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The Effectiveness-Lab

Brexit fallout – fiefdoms and lessons for leaders Series 1 of 2

We are primarily an OD. blog and apolitical in every sense of the word. However, on some occasions, we infer lessons from the political sphere, without necessarily becoming political ourselves. There are extremely good lessons for OD. practitioners like leaders and other company honchos in the unraveling UK Brexit.

We, Ugandans, have a ‘Master’ in Great Britain. The great nation was and in many ways, still is, Uganda’s colonial master. The Effectiveness lab penned an article on Brexit soon after the popular referendum that saw the British people choose to leave the EU.

And once again, Brexit is the thing on the global political news circuit and in it, are lessons in the psychology of individual-power for both nation states and organizations

Those in power at both the nation-state as well as company (they are all organizations after all – only of a different type), should give up personal fiefdoms and the accompanying interests, for the general good of their institutions. Yet, we are acutely aware that this is easy said than done. It’s human psyche to act selfishly even when such behaviour risks to bring down the organization that feeds them.

In a comment on The Economist article ‘The six flavors of Brexit, the EU offers many menus, from Norwegian to Turkish. But there is no à la carte option’ encapsulates the fiefdom syndrome,’ fiefdoms and the selfish tendencies of their perpetrators are portrayed so well:

“Brexiteers commenting here seem more like British soccer fans than people thinking about the future of their country under very different economic rules. While cheering on a soccer team may be a lot of fun, it is essentially an emotional experience, done out of a feeling of kinship with other fans. There are no consequences other than perhaps occasionally helping your side win a game now and then. Bringing the same attitude to something as important as international relations with the UK’s main trading partner is crazy.”

Emotion, ego and the unrelenting effort to please self at the expense of the more significant and vital cause, is at the core of what is being termed Brexit chaos today

One of the most effective and efficient nation states of our time, Great Britain, has exposed its dirty linen before the public, so much so that those of us that call the nation-state the ‘MASTER’, have been left wondering what is unraveling before us.

Prime minister Theresa May has over the last four days given organizational-behavior professors that teach EQ, free course material. We can only ask one question – given all the turmoil and pressure on the leader, how has Theresa May managed to remain so calm?

We won’t get into, on this blog, the intricacies of Brexit. But suffice it to say that in the circumstances, Prime minister May’s sounding out of the opposing Brexiteers and labeling them selfish individuals that have put personal interest before that of the general UK populace, is a microcosm of the modern firm.

Do you encounter the same situation in your organization time and again?

Just like those individuals at the center of the Brexit theatrics, companies have their own ‘Brexiteers’, that put personal interest and fiefdom-power-politics first and the organization and its core mandate second, if not last.

When the above happens at firms, owners and their leaders should consider the situation a symptom of more significant challenges that if not addressed, just like the route Britain risks taking, may result in the organization dying on its feet.

In such circumstances, leaders should look out for the underlying causes below and address them:

1. The lack of focus with a fuzzy commitment to the most important elements in firm value-creation
2. With focus missing within the OD. eco-system, alignment gets sacrificed. After all, when there is no common focus, at best, there will be multiple foci and in effect, confusion.
3. Lacking focus and alignment may, in some instances, be a symptom of a deeper OD. challenge – the lack of vision and strategy
4. When all the three above are absent, one is implored to explore the fourth area of OD. dysfunction – leadership. If the leadership is strong, even in instances where the egoistic choose to disregard the official direction the organization has been asked to take by the citizen (nation-state) and Owners or Board (for the orthodox firm), it’s the leader’s job to have them toe the line or move them on

Do you have fiefdoms at your workplace? Are they subtle or, so evident and powerful that they are undermining value-creation at the firm?

What can we do to challenge fiefdoms? See you next week


2 responses to “Brexit fallout – fiefdoms and lessons for leaders Series 1 of 2”

  1. Dear AG

    Thank you for the article ,very educative we are keenly following events , The PM insist that her withdrawal agreement is the best deal Britain could hope to strike when it leaves the EU which has lend to resignation of key ministers who supported the Exit. .She also warns that the only alternatives is either leaving with no deal or not leaving at all.


    1. Thanks Teresiah – how did it get this bad? Fiefdoms that are not well challenged… at times appeased


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About Me

Apollo B. Gabazira is an Ugandan OD. junkie fascinated by matters that render organisations/individuals effective or not. He blogs on effective leadership and management. He is a devoted green-farmer and breeds the Ayrshire cow at Nakabugu, Luuka district, Uganda. Apollo is quite effective at what he chooses to do.


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