Business Lessons from the Lebanese Revolution – Leadership

6 Lebanese Revolution

Some of you might not know about the Lebanese revolution; others might not even know what country Lebanon is. Here’s the quick brief, Lebanon is a small Mediterranean country in the Middle East with a population of diverse religious sects, a history of civil war and modern governments riddled with corruption. For more than a month now, a political revolution has been taking place triggered by a dire economic situation. Geography and politics aside, there are several takeaways we can learn from what’s happened in Lebanon.

The revolution has been a fast-moving string of events with many note-worthy moments. Even if like me, you have no interest in the revolution or politics, some of these moments relate to human behavior and business and we can learn from them. Here are my top 3 lessons from what’s happened so far.

1) Pay Attention

While the economic situation in Lebanon had been spiraling for a while – more than 10 years – leaders failed to take the proper measures for economic reform.

This year as things worsened and the currency started crashing due to unavailability of dollars, the government tried some short-term fixes in the form of taxes and budget cuts. One of the proposed taxes was on Whatsapp. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. People took to the streets and have been at it for more than 9 weeks now.

Ignore a small issue and it will fester over time to break you. Lebanon has many examples from the electricity to garbage, to the overall economic situation, the leadership has ignored important issues till they became disastrous.

The same happens in organizations all the time. When companies ignore important small important issues, such as ethical violations, they can end up like Enron. Ignore issues like innovation and you will end up like Blockbuster. Ignore issues like safety and you will end up with numerous disasters like Shell.

If you don’t pay attention to the small things and you don’t plan for them, you will be surprised. What about you? Do you ignore small developments that can festers over time? Pay attention and take action.

2) Connect, Connect, Connect

The fact that the Lebanese revolution started as a response to the Whatsapp tax, highlights the people’s need to connect. For a long time in history, the basic needs were considered to be food, water, shelter, safety… etc, nowadays connecting is one of them. Social media has played a crucial role in this revolution and similar arab movements. From behind screens, people connected and took action to come together on the streets.

If you connect the dots, you can see that connection plays a role in mobilizing people around beliefs. This applies to revolutions or any other situation. Businesses connect to their customers through social media and have a chance to know their thoughts and gain their loyalty. Teams connect through public and internal social media platforms to brainstorm ideas, follow-up on projects and get things done.

How do you do work at your organization? Do you have channels that connect your teams together behind screens and face to face? Do you listen to your customers and interact with them? If your answer is no, it’s time to connect.

3) Leaders Listen

As a Lebanese, I know that there’s a favorite pastime activity we all love to do: complain about the corruption. According to the 2017 Corruptions Perceptions Index, from 180 countries of the world, Lebanon ranks 143 in corruption. So, it makes sense that we complain a lot. You see it on the news, you see it in the social media, and you hear it in the day to day conversations.

For years, the government had ignored what people say and feel. They were blind to what’s going on and the growing dissatisfaction among the people.

While you might think this only happens in Lebanon, it is quite common in governments and organizations alike. It’s what some call leadership blindness or the CEO bubble. In any hierarchal system, where power is at the top, information that passes through to the leader is biased and filtered. People tend to assure the CEO that everything is great.

This also happens in small teams. Have you ever witnessed a group of people who hate their manager and talk about him or her behind their back while the manager is oblivious? This phenomenon is natural, and leaders should be aware of it.

How do you work with your team? Does the conversation dry up when you enter the room? Do you hear the good news only? Are you the last to know what the real issues are? Remember that Leaders Listen.

Leaders that tap into the daily conversation, worries, needs and ideas for people; understand where the real gaps are and plan well for the future.

While it is unclear what the outcome of this revolution will be. What is clear is that like other revolutions that happened in the region, we can learn many business and leadership lessons. Let’s hope we are open to these lessons to support the future of our companies.

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