On UK leaders in the EU playground

 

EMENA Board Member Jane Mitchell ponders the impact of “Brexit” from a change and ethical leadership communicator’s point of view in our latest Board Blog.

 

“Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value.” – Albert Einstein

On the day that the UK opens the EU ‘in or out’ season of madness, I’m sad to think that this may be the last time I write anything for IABC as a part of Europe. I have vaguely speculated on whether there would be any impact on us as an IABC region, but move swiftly on, as it’s not something that I can answer currently.

The battle for hearts and minds in the ‘in or out’ debate though, is raging here in the UK and in the build up to the ‘official’ launch of referendum campaigning, people were doing a good job at fooling us all into believing the crusade had already started, and with a vengeance – it’s been open season for a while.

During pre-open season it was interesting to observe a level of debate that was reminiscent of school playgrounds. A bunch of pompous, privileged men (mainly), who were determined to attack each other at a personal level, bringing long-standing grudges into every argument, and frankly not caring whether we engaged or not.

Oh, for a thoughtful, pragmatic grown up communicator to guide them all I thought, and still do, frankly. I wonder what they think about the impression that they are creating? Given that their egos drive their personas, their actions and behaviours, I also thought about whether values play a part in the decisions they make about how they communicate and what they are trying to achieve.

I concluded “no”, but also “yes”. The values they display are about self; conceit, boastful, selfish, self-centred, and as they consistently display them then I’m bound to think that this is their consistent values set. For these characters, those values are as valid as any others.

This is often the conversation we have in organisations when discussing ‘values-based’ and ‘ethical’ leadership. In conversation, many leaders make the observation, when asked, that we may not like the values of a certain organisation but at least they are behaving consistently, and we all know what they stand for.

Thankfully though and increasingly, in organisations that we help to communicate more effectively, and who we are guiding through embedding change or difficult and complex transitions, the values of ego are put to one side. At a corporate or an individual (leadership) level, these organisations do want to create environments in which healthy values can flourish and people can thrive. They also know that if they are to be successfully sustainable it is wiser to build a sense of ownership, belonging and community, rather than open and internecine warfare.

There is no doubt that leaders have egos; most of them wouldn’t be where they are today without an immovable sense of self-belief. Luckily, however, most of them play nicely and understand that it’s their positive values set that wins friends and influences people. As communicators we have a significant role to be their conscience and that of the organisations we work with. It’s so sad for our European community that we don’t yet appear to have a decent set of communicators or leaders who listen. May sense prevail and our community survive to thrive.

 

 

Jane Mitchell

Jane Mitchell

About Jane Mitchell
Jane runs her own company, JL&M Ltd, guiding global clients around the intricacies of rolling out ethics programmes; from the embedding of appropriate values and behaviours through leadership programmes to developing effective rollouts of Codes of Conduct, and joining the dots in between! Jane is also a non-executive director of UK-based communications agency Karian & Box, specialising in employee engagement measurement and strategies. Jane is a former UK Chapter President, Chair of the IABC Global Research Committee, and has just stepped down from the IABC International Executive Board.
Follow Jane on Twitter: @JMitchComms