Brexit shows need for more visible leadership in EU

Written by Jim Walsh

Since the result was announced early on Friday 24 June, there have been thousands of words written and spoken about the economic, political and social fallout from Brexit.

The immediate responses of the EU leadership appear decisive telling the UK that it has to leave as quickly as possible.

That is a good management principle; if an unhappy employee indicates that they wish to leave or an employee is being asked to leave, make the parting happen as quickly as possible. But there is no need to provoke an acrimonious breakup.

The tone of the response from EU leaders would seem to indicate that they are learning nothing from the UK experience. They act as though they are unaware of the massive unhappiness with many elements of the EU project and how fragile support for the institution is in a number of member countries.

They appear to have no interest in any reform to strengthen the support from thousands of EU citizens.

Philip Nolan writing in the Irish Daily Mail on Saturday put it succinctly when he wrote about the EU presidency and Commission often seen as “unaccountable, didactic and dismissive.”

In other words everything that is the opposite of what good leadership should be.

There are many definitions of leadership but fundamental to effective leadership practice is to know how to achieve goals and inspire people along the way.  Successful leaders have clear principles and objectives and bring people with them.

In business one of the outcomes of effective leadership is that people are motivated to buy into the management style and vision, understand it and have respect for it.

Leadership also needs to be visible. Even in the largest of organisations effective leaders will make time to meet or communicate directly with staff and other stakeholders.

I would wager that only a very tiny proportion of the EU population would know at any given time what country holds the presidency of the EU or name any of the Commissioners. This lack of any personality results in the EU being seen as managed by a group of faceless bureaucrats who make decisions to suit self-interest groups.

It is a faint hope but maybe the fall-out from Brexit will prompt an attempt at reform and that leaders will emerge in the EU who are seen to be working for the good of all EU citizens.

If Pope Francis can begin to make the Roman Catholic Church more responsive to the changing world, could there be a leader somewhere who could do the same for the EU?

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