It is often said that the one thing all businesses want is certainty. Well, in the current climate, they can at least be certain of one thing – they can be certain of uncertainty. Quite what will happen to any of the UK’s underlying economic parameters during the two-year Brexit negotiations is, to quote Donald Rumsfeld, a known unknown.
Similarly, what will the impact of a Trump presidency be not just on businesses in the US but on businesses across the world? Will there really be a move towards protectionism? How big an effect will that have on global trade? Will that, in turn, have an impact on the ultimate shape of Brexit?
For all businesses, it’s going to be a tricky one. To invest, or not to invest, that is (and will continue to be for some time yet) the question.
So, what are business leaders supposed to do?
First and foremost, they need to become agile. As was clearly pointed out in a recent article by Mike Taylor, Managing Director of Accelerating Experience, they need to be prepared to drop, or redefine, yesterday’s plan if it no longer suits today’s reality. Abandoning anything in which a great deal of time and effort has been invested can be a big psychological ask for anyone. But business leaders are going to have to adopt the mindset that enables them to do just that.
Possibly even more difficult – again, psychologically speaking – will be the need not just to allow but to encourage others in the organisation to do the same. In times of uncertainty, there is a natural tendency for business leaders to want to micromanage, to revert to a command and control mentality. “Because nobody knows what’s going to happen next, I need to be the one who makes all the decisions”.
Bad move. That’s management. Not leadership. Leaders need to set the course, not steer the ship.