The potential for break up of the European Union gathers momentum as the UKs Brexit vote is followed by the Italian people rejecting the policies of their prime minister in their own referendum, and the rise of Marine Le Pen in France and Geert Wilders in Netherlands matching that of Donald Trump in the US. Each of these is attributed in the media to the central issues of uncontrolled immigration, open borders, and financial austerity measures, each opening the door to extreme right wing, fascist leaning politicians using racist rhetoric in the guise of “patriotic nationalism”. The 60 year project to create a federal Europe with a single currency, a single military, a single set of laws, a single market, no borders, freedom of movement, and an amorphous multi cultural society is now on the verge of spontaneous combustion! But is the mainstream media correct in its interpretation?
As the flames begin to take hold the response of the “leaders” of the EU becomes more dictatorial, more entrenched, more inflexible and more out of touch with the ordinary voters across the continent. The unelected Commissioners in Brussels brand the British voters as ignorant, selfish, isolationist; they make threats of dire consequences to any other country who tries to leave; they “tell” the UK government that there can be no negotiation over the central EU tenets of open borders and the single market! Really? Has anyone told the German car manufacturers, the French wine industry, the Italian and Spanish tourist industries this yet? Meanwhile the governments of most of the EU countries reinforce the “Brussels message” to their own people despite all of the evidence before them that an increasing number of their people have had enough!
Can you imagine this sort of thing happening inside any other commercial organisation? Corporate strategy is falling apart; Structural elements such as policies, rules, administration, bureaucracy are more strictly enforced; Culturally people feel disenfranchised, ignored, even bullied and dismissed as irrelevant in pursuit of corporate goals. You couldn’t make this up!! And yet we all know what would happen to such an organisation unless there was a significant change in its leadership.
Stand back for a moment and take a simple look at any of the EU Commissioners or Prime Ministers and ask yourself these three main questions:
What are their personal VALUES, do you see before you a person of integrity, someone you trust, someone who loves their country, is truly democratic, truthful, honourable?
Do they have a clear VISION for your country, a vision of a better future for all citizens encompassing education, health, employment, security, welfare, family, and one that respects the tradition, the history and the sacrifices of the past?
Do they have a clear DEVELOPMENT plan or a road map to achieve the vision, something that inspires people and builds confidence?
These three questions have formed the basis of every leadership programme I have run in the past 10 years whether for a board directors of financial institutions or for principals of Nepali schools. Time and time again their presence or absence has led to a successful or failing organisation and what we are now seeing in the European Union is no different. The working class people of the North of England or the Rust Belt of America feel betrayed by an elitist leadership gone mad with political correctness, obsessed with multiculturalism and besotted with the support of “celebrity” from Bob Geldoff to Eddie Izzard and Beyoncé to George Clooney. There is much to be learned about leadership from this undoubted crisis in Europe, but the core of it is surely that Vision, Values and Development is at the heart of any “contract” a leader must make and keep with their followers before finding they have no followers at all!