Miscommunication and Revolt: What Business Leaders Can Learn from Emmanuel Macron’s Missteps

April 19, 2023
By iQ Staff
Crowd with banners protesting pension reform in a city street.

After years of catering to employee demands for premium kombucha and the right to bring pets to work, many corporate leaders are relieved that economic uncertainty has restored some of the traditional focus on customers, operations, and shareholders. Yet before celebrating a hasty return to what some consider the normal balance of power, management teams should heed the lessons playing out in France.

The issue of increasing the retirement age from 62 to 64 has been a contentious topic in France since it was proposed in the French Parliament earlier this year. In mid-March, when the proposed legislation appeared to have stalled, President Macron seized an opportunity to exercise a constitutional power to force the change through without a vote. The result, as we’ve seen in the news, is violent protests, strikes and demonstrations, a loss of trust, and calls for Macron’s resignation.

An objective observer might argue that Macron made a reasonable decision. After all, slow economic growth and changing demographics place an unfair, long-term burden on younger generations of French workers to support pensioners whose life expectancies have been increasing. In line with this thinking, the government's communication strategy emphasized technical and economic justifications for the retirement age increase. Unfortunately, this strategy came up short because it failed to connect with the emotional and personal concerns of pensioners, leaving people confused, frustrated, and angry.

 

“Business leaders who tend to the human dimension of change aren’t pandering to employees; they’re managing the full complement of stakeholders whose support is needed to move the organization closer to its goals.”

 

Across the globe and across industries, people tend to advance in business largely on the basis of left-brain capabilities — financial, engineering, technical or scientific skills. This only makes sense: addressing the interests of investors, regulators and board members requires discipline and logic. Yet while rational thinking is necessary for success, it’s insufficient for leadership, which ultimately requires all the above plus the ability to engage, inspire and motivate others — citizens and workers alike.

Regardless of whether it grows out of business strategy or is imposed by outside forces, change affects every part of an organization. Business leaders who tend to the human dimension of change aren’t pandering to employees; they’re managing the full complement of stakeholders whose support is needed to move the organization closer to its goals.

 

Photo via NPR