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Leadership and Change Management in Veterinary Practices. What can we learn from the BREXIT?

The last few weeks have been fascinating if you are interested in politics, history, leadership, strategy, culture, drama and Shakespeare. What can be a more appropriate example of the importance of Leadership and Change management skills than the changing position of Boris Johnson in the BREXIT? Just think about it. You have this great idea about leaving the EU and sincerely believe this is the best solution for your country’s problems. You find some partners who share your ideas and want to help you to spread the word. Much to your surprise you find them from different political affiliations but you all seem to share the same ideology. The strategy is clear and the objective is clear (at least you believe so), and you know your direction. It is not very likely you will achieve your goal since there is a strong traditional stream against your idea but you are determined to rock the boat. Just the idea of working on the changes energizes you, you are thrilled and love the political debate with your competitors. During the process towards the referendum your position is unquestionable, you are the personification of the BREXIT, all cameras are on you and you are the leader.

Being a leader comes easy to you. You are as people around you say, “a born leader”. Actually, you have already proven to be a leader, you have earned your credits and you know who your friends are. For you it is also clear who will lead the country. You have a hidden agenda. In fact the whole BREXIT campaign only serves one purpose…… becoming the leader of the nation. Probably the BREXIT itself will not happen but you create so much turmoil that your (former) friend will lose all his credibility and has to abandon ship, in or out of the EU, no matter what.

And then the unthinkable happens; the British people vote for a BREXIT. Your biggest opponent, the prime minister, resigns and everyone is getting ready for you to take over his position. Everyone? Your moment of glory evaporates because the whole nation panics. Nobody thought this through because nobody thought it would really happen. Suddenly your friends have their own agenda too and become enemies or just jump the ship. In this new reality you have lost all your political support and the position of prime minister has never been further away for you.

What I find unbelievable in this whole process it the fact that apparently nobody thought this would happen. There was no plan B and not even a plan A for the people that where in charge of the BREXIT campaign. It seems like everyone was so focused on their own agenda in the political debate that nobody thought about what needed to be done in the new reality.

Change in an organization, or in a political reality can never be a goal in itself. It needs to serve a bigger plan and should be part of a strategy. People have different comfort levels with change and therefore, information and timing needs can be different. Change processes need continuous management and leadership. There are tools and support structures available that can be learned and applied. Leadership can have different styles, but always comes with responsibility that you cannot ignore when you are the leader, or owner of the practice. When you want to change key elements of your organization, for instance the practice culture, be aware of the fact that you might get what you want! So it better be good and you better have a plan to stay ahead. Do not let the change process create a situation where you lose control and you become the odd one out.

Oculus Insights acknowledges the importance of developing leadership and change management skills in the veterinary profession.  Whitney Hischier from the University of California Berkeley, Haas School of Business will give two workshops in Europe on Leadership and Change Management for the veterinary profession. These workshops will take place in Amsterdam on October 5th 2016, and Frankfurt February 1st 2017. For more information visit our website