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How did it come to this?

On September 18, 2014, the people of Scotland will decide on their country’s future. Will they remain part of the United Kingdom or become a fully independent country?

You may ask yourself, what does this have to do with managerial leadership?

It all comes down to effective thinking. Effective thinking is the key prerequisite for a successful CEO. It is the core executive competency. Without effective thinking, everything an executive says and does is shaded with mediocrity and prone to dangers of a strategic nature. This type of executive brings an inherent ineptness to the table and can compromise, in the long term, the company they lead.

The Scottish reference is a great example, and this bring me back to the upcoming referendum. I have been thinking: How did it come to this? After 300-plus years of being in partnership with England, Wales and Northern Ireland, what set in motion this historic referendum?

From what I can see, this referendum was the result of politicians making decisions to gain short-term advantages, but failing to understand the long-term implications and consequences. Let’s look at some of these decisions.

In November of 1996, the Stone of Scone was returned to Scotland. The return of this key symbol of Scottish independence was guaranteed to exacerbate passions of nationalism and independence. Congratulations, John Major! The construction of a Scottish parliamentary complex (begun in 1999 and opened in 2004) cemented the desire of Scottish nationalists to break away from the UK union and provided a platform and a process to do it. Way to go, Tony Blair! Finally, thanks to an agreement between the Scottish and the UK governments, the referendum question was decided. The question that may throw into disarray a historical union is, “Should Scotland be an independent country?” (Note that the question does not address what independence will actually mean.) A simple majority (50 per cent plus one) is required to pass it. Good going, David Cameron!

What is happening right now in the United Kingdom provides a severe lesson for CEOs and senior executives. Decisions undertaken today may have far-ranging implications ten, twenty or even thirty years down the road. Don’t let your poor decisions create a poisoned chalice for your successors.

Nick Forrest

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