You may have strong thoughts on issues. But when is it right to speak out on affairs beyond your own authority or organisation? Take for example some prominent voices talking about the (disputed by some) issue of climate change:
1. Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, spoke about the huge risks of climate change for global economic stability. At the same event, the Chairman of Lloyd’s insurance, John Nelson, spoke of the need for responsible capitalism.
2. John Cridland, Director General of the Confederation of British Industry, consultancy Ernst and Young and others have launched ‘scathing attacks’ on the government’s weakening of support for the renewables industry in the UK (a very small part of their membership).
3. The Pope also weighed in during his US visit, building on his papal encyclical Laudate Si, which conveys our “sacred duty” to protect the Earth and its poorest people, who will suffer worst from environmental change.
Is it right for them to speak in this way?
We think ‘yes’
In our ever more interconnected world, more leaders are recognising how ‘externals’ are actually fundamental issues for the health and success of their ventures. They recognise that reputations are built more by values-in-action than by marketing slogans.
In our recent writing on Legacy Thinking we ask: how do you want to be remembered? What do ALL your stakeholders (not just the usual voices) want and expect of you? When people look back on your leadership in these years, what do you want them to see?
One simple test we hear of putting this thought into practice is: “How will this be received if/when it appears in the papers?” VW in the news recently shows what happens when this thinking is not applied.
The risks of speaking up are balanced by opportunities to enhance loyalty, inspire engagement, attract and retain talent and support. And by the opportunity to feel that one’s work, and life, and the opportunities provided by leadership, have meaning and are really making a difference.
What is happening in your organization and the world that you feel strongly about? How might sharing that within and potentially beyond the organisation deepen relationships and give meaning and a sense of shared purpose to your team? What legacy would it be contributing towards?
What is the first step you might take?