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VOLATILITY Jane knew something about volatility; and not just the emotional

upheavals of her characters. Her favourite brother Henry married a widow who had lost her property to state expropriation and her fi rst husband, Count Jean de Feuillide, to the guillotine at the time of the Paris Terror of 1794, and subsequently, all revolution and terror were in Jane’s lexicon. Financial crisis was another phenomenon Jane witnessed painfully: her brother Henry’s chain of banks collapsed with the bust that followed the mercantile and fi nancial boom of the Napoleonic Wars. The entire family lost their investment. Yes, Jane knew something about volatility.

Confronted by volatility, leaders may take inspiration from Jane and look

to the power of narrative. Stories connect and motivate. When leaders craft a compelling story of the possible that engages their audience—in a shared vision of what might be—fear of volatility withers. Now more than ever, leaders need to be trusted narrators of the tomorrow that we must forge today despite the turbulence.

Jane might call this Persuasion, the art and science of engaging people. Hers

was not a knowledge economy as we term ours, but within her society, she observed with the insight of both social scientist and anthropologist. Looking at the challenges confronting leaders now, we can imagine Jane’s gentle urging that we forego the habits of managerial dictatorship for the engagement of human relationships. This implies great emphasis on communication—successful communication, which means genuine dialogue. Perhaps Jane would admonish our continuous partial attention with a precautionary acronym: EMMA. Electronic mail, meetings and agendas may not lead to the marriage of any minds.

52 | INTELLIGENT INSURER | November 2010

UNCERTAINTY Living is a risky business. Living life as a leader is even more so in that

you expressly recruit others into your risk-taking. Our dear modest Jane ensconced in an 18th century country rectory could hardly assist us here. Prevailing over uncertainty is risk management, a modern science and an important imperative of 21st century leadership. But we forget. As a single woman and the rector’s daughter, Jane would have performed social and civic functions, visiting the poor, attending the sick and dying, assisting women in childbirth. She understood ‘social responsibility’ and the imperative of community relations. Jane was intimate with the persistent uncertainty of everyday life. Her own father’s irreversible illness added fi nancial concerns to the crucible. Her response was to “stick to the basics”. Duty, perseverance and good governance in managing domestic responsibilities. Not bad organisational principles. Peter’s Concept of the Corporation would have been easy reading for Jane.

Jane not only grappled with uncertainty in managing fundamentals but was

acutely exposed to political and transnational risks. Jane’s brothers, Frank and Edward, who both rose to become Navy admirals, were away at sea in wartime. Indeed, Frank’s vessel was scuppered by a hurricane while pursuing pirates off the coast of Greece, with considerable loss of life. Her darling Henry almost lost his life in London’s tuberculosis pandemic. We can assume Jane had a good grasp of external tempestuous conditions that test the mettle of leadership.

Jane might suggest to us that Sense and Sensibility are required to manage

risk. It simply makes pragmatic sense. Leaders must possess the good sense to prepare for alternative outcomes so that agile course corrections can be made. A continuous state of readiness fortifi es the organisation against the debilitating anxiety that uncertainty incites.

© / duncan1890

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