Why Trump and Brexit were predictable – and what the C suite can learn from this

By November 9, 2016General

Election of Trump – disaster or powerful opportunity for leadership?

  • Movements are massively powerful – in Trumps own words, this was a movement. A few weeks before the BREXIT I took a 6 month Sabbatical – before leaving I asked 50 of my key clients and contacts what was on their minds. One of the key themes was that the world is in need of a movement (diverse reasons were given, but the call was consistent).
  • Mobilizing based on fear is infectious. Fear means that we can hold onto our assumptions about others and create an ‘us versus them’ belief. As Yuval Noah Harari author of Sapiens points out, one of the key attributes of Sapiens is our ability to create a collective reality.
  • Cognitive dissidence remains one of our most dangerous dynamics. When the ‘establishment’ or ‘right minded thinkers’ and most of the media don’t want something to happen they create the belief that it won’t – and then do not do what is required to listen to the disaffected, present the clear arguments and engage those they despise for holding different views.
  • Promising a better future moves people’s attention away from needing to critically asses what currently is and creates a belief that the future will be better – if not for ourselves then for others.

3 Key things for Executives to act on

  • Engage with dissent and honestly seek out difference – in your organisation there will be those who do not agree, who are not engaged, and who have never worked at their optimum. There is valuable information and profound insights within this group. For too long we have sought sameness – recruiting for fit – seeking like-minded people. Without the differences and natural conflicts that exists you are squandering one of your greatest natural resources see TEDx LBS –Conflict – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_afxWxAgjPI
  • Create a movement – no matter your industry or the size of your organisation, people want to be part of something, to belong and collaborate. Indeed along with our ability to create reality, the other factor that sets humans apart is our ability to collaborate. So find the movement that will truly engage people in a way that creates the sense of belonging and the ability to make a difference. Keep it clear, keep it simple and base it on what you are hearing from EVERYONE in your organisation.
  • Appoint your personal challengers – it has long been acknowledged that most senior executives do not have access to the truth – about their organisations, their people, or their markets. People do not challenge for a myriad of reasons. This builds what Matthew Syed in Black Box thinking so brilliantly outlines in his description of cognitive dissidence. Have the courage to challenge your most fundamentally held beliefs.

I never thought I would be in a position to suggest we learn from Donald Trump – however I think there is possibly a key insight we can gain. If politicians and the establishment have lost the confidence of people and through reality TV we have developed a belief in business and its abilities to make good decisions, profit for the benefit of all and be independently minded – then perhaps the most powerful movement for good we can create should be led by leaders of organisations. Do you have the courage to lead in a way that creates a movement based on the celebration of diversity rather than the crutch of fear?