The power of leadership communities after Brexit and Covid

CEO communities are helping firms solve labour shortages andother critical challenges in the post-Brexit, post-Covid era

The UK’s January 2021 Brexit deal caused trading relationships between Britain and the EU to decline steeply by increasing red tape. This has been compounded by several other daunting challenges, including runaway inflation, post-Covid supply disruptions and the Ukraine war.

Though they may struggle to admit it, such systemic shocks can create fear and panic among chief executives, but a good network of peer support can help them feel safe and avoid feeling stressed at difficult times.

Through organised networks and forums, business leaders can quickly gain comfort by realising they are not alone in the challenges they face, and they can garner early knowledge to help them focus on opportunities and feel more confident.

CEO networks can also provide coaching, mentoring and education to prepare leaders for such challenges.

In volatile, stressful situations, one major challenge for business leaders is a lack of reliable information. Being part of a network of trusted members can make a huge difference.

Xavier Mufraggi, CEO at global business leader community YPO, says: “With challenges like Brexit, CEOs can’t rely on online information. They need to speak to other business leaders to get a clearer picture of trends.”

He adds: “Unfortunately, in some business forums, no one wants to be the loser in the room. Everyone says they are doing well, even when they’re close to insolvency. I saw this myself in other CEO forums during the 2009 financial crisis. If you can’t trust what others say, you’re wasting your time.”

With challenges like Brexit, CEOs can’t rely on online information. They need to speak to other business leaders to get a clearer picture of trends

“As a non-profit,” he adds, “the main priority isn’t revenue, but rather, trust.” To reinforce this, YPO also arranges its forums to avoid members talking to direct competitors.

“As Brexit-related crises unfold, our members can reduce their feelings of stress because they have rapid, advance information,” says Mufraggi. “This enables them to start seeing opportunities. They know they still might lose money due to Brexit. But talking to trusted peers enables them to make smart decisions before others.”

YPO member Andrew Landsburgh, director of Code Pod Hostels, says face-to-face networking events restarting post-Covid have been helpful as informal discussions are a huge benefit.

“One major issue we’re dealing with is labour shortages,” he says, “But it’s been comforting to find out it’s not just a Brexit issue. There are labour shortages across the world. Every CEO we speak to mentions it. It’s also been great to learn there are pockets of talent available in India and Africa – and about what’s working or not
in recruitment.”

Mufraggi says early information was also critical when Covid hit China in January 2020. YPO informed its network of 32,000 CEOs in 142 countries by the end of January, enabling them to prepare for the logistical disruption weeks ahead of others.

In this way, leadership communities can help CEOs face any new crisis.

Landsburgh says many members have recently been sharing information about how to manage inflation.

“It’s been amazingly useful to speak to those in developing countries who have experienced high inflation and explained where financing can go wrong and how to hedge against it,” he says.

With supply disruptions, informal connections can help by putting the end buyer in contact with producers to find solutions. Mufraggi says that has been highly effective with YPO members during the pandemic and the Ukraine war, for example, in sourcing medical equipment quickly.

“We connect members who know they can trust each other, which speeds things up,” he says. “YPO’s membership renewal rate is 97% and climbing. It’s lonely at the top but people realise that, during a crisis, a trusted network becomes even more important – and that, with YPO, you’ll never walk alone.”

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