Thinking Brexit as a leadership learning event


You might think: ‘Please don’t!’ I think: Yes absolutely! The Brexit campaign will go down in history as an, probably unwanted, gigantic and live leadership learning event – for politicians, top and senior managers, and for everyone in society and organisations. Now that the dust has settled a bit from the whirlwind of activities that happened, we can harvest some conclusions, probably independent from the actual decision. I think this as an Extra – or Reflective Practice.

In contrast…

In contrast to some of the earlier posts I actually focus on leadership at the top, knowing that this is a positional and so limited view about leadership. But let’s go for it this time.

Let’s look at positive learnings…

Many have written about the negatives in this about leadership. However, the series of events around the Brexit vote has shown that people at the top of institutions in society or organisations HAVE real influence. While for good reasons we see a surge in thinking and practicing shared or bottom up forms of leadership, or proactive followership, Brexit revealed that people nominated and probably endorsed at the top have real instruments that influenced, engaged, motivated and energised millions of people.

We could observe and experience that the top can set the rules of the game, shape our sensemaking processes to the strategies they aim to pursue, influence the lived culture of such events (and maybe beyond), specify the quality (or not) of relationships they, and overall role model their very own leadership style. If you think about it quasi objectively – this actually seems to have worked out successfully.

However, for all the aspects above you can ask one more question? While all these things definitely set the public scene, what was the quality of these ingredients and what was and will be the collateral of this…? Questionable might be an appropriately open response!


There is real influence at the top, to an extent that we, and them, might not always realise. And as a learning for all people engaging in leadership: Think about your influence, it might actually work and then might hit back at us, if we do not think very carefully about how you engage and the meaningful purpose we really pursue!

Let’s add one facet: Accountability…

This is a difficult one. What is the consequence of accountability? Seeing through decisions that you have initiated, although the outcomes were not the expected? Or accountability as stepping and making space?

Try this…

Reconsider a leadership episode when in hindsight your means of leadership where questionable, but you had massively influenced your network, team, and performance. Did the quality and ethics of leadership you showed actually match the purpose you had in mind?

It would be fascinating to explore with colleagues and collaborators from that time…

Happy engaging – stay tuned…


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