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  • Writer's picturePhil

Leaders being brave (or not) and suffering the consequences

Having touched on it in my exploration of incentives and ESG, I've been reflecting on this subject of leaders being brave over the last couple of weeks.

It's one that's getting plenty of airtime. Paul Polman's wise words are being not just echoed but carried into action by many other thought leaders, not least Brene Brown, whose stimulating conversations with a brilliant cast of collaborators have been the sound track to much of my cooking this year.

It remains the case that leaders taking brave action born out of a sense of purpose and responsibility is not always popular. Emmanuel Faber at Danone has experienced that and suffered the consequences. Opinions vary as to the motives of those who successfully advocated for his removal. To me it seems like a pretty clear cut case of narrow-minded and shortsighted demands from a minority of shareholders winning the day. It has echoes of Antony Jenkins departure from Barclays a few years back, although in his case it was his peers on the exec sharpening the knives and pushing back against progress. Excitingly, it seems M.Faber has one upped Mr. Jenkins and used his time at the helm to future proof his company's commitments to people and planet against those willing to sacrifice both on the alter of quarterly returns.

But talking of the consequences of action, on the flip side it is great to see prominent and influential voices like those of Anand Giridharadas speaking truth to power and holding business leaders to account for their lack of bravery.

Popular or not, we need more brave decision making from our leaders (I guess if it was always popular it wouldn't really be brave). We need it from our business leaders. And we need it from our political leaders. At their best the two should be working together, but friction between them is both inevitable and necessary. Banning short haul flights is a great example on all counts.

Photo by Adam Winger on Unsplash

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