Grace Blue were delighted to hear from Sir Michael Lockett as part of our series of talks on leadership. Mike is a member of the Grace Blue board and has a portfolio of businesses that operate across the communications spectrum, centred around corporate, political, and institutional leadership. He has had a distinguished career advising the most senior leaders in this country with a focus throughout on reputation management.
Mike’s talk concentrated on what the world emerging from COVID:19 might look like and he addressed this from a political, corporate, entrepreneurial, scientific, and educational perspective. Beginning with some commentary on society, Mike noted how this is the first time in history where human life has trumped economic activity and how even in the great wars life was put to one side in the interests of progress. Does this period mark a positive step forward for society he asked us?
Moving on to politics, Mike discussed some of the macro themes which will continue to dominate the political agenda. Chief amongst these is the globalisation versus nationalism debate. COVID:19 has brought the world together as we all experience and tackle the same adversity at the same time. Will this result in a sense of global unity and a subsequent closer union, or the opposite; will we increasingly look to protect our own interests and shield ourselves within the confines of our national borders? If it is the latter, then what will the impact of this be on the EU? Could other EU countries look to the UK’s example and begin to evaluate their own relationship with the Union?
In analysing the corporate perspective, Mike talked about how lonely it can be for a CEO of a multinational business at a time of crisis and when faced with the ultimate responsibility for making very difficult decisions. He predicted that many of these CEOs will now be asking themselves three clear questions:
Firstly, will my personal reputation survive a retrospective on all of this i.e. did I do the right thing? Did I act fast enough? Did I ensure we did not issue a dividend in favour of maintaining salaries? Did I set up a charitable fund?
Secondly, how does my client or customer proposition need to change off the back of this crisis? Will they expect something different from us and how do we shift gear to accommodate these changing needs?
Finally, when my employees come back to work are they expecting to come back to a different company with a different working model along with a new set of values and behaviours?
The entrepreneurial world will be, as Mike put it, the barometer of how quickly we emerge from this recession. He believes the winners will be those who are quickest out of the starting blocks and advised entrepreneurs to act with agility and initiative. He discussed how in a crisis people often revert to tactics to weather the storm but warned that tactics alone won’t work unless they adhere to a longer-term strategy. Leaders of all businesses, regardless of size or scope should look forwards, determine their clear and defined strategy and act accordingly.
Mike had opened his talk by discussing how there is a universal sense of vulnerability at this time, his closing words, however, looked towards the future and the opportunity that future holds. To grasp that opportunity, now is the time for leaders to really lead, to stand up and be counted to make their mark.
Sir Michael’s mantra is to only look back if it informs the future and, as we begin to emerge from this crisis, successful leaders across every aspect of business and society will be defining that future.