EU Referendum 2016: 6 lessons in leadership for all CIOs | Leadership lessons CIOs can learn from #Brexit

The recent EU Referendum has - depending on your viewpoint - gifted freedom to opressed Britons, or created a consititutional crisis. Either way, #Brexit has provided myriad examples of ways in which leaders shouldn't act. Here we look at six key lessons in leadership that CIOs can learn from the EU Referendum 2016. See also: Brexit's minimal effect on data protection.

Leadership tips for CIOs: Send out a positive message
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Leadership tips for CIOs: Send out a positive message

It has been argued that the Remain campaign failed to make a positive argument for voting to stay in the EU, and in doing so lost a battle it may have won. Regardless of whether you share that view, it would be difficult to disagree that both the Leave and Remain campaigns were negative and based on fear. The result of which is that at the time of writing very few people appear to be happy with the current situation (regardless of which way they voted). Fear sells, but a positive message leads to a positive outcome.

Leadership tips for CIOs: Gain concensus, then sell
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Leadership tips for CIOs: Gain concensus, then sell

One reason for the negative focus of the campaigining was the mixed nature of the teams involved. Cross-party partnerships who might agree on this issue but disagree on others found it difficult to craft a coherent message. Leadership requires you to sell a story in which you may not fully believe. And CIOs must learn to take information and requirements from all areas of the organisation, create a strategy everyone can accept, and sell it - hard. Even if it is not entirely their vision. See also: Brexit could damage UK business and technology sector, CIOs warn.

Leadership tips for CIOs: Leave yourself somewhere to go
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Leadership tips for CIOs: Leave yourself somewhere to go

Arguably, the EU Referendum didn't need to happen. That it did was because the Prime Minister gambled on shoring up the support of his party for a general election, in return for 'settling' the European question once and for all. The result is a situation more unsettled than ever, and a Prime Minister who lost his mandate to govern. Leadership is about reacting to the needs of your team, but a good leader should set the terms of the debate and leave themselves room to manoeuvre if they end up on the wrong side of the argument.

Leadership tips for CIOs: Have multiple plans
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Leadership tips for CIOs: Have multiple plans

It is a CIO's responsibility to have a plan for all eventualities. Clearly the Prime Minister and other senior members of the government didn't want the referendum vote to go the way it did. But it did, and they hadn't planned for that. At best this is poor leadership, at worst criminal negligence. It is a CIO's job to have a vision and to make it happen. But things change and things go wrong, and you need to be prepared to flex to those circumstances.

Leadership tips for CIOs: Listen, communicate, engage
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Leadership tips for CIOs: Listen, communicate, engage

On whatever side of the debate you reside, the campaign and results of the EU Referendum speak to large portions of the electorate feeling that Westminster and Brussels don't listen to them. Let neither the shopfloor nor the boardroom become disengaged from - or disenfranchised with - the work you are doing. You may have the best vision for the business, but you will not achieve it if you fail to convince your senior management peers. And you can't impose change without getting your colleagues to buy in.

Leadership tips for CIOs: Don\'t fight if winning means you lose

Leadership tips for CIOs: Don't fight if winning means you lose

It is in the nature of all leadership that there is a time to fight your corner, and many more times to bite your tongue. In a leadership role, when you are in conflict, even if you win you will lose something. From the Leave campaigners who seemed shocked at their own victory, to the party elders now scrambling to save their jobs rather than sorting out the constitutional mess, the message is clear. Conflict tends to leave victims on all sides. See also: Brexit and Europe 2.0 - Pressing 'reset' Button on Europe.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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