The significance of Emmanuel Macron’s success cannot be overstated in political terms, and much has been written about this. But much also has been written of his leadership skills and, from this, nascent CEOs can find many useful tips. They can also watch and learn how he exploits, or not, that special honeymoon period – his first hundred days.
President Elect Macron’s outstanding leadership quality is his ability to empathise and to demonstrate it clearly while at the same time disagreeing with an opposing view. CEOs must do this on a daily basis.
Empathy is one of the three cornerstones, in my view, of emotional intelligence. The other two are self-awareness and the ability to negotiate needs, productively.
Capacity to connect with what other people are feeling and to communicate that to them is at the heart of empathy. This is not about “feeling your pain”. You can’t feel someone else’s pain. That’s impossible. This phrase is often used in management speak and qualifies as mumbo jumbo.
To empathise and then to disagree requires courage, confidence and clarity of purpose. Emmanuel Macron demonstrated these qualities best when he visited the soon-to-close Whirlpool appliance factory near Amiens during the election campaign. He had the courage to meet with workers angry with him and his policies and who had been courted by Mme. Le Pen only a few hours earlier.
He listened to them. He acknowledged their anger. And then he explained why he wouldn’t be doing what they want him to do, which is to prevent the closure of the factory.
He said he couldn’t do that. Mme Le Pen had said she would nationalise it. She also talked broadly in terms of closing borders, whereas he talked about the importance of keeping them open.
This was a high-risk strategy for him. The situation could have backfired. But “The Battle of Whirlpool” will go down in election history for good reason: he demonstrated rather than asserted his competence to lead.
Now this young President Elect must deliver on his promises. This is a daunting task especially as he has to build a legislative party from the ground up. This task is similar to that facing many CEOs who have secured PE backing for their rapid growth ventures. Success can be his/hers and theirs if they follow three First 100 Days rules for leaders:
First: They must communicate what they intend to achieve in their first 100 Days. This should be crystal clear and, most of all, achievable. The mistake many new CEOs make is that they overpromise and under deliver in their honeymoon period when followers merely expect them to demonstrate that they are capable of executing in the future. That’s all.
Second: They must manage their Relationship Grid carefully. This is a tool I have developed to help leaders manage their relationships. On this “grid” or spread sheet they list and rank their 20-30 key relationships business and family, including a vision of success and failure for each relationship after one hundred working days.
They track these using a Red, Amber, Green (RAG) dashboard. Invariably, some “amber” and “red” will relationships emerge during the first hundred days. Red means a relationship is in serious trouble, amber that it is heading that way and green that all is well.
The challenge is to know how to manage the amber and red relationships effectively. Get these wrong, and they will struggle because everyone is watching them. Their first hundred days will be judged as much by the manner in which they handle these challenges as their delivery of successes.
Third: most importantly, they must show without fail that they know how to support the people following them to help them be as good as they can be. This requires, almost counter intuitively, a willingness to be honest about their own flaws so that their followers don’t fear exposing theirs. They need to know.
Let’s see how Monsieur Macron manages his first hundred days. He has made a great start.