Leadership’s role during the era of unstoppable and parallel crises. Remedies for the financial nightmare

The truth is we don’t mature because of the years passing by, but through the crises we are forced to confront:

  • Lehman Brothers
  • Memoranda, IMF, Capital Controls
  • Covid Healthcare crisis
  • Ukraine war
  • Energy crisis
  • Crazy inflation
  • Climate crisis, wildfires, floods
  • War in Israel
  • Crises of the political establishment
  • Crises of the system of values
  • Geopolitical crises

And life goes on. Time is not waiting for us. It doesn’t pause so that we can study in depth and plan in detail the future. Neither does it stop so that we can have our own timing to fulfill our dreams.

Time and unstoppable crises will keep on, one way or another. We can’t turn time back in order to fix our mistakes, nor can we make decisions we have not already made. The crucial issue is what we will do with the lessons we gained and with the experiences of the past.

Some of those tick-tocks, of time passing by, add anxiety, fear, and take away some of the vigorous pacing of the present. Besides, by fear you don’t avoid mistakes, you avoid success.

Crisis is a demonized term. And perhaps rightly so.  Because [in Greek] it has 8 different meanings: opinion, view, decision, criticism, evaluation, trial, danger, opportunity. Its potential meaning varies between white and black, from zenith to nadir, optimism and pessimism.

It is a word that, even in its simplest meaning, includes characteristics that differ only in their intensity: threat, surprise, need for direct action, need for change.

Nowadays, in the era of parallel crises, one of the worst fears leaders are facing is the long-term financial planning. Planning with a 3-years, or even worst 5-years, horizon. There are cases it might even sound like a joke, making plans today for the next 5 years.

Based on what assumptions and conditions do these plans occur? What are the chances for each one of the assumptions to become reality? And how is a long-term plan – which expresses the leader’s vision and commitment- going to be affected by unpredicted crises that are about to come? We have no idea what kind of crises they will be or when they will occur, the same way we had no idea about the crises we went through during the last decade.

The current fear, one of undetermined intensity, which comes to life during the creation of a long-term financial plan, all it does is create obstacles to the new era of success, to the new reality.

I recently had a long business talk with a leader of the financial sector, a person of global magnitude. Our conversation was about his vision to turn deserted areas into forests. The benefits were obvious, including action against the climate crisis.  But I asked him this question: How can you make such a long-term plan, which requires huge investments, knowledge, expertise, and recruiting scientists, when everything around us is changing so unpredictably? What parameters is your plan based on, and how do you ensure that the ongoing crises will not affect or suspend this plan?

His reply was this: My vision is what I want to happen. The plan is not a vision. The plan is one of many short-term plans in a row. Instead of following the progress of the realization of a vision, we will be following the realization of short-term plans, the crises we will be dealing with and the adaptations we will have to adjust to. We are talking about many short-term plans. This means quick analyses and flexible changes.

To this simplistic approach I replied with another question: How are you going to persuade your shareholders, your analysts, the financial markets, the stock markets,  when you will be talking to them about succeeding short term plans while having alternative scenarios of other short term plans, when the market is trained to talk in terms of medium to long term and long term planning?

He answered that: It has to do with who is the person who is committed to the plan, who is the leader. His prestige, his guarantees, his story, his reputation, and his legacy through time. Besides -as he said- who can really predict the future? Who had predicted all these crises? The markets learned to seek long term plans after two World Wars (a). Because you make a war end when you act towards growth having a long-term plan and (b). Because the markets at that time were not interconnected and therefore exposed to the current dangers, which makes a crisis in one part of the world affect the whole globe. The markets will adapt to the new reality. Unpredictable liquidity and variability of facts is not an advantage for the markets. This is why they cannot get stuck to the past and to their fears. Markets will learn to seek and reward short term plans that come with alternative scenarios on how to deal with unpredicted events with flexibility and based on facts. The new market value will shift from the company brand to the reputation of the leader and leading team at his side.

In the era of parallel continuous crises, the values that serve as the foundations for the future and the financial course of organizations are prestige, trust, wisdom, flexibility, stamina and the truth of the leaders.

The leader has to reflect all these values and communicate them through his Personal Leadership Brand. We are talking about his personal reputation. About what other people say about him/her  when he/she is not present. This is the only kind of leadership brand that communicates prestige, inspires trust, motivates employees, creates space and time for understanding, patience, and hope.

Success is not just doing well what we love, but doing well what we don’t like doing, in order to be able to be excellent at what we love.

In this context, a personal leadership brand is not made by itself, nor by attributing branding as a result of creative brainstorming.  I mention this because personal branding exists even the moment, a baby’s name is chosen!  As we see during the last years, parents go through a sophisticated process of seeking the right name for their child. This indicates that every name stands for several communication values that parents would like their child to be identified with. So, depending on expectations, ambitions, and aspirations that somebody might have, his need for personal branding varies.

In any case, the life and work of every person informally compose his personal brand through time.  Communication can make a difference when it is used to methodically build a strong, robust brand, based on somebody’s life and work.  It might also do the contrary if we undermine or ignore the actual results of this path.

Personal leadership is unique for every person and when it is being created it has this value in the core of its design. It requires wisdom and honesty. Because reputation is the crucial element that decreases or increases fears, therefore nightmares. It is this one rare resource in every person that will stand on top of everything else when reliability will be required, in the future, when the new crises will come. Whenever it is successfully designed, personal leadership communicates the uniqueness, therefore the authenticity of the person. This uniqueness is the one that motivates well reputable leaders to plant forests in deserts, and promises results, like the ones that have been produced and evaluated, under this person’s leadership profile, again in the past.

The truth is we don’t mature because of the years passing by, but through the crises we are forced to confront.  Our strength grows through the difficulties we face.  Our wisdom constantly deepens while we keep solving problems. Our courage is being upgraded through the dangers we overcome.

This way life has taught us that the size and the number of the crises cannot be compared to our proven ability to overcome them. Nor should we overestimate the destructive effect crises may have or underestimate our real strengths. We may not love chaos or short-term plans which bring stress to our minds.  But if we act successfully on something that we don’t really like, meaning in the real world of continuous, parallel crises and in the chaos, they create, then our world becomes a “Disneyland” with trees growing in deserts and where nightmares leave Ephialtes sleepless.

Speech made on 4th ENERGIZING GREECE