Teresa May quoted in a recent press conference on the reaction to the Brexit plan that has just been signed by all 27 member states – “Great leadership is not about taking the easy route, it is about making difficult decisions.” Putting Brexit aside - I hear a sigh of relief? This quote is at the heart of what effective leaders are faced with on a regular basis – that self questioning and draw of the easy route, which we all know rarely delivers, or taking that difficult decision which one knows will meet opposition, denial, ridicule and even refusal.
Peter F. Drucker the management guru, once said, “Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”
Making that difficult decision takes courage to stand in the face of adversity and keep moving forward, despite your inner self reminding you that there is an easier route, which may leave you unscathed, (probably not in Theresa May’s case!), but completely dissatisfied with yourself. In other words, not living your own truth.
Currently in South Africa enjoying the beauty of the landscape, the birds and wild life, knowing that underneath all this is a very rocky and unstable government. The new temporary president, Cyril Ramaphosa is walking the tight rope through the land reform, and the demands of the opposition who believe it is reasonable to take away and redistribute land from farmers who have bought and worked their land, in some cases for generations, to African communities in those areas, for no compensation. Ramaphosa has looked for common ground in the negotiations and has signed off on the land reform. However, with a caveat that land cannot simply be removed from farmers, there has to be a system to request the land and process that transition, with the goal of ensuring it stays productive in supplying food for the South African people. Did Ramaphosa take the easy route, or that difficult decision?
Mandala walked the tightrope throughout his life, bringing liberation to the people of South Africa. He did not stop to blame those who created the apartheid regime, he simply kept his goal in mind and moved peacefully and assertively forward towards his goal, making those decisions that had to be made despite lack of support from many his own ANC members. Eventually it all paid off with the end of apartheid, with liberation for all and a new beginning for South Africa. Did it take courage and dedication to live his vision? Did he have to make difficult decisions? I believe there can be no more difficult a decision to take than committing yourself to life imprisonment to serve the greater good of your people.
Being a leader takes courage, it takes courage to make the decisions that have to be made, knowing very often that it will not please many of your followers. However, firstly taking a decision is important, and making that decision work through a plan of action, communicating that plan to others and keeping the ship on course to overcome barriers to change, whilst inspiring followers to embrace that change, bringing about something new, different and exceptional.
What lies ahead for Theresa May, the British government and people is going to take great courage and leadership to drive forward on the decision to leave the EU, to keep “Britain Great” and move into a new history.