Anarchy Here We Come.

We have arrived at a moment in time where the political system is so out of whack with the people it purports to represent that it makes increasingly less sense to the average person. The election campaigns of Julia Guillard and Tony Abbott appear sanitized, stage managed and designed solely to ensure the attainment of power as an outcome. For many members of the community it is both obvious and frustrating that politicians en-masse value the mere attainment of position above creating a better world for Australians.

And what makes it even worse is the apparent disconnect between those people who are elected and the bureaucracy that really drives the actions behind the scenes. In the increasingly interventionist, “we’ll tell you how to behave” world of big brother governments globally (or the ‘Nanny State’ as it is becoming known), the distance between the media attention grabbing politician focused on presentation and the government bureaucrat focused on enacting shared global peer-group belief is causing growing levels of angst for a public that feels it has no influence any longer on outcomes that affect them. Outcomes that drastically change lifestyles and quality of life.

When a collective public reaches a tipping point where it feels helpless to influence outcomes that dramatically affect it, history has taught us that anarchy is the result. Look at Italy. Since the end of World War 2 in 1945, Italy has had 61 governments. It is over-governed at every level. It has officialdom everywhere as any foreigner can tell you trying to do business there. Yet the people just turn their backs on it and enjoy life with a gusto that is infectious. The only time they ever worry about what the government says is when they have been unlucky enough to become ensnarled in its legislative web in a manner that means their usual charisma and happy go lucky approach cannot extricate them.

Why is this of relevance to retail?

Many contemporary retail businesses fall into the same trap. They say one thing and do another. They fail to grasp the notion of leadership being partly about listening to and balancing the needs of the stakeholders who support ongoing success – not just around AGM time or performance appraisals or crisis. They use motherhood statements and industry-think short cuts instead of focusing on their unique context.

Staff who feel they have no avenue to be heard or a perception that they cannot influence outcomes that affect them and their livelihood become passengers. They opt out and stop listening. The good ones look for another job. Customers who feel the same lose connection and will only buy on convenience and price. Then they leave as soon as they have a viable alternative.

The great thing about the times we live in is what technology can enable. We have the means to do pretty much whatever we choose to prioritize. But capability is nothing until it is activated and used with integrity to achieve balanced positive outcomes for stakeholders. While you may not be able to affect much of what happens in our nation’s capital, you can affect your business. Listen, lead and stay relevant. As Richard Branson said “Businesses exist to make people’s lives better.” More and more we question why politicians exist at all.