A long time ago (at least it seems like it), April 2000 to be exact, I wrote and published a book on the emergence of the Euro and the European Union onto the global stage and how leadership would have to change to take advantage of this burgeoning opportunity. The book was called “A Time for Leadership: Global Perspective from an Accelerated European Marketplace” (published by the Leadership Press, Los Angeles) and was the result of 2 years of interviews with 60 CEOs and business leaders of major European companies, like ABB, Carlsberg, BBC, ABN Amro Bank, Electrolux and others.
The basis premise? The old hierarchical and patriarchal style of leadership practiced as the norm in many European companies for years would have to change if Europe was to take its place on the world stage in terms of innovation and productivity as a global economic powerhouse.
Here’s the opening story:
After a particularly tough day, the chief executive of a major European company came home exhausted. A barrage of crises and questions assaulted him all day long. Some of the issues he was familiar with, but many he did not fully understand.
Relieved to enter the sanctuary of his home, he left his briefcase in the study and slowly made his way upstairs. Peeking into his son’s room, he saw his ten-year old playing a computer game.
The executive was amazed to see how deftly his son manoeuvred the keys and joy stick. He couldn’t help but notice that the game, an action sequence in which his son played the role of a helicopter pilot racing through a perilously narrow canyon, was progressing incredibly fast, with seemingly countless actions happening all at once. The slightest movements led to new situations, so the executive found it difficult to keep track of the screen activities and his son’s movements at the same time. He was captivated by both the speed of the game and his son’s skill.
After watching for several minutes, the CEO asked his son to let him have a try. All it took was the start of one game for this Captain of Industry to discover he couldn’t last 10 seconds. Try as he might, he couldn’t even manoeuvre the helicopter in a straight line, let alone use the weapons systems! Before he knew what happened, before he could make any adjustments with the controls, the helicopter had crashed three times and the “Game Over” sign flashed onscreen, accompanied by an ominous and unmistakable death knell. All he could do was shrug, realising he lacked the tools, skills, dexterity, and mindset to play the game.
His son said, “Dad, you can switch it to a slower speed. There’s a setting for beginners!”
The executive realised at once that this instrument of make-believe imitated his experience of the larger business world, where he was caught up in a whirlwind of actions requiring quick decisions and acute peripheral wisdom.
Unfortunately, there was no “Slow” switch in his office.
Today, 12 years later, I find that while many business leaders have adapted to the requirements of a fast moving, global economy, unfortunately European politicians have not. The Eurozone is crumbling, as I predicted in my book, not due to being out competed on the world stage, but from self-serving, power hungry elected officials and the weight of a bloated European parliament filled with those whose sole purpose is to tap into the “gravy train” of money that is being raised through oppressive taxes and then loaned (in the billions) to countries that have no right to be at the economic table in the first place. The members of the European Parliament, as a whole, lack the will, foresight and courage to work together to build a strong future for Europe.
It is only through strong and forward thinking leadership that the EuroZone can survive. Unfortunately, leadership has let us down. “Game Over!”
What’s your opinion of the leadership in Europe?
Tight Lines . . .
John R Childress