Anyone can captain a ship through calm waters (well unless you’re a captain of an Italian cruise ship that for the purposes of this argument shall remain nameless).
However, it takes a very special kind of leader to charter through rough seas. The past few months have seen, at best choppy and at worst tumultuous seas around the European Union. With Greece and Portugal adopting maverick financial accounting procedures and being exposed to the consequences of bad financial management at the height of a global financial crisis, one could argue (and I shall!) that it is Great Britain who are endeavouring to lead the way to calmer waters. Indeed, comparisons can be drawn to the actions of 18th Century sailors who would be pulling in the sails and battening down the hatches in stormy seas – the equivalent today is firm, prudent and uncompromising austerity measures.
Attempts by Chancellor Merkel of Germany and President Sarkozy of France are not presently giving the passengers on board (all of us Europeans) very much comfort. The reality of the situation is simple. Until whole countries can learn to manage their economies in the same way you and I manage our household budget, ie live within our means, balance our books and, if possible, put a little aside for the future, then the problem will not go away.
It takes decisive, authoritative and inspirational leadership – the qualities of a good captain steering his ship through ‘the perfect storm’ to transform Europe into the financial powerhouse Brussels wants it to be. But, love him, or hate him, David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, is displaying strong leadership characteristics and placing himself in the position of the proverbial coast-guard, pulling up alongside the stricken European tanker and offering a lifeline of guidance, support and (more importantly) leadership by example in the tight fiscal management of the British economy, in addition to calls to “get really serious” about repairing the EU’s economic fortunes.
Last week Britain was joined (for the first time) by the Czech Republic in refusing to sign up to a fiscal treaty to attempt to enforce budget discipline, but which arguably fails to tackle the root cause of the problems. There’s no point trying to take hold of the helm of the Tanker if the rudder is broken. What’s needed are urgent repairs and maintenance to the Tanker first. In other works – WORK. The Tanker (and millions of people across Europe) needs work. In Mr Cameron’s words, “We need to get really serious about the growth agenda in Europe. We need to complete the single market, agree trade deals and make serious efforts to deregulate small business”. Europe must stop adding more and more bureaucracy and stifling trade in the way Brussels has been doing relentlessly over the past 10 years. Decisive leadership action is needed to free up economies through a back to work agenda.
European leaders fully agreed a statement last week which read: “We have to actively enhance growth and competitiveness, so to create jobs, preserve our social models and ensure the well-being of our people.”
The result? Markets dropped, our hearts dropped – this is the power and the consequence of indecisive leadership. What we all need are Captains and Leaders of our respective nations who would be bold enough to sign up to a statement that begins with the words:
“We will actively enhance growth and competitiveness …..”
Do you agree? or not? What are you views. I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment and I will enter you into the draw to win one of the 50 leadership tool-kits I am giving away at the beginning of 2012. You will also get an entry for liking Leadership-expert on Facebook or by Subscribing here.