I was in Europe last Friday when Brexit results were announced.
I’m not here to pass judgment on whether the Brits got it right or wrong. The EU is an exquisite political dream. Yet many things are wrong with the present-state EU.
Watching Europe’s political leaders react? Now that was excruciatingly wrong in so many more ways.
Leaders who don’t have a clue. Literally, no clue about how to respond when an outcome stuns them. No idea what to say in a moment of defeat. No clue as to what they are truly thinking and feeling. And they call that leadership?
David Cameron. EU president Jean-Claude Juncker. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, making the media rounds. Re-enacting an outmoded leadership script. Acting like they’re in command of the moment. Reassuring folks that things will be fine and the bureaucratic process works. Projecting control control control when it has just been ripped from them.
Robotic scripted platitude-driveling stone-faced stiff-upper-lip rubbish. Guilty, most of them. Blah blah blah blah blah.
So utterly out of touch. I want to say with the circumstances but, really, with themselves. And that is the ultimate leadership taboo.
We can be kind and say they were in shock. But, come on, you didn’t think it could happen?
I’m picking on European power brokers but similar leadership crimes are routinely committed by corporate and political leaders this side of the pond.
In a moment of duress, of crisis and unexpected turn of events, drop into a little bit of your own truth. Trust that it will resonate with their truth. That’s how we move through and forward. Consider these simple tips:
The script – that is the platitude-filled, easy-answer, sounds good but has no substance response to unforeseen circumstances. The script that reveals no genuine human response or nuanced reflection on what has occurred. The script that is supposed to comfort others but simply shows you’re out of touch.
Yes, that script. It doesn’t work.
Because you’re smart, you want to think your way through the painful moment. Quickly. Your smarts are a tremendous asset, of course. They’re one of the reasons you’re a recognized leader. But because you’re human, you have feelings. Don’t intellectualize your feelings away. Breathe. Stay fully in your body. Remain whole. Remain fully human.
In the unexpected moment, everything conspires against you listening to yourself. The pace around you accelerates. Folks want you to spring into action. Every suggestion made will always, foremost, be an obvious one. Rarely the enlightened one.
Work against the rush. Find the quiet moment. The moment when you catch your heart beat. Hear your inner voice speak to you. You can animate this voice by asking yourself a simple question. What is the best next step, right here, right now? Ask and listen. Really listen. Unexpected wisdom will come.
And it will be a less obvious script.
Act like a leader by not putting on the leader show, by not spouting the easy rhetoric or predictable demagoguery.
Act like a leader by listening to others, yes, but foremost to yourself.
Have the courage to show us that you have heard.
It’s really not that difficult.