Leadership – the good, the bad and the ugly…

Over the past week, a topic that has been very prominent in the public eye has been leadership – the good, bad and the ugly! Farther afield, we saw the exit of President Trump; the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris; Australia celebrating zero COVID-19 cases reported in a week; while closer to home, our leaders throwing businesses into disarray with the ramifications of Brexit and border controls on goods; and extended COVID lockdown dates with no clear evidence of an exit strategy or reopening.

It has been quite the week of hot topics, and even more difficult have been those with businesses worried more than ever about survival as the 2021 hopes for rebuilding are being pushed further away.

The world watched on Wednesday as Donald Trump left the White House without carrying out the traditions of attending the inauguration of his successor – the 46th President of the United States. There is no denying Donald Trump left on very bad terms and shamed as the only President to ever be impeached twice. The relief for many was certainly palpable as his graceless exit made way for someone who we can only hope will be the leader needed in such a time of uncertainty and division.

Watching the events unfold, I was reminded of the advice I always give to my candidates – NEVER leave a job on bad terms. Leave professionally, with respect, and dignity, irrelevant of the circumstance. This is vitally important as you never know along the journey of life where you might meet your colleagues once again – the world is a very small place.

I have witnessed this too many times over the years. An employer has invested in you and given you an opportunity to develop, whether you deem the experience good or bad, it is still a life lesson and has you now moving onto a new experience that you may not have achieved without it.

Listening to President Biden deliver his inaugural address, it is clear from the outset that his tone is much calmer and a step away from the tension that his predecessor delivered. Newly elected President Biden very much had leadership at the forefront for his plan for term in office. Concise, succinct, empathetic and compassionate from the outset – a clear vision and sense of collaboration demonstrated throughout. A far cry from that of his predecessor and ever-changing goal posts, decisions, political point scoring we seem to be subjected to more and more.

President Biden’s leadership approach and vision was empathic and empowering with the plan to work together and rebuild the damage left behind. There is no doubt that Trump left office leaving behind a mountain to climb for Biden and his team. Professional handovers in any role are extremely important to ensure businesses are not impacted, let alone the handing over the role of leading one of the largest countries of the world. This part of President Biden’s address, stood out to me:

“There are some days when we need a hand. There are other days when we’re called on to lend one. That is how we must be with one another. And, if we are this way, our country will be stronger, more prosperous, more ready for the future.”

Working as a leader and working successfully together with his team and other countries brought a sigh of relief and the restoration in leadership which the world needed to hear. And an example for anyone in business as to how to set out your stall for your team in delivering messages and foundations of the business.

On a local level, the past week witnessed leaders extend lockdown with the added uncertainty of ‘may be extended’. This is a poor reflection on leadership impacting so many livelihoods and not forgetting the imploding impact on mental health which is arising from all this.

Businesses need clear guidance, realistic timescales and confidence in those making decisions to enable us to work towards brighter days ahead. Many leaders across the world have adapted and handled this pandemic with resilience and with the implementation of proactive strategies, as we witnessed from scenes online at the weekend of concerts, large scale events happening in Australia and beyond with life returned to normal levels. You have to ask ‘how could our leaders have got this all so wrong?’, and “why are we so far behind on this journey?” as hopes for 2021 business levels returning within the first half of the year start to fizzle out.

Working together will always accomplish a lot more than working against, therefore it’s equally important during these times that all politicians and elected leaders listen directly to each of the business sectors, to ensure and protect the livelihoods of businesses and jobs as much as possible as we navigate through COVID-19. Leadership is key to any success, and it would appear evident that at the moment the business community have lost faith in the direction, decision making, and with the lack of commitment on additional financial support currently being offered to them. We saw additional support released last week in “millions of pounds” which seems positive, but how does that translate to small local businesses, and for how long?

‘Will or won’t we survive?’ is the question many are asking themselves at this moment in time. As the fate of their business, livelihoods and employee jobs lies with the decisions being made by our leaders, it is very difficult to foresee what the immediate, let alone long-term future will hold. As always, I work with my clients and colleagues to do as much as I can during this time. It is important for us all to do that as much as we can.

A message that will continue to inspire me since having heard it last Wednesday hopefully will do the same for you:
“There is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.” – Amanda Gorman.