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Inclusive leadership ‘alien’ to most organisations

by Carley Bowman

Hundreds of candid interviews and conversations - mostly in private - with top global leaders have revealed how many are ‘scared’ and ‘overwhelmed’ by the new disruptions. A number of smart leaders are taking big risks and finding new ways to handle them. Our book Thinking The Unthinkable demonstrates the enormous potential for individuals and organisations to find solutions by modifying culture, mindset and behaviour. Here we share the thoughts of one such leader…

Lord Mark Price standing on the footpath, leaning on railings
Lord Mark Price

How brave are leaders willing to be in this disrupted world? Are they willing to turn a whole company on its head and ask its people for the answers?

Lord Mark Price, former managing director of supermarket giant Waitrose and former Minister for Trade and Investment, says this is what C-suite executives need to do to rise to the challenges they face.

Now speaking without corporate or government restrictions, Lord Price, founder of new service Engaging Works, has shared with us his innermost thoughts on leadership.

“People that are running our big companies have given their heart and soul for decades to get to that position. And once they have got there, their instinct is to preserve the status quo. It’s human to want to do that,” he told us.

As our findings reveal, the conformity that gets leaders to the top disqualifies them from gripping the scale of disruption and knowing what to do about it. Risk-taking is discouraged.

“Where they are struggling is they can’t make their numbers add up any more,” says Lord Price.

“I think that’s causing them real angst. … CEOs are really struggling for an answer to the challenges of squeezed profitability and they are all opting for faster horses. … I think they’re getting an increasing amount of pressure. [In the UK] they have a pressure to deal with Brexit. They have a pressure to deal with shareholders and profitable returns. They’ve got a pressure from government saying that the system we have got isn’t working. They have a pressure from their workers who are saying this doesn’t feel fair to us. So they are managing multiple pressures and they are really struggling to find an answer for it. That is their challenge.”

Lord Price says leaders should be turning to their staff and saying ‘look, we have got some challenges here. How can we work through this together?’ But they can’t do that, so what they feel is a sense of isolation.

Inclusive leadership and management is still alien to most organisations. Lord Price says management attitudes are too rigid. They obstruct rather than empowering and emboldening.

“That’s what’s happening in business, you know. This is our plan. This is your part of the plan. This is what you will do,” says Lord Price.

“It’s almost that military element that is coming into business where - if you are fighting a battle in the Second World War - frankly you don’t want your soldiers doing whatever they fancy. You want them to get stuck in … [But] you have to get all of your stakeholders involved and say what is fair and acceptable.”

What we have learned in hundreds of interviews and conversations with global leaders like Lord Price is that leaders must learn to thrive on change, not be derailed by it.

A new culture, mindset and behaviour, with new purpose, values, courage and humility is needed. Are leaders - are you - willing to be this brave? Maybe!

Engaging Works is a ground breaking new service created by Mark Price. Driven by his belief in the potential of happier employees to transform businesses, he has developed a set of simple tools for companies and individuals to use.
Find out more about our Thinking The Unthinkable book

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