holds an MBA from London Business School and is currently completing her PhD at the MGSM in Leadership Transformation. She also has an MA in Management Research, a Dip Intl Mktg(Hons) and graduated LLB(Hons) BA (Political Science) from the University of Auckland.
She is the bestselling author of Executive SOS outlining the 7 Proven Steps to Set Up Your Own Strategic Operating System. This book shows you how to rise above the noise, get off the treadmill and lead your division and stakeholders as an Inspiring Strategic Leader, showcasing a number of success stories from her executive clients.
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