How can Great Britain fix great problems, contribute significantly to the progress of the world and be a great nation? These are good questions, aren’t they? By answering these questions, the politicians on both sides of the BREXIT debate would have created a vision of the future that inspires. By answering these questions, the politicians would have helped voters to decide whether Remain or Leave was the right choice for the UK’s future. Instead the battle for Britain’s future has been fought in the mud as politicians squabbled over the minutiae. The leaders of our country have put on a shameful display.

I’m frustrated and disappointed, as no doubt you are too, with the behaviour and posturing of our politicians who have used the BREXIT debate to make political power-plays rather than act as statesmen painting visions of a possible future. The leaders of our country have become bogged down in the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ rather than focusing on the ‘why’. As a result, migration quotas, the NHS and sovereignty have become their political battering rams. Important and emotional but easy issues to hackle over and they have nothing to do with being great or doing things that are truly important.

David Cameron where is your vision? What is your quest to make a difference for this great country and the world? Whether we remain in or out of the EU your leadership has been found woefully lacking. You had your chance to lead the UK towards a great vision of the future, you blew it. If the Remain group wins today it will not be thanks to your leadership.

And what of our partners and customers in the EU, and the world for that matter. After observing the bickering, lies, the loss of a great life in Jo Cox, and the pitiful sad display of the country’s leaders should they even care about Britain? Do they see a great Britain or a little Britain? Joris Luyendijk a journalist with the NRC Handlesblad, an independent quality newspaper in The Netherlands says, “enough is enough. In normal times the British sabotage was tolerable. But these are not normal times. The European Union, the United Kingdom should kindly point out the door.”

In a passionate speech Sheila Hancock, provides the glimmer of a shining beacon when she said: “Look at th
e situation we are in now, the problems are global. It’s not just migration – it’s a shift of populations; there are ecological problems, there are environmental problems; there are also huge discrepancies between the rich and the poor worldwide. These should worry us because they lead to extremities. Surely we can solve those problems if we are united than if we close ourselves down, shut our eyes and hate the foreigners.”

Mrs Hancock speech provides fertile ground from which to build a purpose, a quest for Great Britain to strive towards. Nothing said by her is new, but it is inspirational, it focuses on the why. You can watch Mrs Hancock’s speech here

So what can business leaders learn from the failures of the BREXIT leaders? Many companies and their leaders focus only on the what and the how, they become bogged down in the minutiae of cost saving, profit and efficiencies. They fight with their competitors in an ever spiralling downwards cycle, a race to the bottom where value gets diminished and survival becomes about the short-term.

What leaders need today is a purpose, a quest capturing the meaningful exploit that matters to the people in their world. This matters most because when it’s meaningful it inspires people to act, it improves engagement, productivity and builds agility. When people have a quest and believe in it then anything becomes possible.

So, how can our company (or our team or myself as a leader) fix great problems, contribute significantly to the progress of our world (the world we touch and influence) and be a great company? These are good questions, aren’t they?


About the Author: Dean van Leeuwen is an author, TEDx international speaker and expert on leadership, future trends, strategy and competitive advantage. He is a faculty member of CEDEP – The European Centre for Executive Development located on the INSEAD campus near Paris and is a guest lecturer at the London Business School. He is also a successful entrepreneur and the co-founder of TomorrowToday Global, a consultancy that helps leaders and successful organisation to navigate turbulent times. His book Quest: Competitive Advantage and the Art of Leadership in the 21st Century, is available from Amazon in print and kindle. He can be contacted [email protected]

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