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One powerful approach for enterprise leaders affected by Brexit & ‘Strexit’

Updated: Oct 11, 2019

Lost in a fast-paced-environment?

Today we are living in the #4th Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) that refers to growing globalization and dynamic business environments that firms need to be highly resilient, agile and innovative, in response to the appearance of continuously changing and unpredictable environments. V.U.C.A. is the term to cover the various dimensions of these ‘uncontrollable’ business environments. In #VUCA world, solutions that have worked in the past no longer will apply to new business situations. As discussed by Cockburn & Smith, employing best practices without careful consideration and not taking account of V.U.C.A.’s surprise factors often produces catastrophic results.

Following a June 2016 referendum, in which 51.9% of participating voters voted to leave, the UK government formally announced the country's withdrawal in March 2017. Since then a period of economic and political uncertainty has started, and that can be called as a V.U.C.A. time, a period of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. UK business leaders face V.U.C.A. at unprecedented levels. How well they deal with this will play a large part in not only determining the future of their business but it will also define the scale and resilience of the UK’s post-Brexit economy.

#Leadership for the enterprises in the #Brexit environment requires a new, creative and transformational mind-set and heart-set, accompanied by continuous development of cognitive and affective skills that refers to V.U.C.A. Leadership.  V.U.C.A. Leadership demands strategic and forward-looking thinking, providing a clear focus on how individuals and businesses alike can make the most of the current opportunities that surround them through collaborative leadership and empowerment. V.U.C.A. Leadership skills are defined diversely by various authors and organizations; however what all they underline in common may refer to four main skills: Being visionary, Agility & Resilience, Self-Awareness, Partnership/Empowering and Nurturing Team Members.


Leaders need to be self-aware and comfortable to empower and nurture their people in the V.U.C.A world


There is one particular area about self-awareness that has been usually unspoken. It is about leaders’ being aware of both their stress and their employees’ stress which is mostly due to the complex and uncertain business working environments, need for immediate, agile and effective strategic decisions in organizations every day. It is almost the same scenario on the airplane that if the leaders cant take care of or disregard their ‘health and well-being’ in first place, and thereby experience burnout due to high levels of stress, then how can they enable effective actions and healthy working environments to flourish their employees and to achieve organizational success. If the employees’ health and well-being is not in place, then how can the organization be innovative and productive?

#Leaders’ health and well-being, in particular stress, has been mostly unspoken in V.U.C.A Brexit environment. So far, the common debate is usually on the ‘outer game rules’ referring how enterprises can survive financially and strategically in these turbulent times. Much of the debate about how Brexit will affect business has focused on the outer game, mostly for large firms. The likely impact on small and medium-sized #enterprises (#SMEs) has received much less attention and help by comparison. For example, #UK Government has the official webpage guiding on how to prepare for Brexit. The #Scottishgovernment is offering grants to help SMEs to export, for instance. It has also set up a national helpline.

Mostly neglected part is the ‘inner game rules’ of survival. The cross section of outer game (strategic actions, financial interventions, policies, etc) and inner game is the zone for success, and any attempt or strategic action focusing only on the outer game rules will fail down in the short term. It is a very urgent need to talk about and define how SMEs can play most effectively not only the external game but also the inner game. Why? SMEs represent core part of the UK economy, accounting for 99% of all UK firms and 60% of total private sector employment. They are crucial for innovation and productivity growth; they are affected by institutional and political uncertainty, with a disadvantage of being less resilient in V.U.C.A. environments like BREXIT.

What is inner game, then? It is all about how to build, develop and sustain V.U.C.A Leadership with a philosophy of Agile & Resilient Leaders with high self-awareness to Strengthen and Empower the Healthy and Effective Teams.

The essential step will be to talk about how we can create healthy mind-set and heart-set among #SME leaders that they can strategically think and execute strategical action plans through empowering and leading their teams. We need to talk about and execute effective stress management strategies for these leaders.


Long-term or overwhelming #stress at work can turn into burnout. Symptoms of #burnout are, for example, memory and concentration problems, sleeplessness, diffuse aches, profound fatigue, irritability, high temperament, anxiety, and a nagging feeling of being emotionally drained. Burnout is associated with a host of changes in brain matter and hormonal functioning, which in turn are associated with cognitive impairment and heart disease. A most recent study has found evidence that #workplaceburnout can alter neural circuits in the brain. As part of a vicious cycle, chronic stress seems to dampen people’s neurological ability to bounce back from negative situations -causing even more stress. The study also has found that the brains of people suffering from work-related chronic stress to those of healthy, less stressed counterparts are different that they have been poorer in attention allocation, decision-making, memory and emotion processing. In the stressed subjects, the prefrontal cortex appeared thinner and the amygdala appeared thicker. The thinning in the prefrontal cortex correlated with worse emotion regulation.

Today, neuroscience shows that if amygdala senses danger or the stressful conditions, it begins the fight-or-flight response before the cortex has time to overrule it. That reduces the functioning of other areas of the brain such as prefrontal cortex. Prefrontal cortex has been implicated in planning complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision making, and moderating social behaviour. The longer the person stays in stressful situations or more frequently he/she experiences stress, the more active amygdala is, leading to limited functions of prefrontal cortex.


Then the big question is how can we expect the leaders to take strategic decisions and lead their teams effectively if they are under chronic stress?


There are certain methodologies suggested to manage stress effectively. However all those need disciplined daily routine and far beyond all these methodologies, on the contrary how they are categorized, refer to behavioural change. The general perception in society is that there is NEVER #enoughtime in the day to take care of our stress. A misperception, according to the American Institute of Psychology, people use stress management reactively, just like taking a pill; it should be proactive and individually tailored. Not every stress management strategy works for everyone. So then there is need for professional approach and guidance for effective stress management.

What can be that approach? What is the best way to manage stress effectively?


So let’s start talking about how to be a strong inner game player through effective stress management in V.U.C.A. Brexit business environment!


Are you a #SMEleader or #SMEexecutive going through stressful times due to Brexit?

Let’s have a deep insight on how to find effective and creative solutions to your challenges through a stronger and healthy mind set. Let’s talk about your time and priority management.

Let’s talk about before it is too late!

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  1. Cockburn T & Smith A.C. P.( 2016). VUCA and the power of Emergence Teams Vol. V, Issue VIII.

  2. Conversation. Brexit’s impact on small businesses: the experts may be spot on after all.2018.

  3. Golkar, A., et al.  (2014). The influence of work-related chronic stress on the regulation of emotion and on functional connectivity in the brain. PLOS ONE.

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