As a leader, you must stand up for what you believe in

What is leadership? Margaret Thatcher’s famous maxim that “advisers advise and ministers decide” appears to – at times – have been lost on the current leadership of this country. Hiding behind understandably cautious scientific advisers – without looking at the bigger picture – is not leadership. At best it is administering the leadership of others. The risk is that no-one knows what the leader stands for and the outcome is ongoing uncertainty and stagnation.

The same can easily happen in corporate life where CEOs can become bogged down by a plethora of financial and legal advisers. If you are not careful, the wider leadership can lose sight of what they were trying to achieve with the company in the first place.

Leaders are becoming restrained
Good leadership is about seeing the opportunities for an organisation, sharing a clear purpose and top level objectives, and establishing the values which will guide the behaviour along the way. Unfortunately, there are many impediments to strong leadership today, not least an increasing cultural restraint on public figures freely expressing themselves. Blame it on the ‘woke’ culture if you like, but I’ve noticed a creeping hesitancy on the part of leaders to say what they truly think which, in turn, suppresses their authenticity and ability to let their own strategic understanding, beliefs and personal values guide their decision making.

Is delegation dereliction?
There’s nothing wrong with a CEO arming themselves with the best available facts and expert opinion – the best leaders will always seek to inform their decision making as best they can – but leaders are there to ‘lead’ and cannot delegate that responsibility to others who may have a much narrower role and aren’t tasked to consider the wider factors at play.

An in-house legal counsel for example is an invaluable source of advice. However, there are times when a leader will need to take into account the wider implications of an issue which might mean going against what they have been advised. It could mean doing the ‘right’ thing either strategically or even morally, despite the risks set out.

Do not fear what you believe to be right
Great leaders live by what they believe and know they cannot please everyone all the time. Back to another of our best historic leaders, Winston Churchill, who said: “There is only one duty, only one safe course and that is to try to be right and not to fear to do or say what you believe to be right. That is the only way to deserve and to win the confidence of our great people in these days of trouble.” So, consider the advice that you’re given but be driven by your own belief in the strategic course, stay true to your values and don’t be afraid to swim against the tide of popular opinion if that is what you believe is right.