If 2008 shall be considered a warning shot when we shall look back at it in the future, the current crisis is far from over and, if it is not on the immediate economic front that we see it, it is everywhere affecting sustainable development (economic, ecologic, social). 2011 is a shake-up and no need to wait for the doomsdays of 2012 that some predicted to know that we have a real problem right now: natural disasters, the Arab world, lackluster growth! Should we expect our world leaders to succeed in solving the current crisis when we see the results of Doha, Copenhagen, Davos or even Brussels, not to mention individual countries wavering! The word crisis comes from the Greek word κρίσις that means the acute part of any illness, so what should managers and leaders do in this situation? One thing is for sure, the longer the lack of a cure, the more cautery on a wooden leg, the tougher the recovery shall be! So what do we do?
Having corporate values rooted in confidence (latin cum fides, faith in) is a start; that is to say daring to listen with empathy and energy what employees have to say (see the sharp contrast between leaders in Lybia and in Morocco!) It is amazing what a difference it makes when a doctor takes time to listen ‘heart to heart’ to his patient; Emile Coué, a famous pharmacist in France, discovered what placebo meant when, rather than delivering chemicals to his clients, he gave sugary pills whilst listening to them and instilling confidence that they were going to recover (mind-to-matter!) Talk the truth, communicate with courage even if it hurts, provide energy (gr. ἐνέργεια, that is to say strength in action), warming up employees like the sun giving a fill of vitamin D!
Collaborative management and social networks provide the tools for solidarity. We can thank the information age for having brought linkages back; if it is not ideal, it gets people together again, whereas urbanization had set the tone for individualism and solitude. Man has always needed to share and a crisis emphasizes it. Thus, corporate systems have to extend into the human dimension; enough of pure technical or financial objectives, a leader needs to think in three dimensions. Granted, the swing is back anyway because the stress created by extensive productivity of post-war industrial expansion and cash margins of the recent thirty years is finally taking a toll on the employees. Do not misunderstand me! Stress can be good up to a level where it becomes counterproductive, it has been fully researched but managers and leaders need to understand the need for a balance between the three dimensions.
And now, what do we do? Everyone talks about respect, dignity and human development… but do all corporate systems reflect these values: hiring, training, evaluation, mentoring and rewarding? Come to think of it, can you see the roots, trunk and branch network? Henri Vincenot, in La Billebaude, said “A tree sucks life from the ground, roots provide it to the trunk, but it also sucks it from the sky and it comes down through branches”! From top to bottom and bottom up, the one clear message may be: listen, collaborate and respect!
Balance is always key to any move or system; this points us to a New Leadership Paradigm, a cure to the recent illness in the world in search of sustainable development… If we want to get out of the current crisis, we need to continue thinking along these lines…