The world is becoming more turbulent faster than our capacity to deal with it.
The word VUCA gets bandied about frequently as people describe the world as being more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. What a brutal reminder last week with the U.K. voting to exit the European Union in a desperate, closely fought and clutching attempt at regaining some sense of safety, certainty and autonomy. Waves of change are hitting at an unprecedented pace, and for many people it’s just too scary to deal with, so they try and hang on to times and systems that they remember as feeling more secure.
There does seem to be a global change energy in the air. Throughout the world, people are feeling less safe and less certain.
The problem here is that these two sentiments are core to our brain’s fundamental organizing principles! When we feel a loss of control, when unexpected and unexplained things start to happen regularly, our Limbic brain fires up and prepares us for the proverbial 3 F’s, ‘fight, flight or freeze’. And that’s exactly what many people in England did a week ago; feeling vulnerable and struggling to make sense of the world they now find themselves in, they voted to fight to regain autonomy, to flee from a Union that they saw as a threat, with the result that the U.K. has been placed in an uncertain zone that is going to take some skill to navigate through.
I have this image of all those agitated, fired up limbic brains in the ballot box, anxious to get their emotions heard as they ticked the ‘leave’ box and then heaved a sigh of relief! The resultant political and economic turbulence will be the subject of debate for decades to come, as a ‘new’ world order re-establishes itself, whatever that may look like. Here in Australia, we have a Federal election looming, another opportunity for a population to vent their emotion in an attempt to calm their Limbic brains. I am curious as to whether the pace and rate of change in Europe may leave Australian brains scrambling for the certainty of a government they know. Another change may be just too much!
Politicians fascinate me. They’re human like the rest of us; they eat, sleep, exercise, have family and friends. They have the same need to develop personal leadership skills to get ahead in their game. Their brain has the same need for safety and certainty. Politics is a dirty game, and to lead well politicians the world over need to be able to manage their own emotions and expectations as well as those of the people they serve. Media galleries analyze, scrutinize, judge and report ruthlessly in a 24 hour media cycle, a process that damages the mindful presence of good decision making and influence. False, misreported spins reach the smart phone clad pockets of voters all day long, and with their Limbic brains ready for someone to blame for the state of their world, the die is cast. The results can be brutal, and not always in the best interest of the country as a whole.
The Brexit vote may or may not be a good thing for the U.K., only time and political leadership will tell. I believe much of the success will come down to the quality of personal leadership we see emerging to handle the transition and future direction both of the U.K. and of Europe in general. So what kind of leadership are we looking for here – people who are able to:
- Influence through inspiring and motivating others to take action. With so many parties involves, they won’t be able to directly drive the direction, and will have to get results through delegating, persuading, promoting and explaining to others
- Communicate effectively, listen with intent and have the ability to read emotions as data. Of huge benefit would be some NeuroCoaching around understanding David Rock’s SCARF principles to help them read their team’s individual needs when it comes to how to best communicate and provide feedback
- Think and act strategically; to step back, think about the vision and then clarify the strategy. Getting stuck into the detail first up will only create confusion and add to the uncertainty
- Be very self- aware; know their personal strengths and challenges and how their behavior affects others. Leaders who are high in empathy and able to navigate their emotion through the turbulence of meetings and negotiations
- Be agile learners who continue to seek new opportunities to find new perspectives, ideas and insights through staying true to a curious growth mindset
- Access their depth of Emotional Intelligence and use it to operate across the entire system of government, building and sustaining collaborative relationships and managing the organizational politics
Quite some leadership they’re going to need! Thankfully there are some amazing coaches in the NeuroLeadership and Emotional Intelligence space who could walk them through this mine field. Let’s only hope that they reach out to them in time!
And to politicians here in Australia, let’s hope that you put in the hard yards to become leaders that we can all admire. Some days when I read the news, I am left wondering!