Gerry Brown, author of The Independent Director, explains how good leadership will guide business out of the pandemic.
Last updated: 05 Jun 2020 2 min read
While it is true that not all heroes wear capes, what exactly does a good leader look like nowadays? For years the ‘sage of Omaha’ [Warren Buffett] told us that “when the tide goes out, we can see who is swimming naked”. Now the crisis is here and the tide is long gone, this turned out to be not so true.
And worse, as Bloomberg’s Matt Levine writes, the coronavirus tsunami has washed almost everything away so comprehensively, it has flattened the curve when it comes to identifying good businesses from bad using conventional financial results metrics.
I think we can still all recognise what good leadership involves, though, as well as what it looks and feels like. Proper leadership involves wider consultation and active listening skills. It requires expertise and experts, too.
“Leadership invariably looks easy when the going is good, but cogent decision-making sorts the leadership wheat from the executive chaff”
Gerry Brown, author
“Leadership invariably looks easy when the going is good, but cogent decision-making – especially when circumstances are in extremis – sorts the leadership wheat from the executive chaff. Invariably the appeal of great leaders rests upon trust and authority. In turn, these attributes derive from openness to extensive research, differing viewpoints and impartiality of analysis. Inspiring leadership offers facts with vision allied to clear, cogent communications that carry us towards shared goals, rather than just being soundbites delivered for more self-serving optics reasons.
So, how does this leadership alchemy happen in everyday practice? At company board level, the best of breed when it comes to CEOs and chairs form teams that include truly independent directors. They encourage constructive dissent and debate and require the people they rely on to be unafraid to voice contrary opinion or speak truth to power, irrespective of the career impact. This type of leadership works better than any echo chamber stuffed with yes people, no matter how prestigious. Forget searching for the correct cape or swimming trunks, seek out leaders who inspire the executive teams around them to act with integrity.
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