Published on: June 4, 2019by Michael Sansolo
As longtime readers know, I believe there are all types of lessons we can glean from countless sources to help us focus on the challenges of today and tomorrow. While I’m usually reluctant to take many lessons from the world of politics - and certainly from German politics, a subject with which I have limited familiarity - that’s where we are going today.
Because believe it or not, many of the headaches you have today are similar to those faced by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Merkel, Germany’s chancellor for the past 14 years, is globally regarded for countless leadership issues, yet the past month has brought some surprising news. In the recent European parliamentary elections Merkel’s party, the center-right Christian Democratic Union, lost about a quarter of its support. Incredibly, Merkel’s coalition partner and chief opponent, the center-left Social Democrats, managed to do even worse.
The bigger lesson, as reported by the New York Times, was the sharp rise in votes flowing to the Green Party thanks to younger voters.
As the Times reported in its story,
“The country and the world have changed and both (leading) parties have failed to keep with the times. They have missed out on engaging the next generation. They have failed to adapt to a changing communications environment. And both parties have contented themselves to ‘managing’ politics, instead of shaping politics. Unable to change, they are frozen in place.”
In that one paragraph I hope you can see both the challenges and lessons for business leaders everywhere. We need to be asking ourselves whether we are making bold changes with the times to engage the emerging needs of younger and future shoppers. The points being made by the Times can easily be translated into key business questions:
• Are your business and your leadership changing with the shifting realities of the times?
• Are you stepping up to master the new world of communication?
• And, hardest of all, are you just managing change with small incremental adjustments or are shaping the future? Are you frozen in place or are you moving ahead?
None of those are simple or easy questions, but all are powerfully important and frankly for many businesses they are probably fraught with greater peril than for Angela Merkel. After all, when politicians lose they simply move into the opposition for a few years. They don’t go out of business.
It strikes me that Germany’s political leadership likely has many of the same limitations as businesses anywhere. The Times story makes clear that the young vote seemed especially angered at Merkel’s tepid support for environmental issues, which fueled the shift to the Green Party. One has to wonder if Merkel has many key advisers from the younger demographic that just sent her a powerful message.
I’d bet not.
To reference and paraphrase from a movie musical that took place in Germany decades ago, ignoring shifting realities is like sitting all alone in your room. It is far better, if you want to survive, to come hear the music play.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at email@example.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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