Commentary From Crisis Management Expert Edward Segal, Bestselling Author of the Award-Winning Book “Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies” (Nicholas Brealey)
Despite Liz Truss’ record-setting brief tenure as prime minister of the U.K.—or because of it—there are several leadership lessons that corporate executives can learn from the British politican who resigned recently.
Don’t Rush To Make Changes
Take Time to Consult With Others
“Executives who are new to their role would be wise to avoid drastic changes within the first few weeks of leadership,” Stacy Rosenberg, an associate teaching professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, said via email.
“It takes time to consult with advisors and build a coalition that can implement a plan. Moving too quickly without the input of experts or stakeholders demonstrates a lack of restraint and leads to unnecessary risk-taking.
“Establishing financial stability is a critical initial step when taking charge, particularly in a weak economy. Financial markets get spooked by sudden reversals. Leaders need a steady course, not a turnaround. Backtracking on decisions causes confusion and confusion creates panic in the markets,” Rosenberg observed.
“Similar to the fate of a prime minister, initiating corporate changes slowly, with patience—[which may] not always available or realistic—may permit innovation and transformation with minimal damage to the corporation and to oneself,” Karen Beckwith, a political science professor at Case Western University, said via email.
“Like a prime minister, losing the confidence of those who can remove one from power, usually requiring a majority vote of a board of directors, can lead to removal,” Beckwith warned.
“You must balance the need for change with the human need for stability,” Jonathan Kirchner, an executive coach, business psychologist, and founder and CEO of AIIR Consulting,” said via email.
“Too great a change made too quickly, and your followers lose track of your core platform. They may even become so overwhelmed by the magnitude of change or the poor timing they immediately reject it. And yet, if a leader changes too cautiously or too slow, your followers may deem you irrelevant,” he predicted.
Your Words Can Come Back To Haunt You
Be very careful about what you say and how and when you say it.
Truss proclaimed that “I’m a fighter, not a quitter.”
She quit the next day.
Don’t Promise More Than You Can Deliver
In announcing her resignation, Truss said, “I recognize that given the situation, I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party.”
Have A Plan To Succeed
“The clarity of vision was ultimately her demise—she lacked a plan that could pass the laugh test in Parliament. (The laugh test is where a leader shares her ideas, and,if no one laughs, you pass.) Liz knew she lacked the support for her initiatives, not only from her peers—but also from the British people,” Westfall noted.
The Importance Of Alliances
“One of the first things any strong leader would prioritize is forming alliances with other executive members to assist in calming the rest of the board and shareholders,” Ravi Balgobin Maharaj, a political analyst and consultant said in a statement.
But this was “something that Liz Truss seemed either unwilling or incapable of doing during her short stint as prime minister,” he commented.
Listen To Criticism
“The thing about leaders is that they are always being watched and scrutinized. Leaders have to accept the fact that the idea of being a leader is to be held accountable for your actions,” Stacey Kane, business development lead at e-commerce business platform Easy Merchant, said via email.
“However, from the moment Truss entered the office, she shrugged off her doubters, denying herself a sounding board that [could] help her make better judgments. As people rise up in an organization, there are always greater responsibilities.
“She placed too much weight on the free-market ideology, which everybody else around her disapproves of. She failed to listen and confront the brutal facts and advice coming from Tom Scholar, who is the top civil servant at the Treasury,” Kane observed.
‘Leadership Is Not About You As A Leader’
“Leadership is not about you as a leader. It shouldn’t be about an experiment of a certain ideology. It’s about everyone else around you. It’s about the people who will be affected by your decision,” Kane commented.
“If Truss [had] listened to criticisms and what other people had to say about her plans, she would have done so much better. As a business leader, you should take this as a serious lesson.
“Listen to what your people have to say because their perspective is more valuable than you think. Consult them and use their voices to filter out ideas because they are vital to solving crises and your overall long-term success,” Kane advised.
Remember What’s Important
“Any short tenure [such as Truss’] reminds corporate executives that leadership is as much about uniting one’s immediate team behind an idea or set of beliefs as it is about making tough decisions,” Rutger von Post, a partner with global management consulting firm Oliver Wyman, said via email.
Edward Segal, CAE Crisis Management and Spokesperson Training Services Author of the forthcoming book on crisis management — Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies (Nicholas Brealey/Hachette Distribution) Learn more about the book at PublicRelations.com 415-218-8600 (mobile)