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Leaders: Are you prepared for what happens next in Scotland?

After two years of emotional debate and campaigning, Scotland has elected to stay part of the United Kingdom. But it also become clear that a period of uncertainty and widespread change will follow.

We were somewhat surprised then, when in our annual Management Agenda survey, the majority (57%) of UK-based directors said that they expected the vote not to have an impact on their business.

Does this reflect a lack of preparation on the part of UK-based directors, a collective burying of heads in the sand? There is a possibility that they have carefully studied and analysed all the potential implications of the outcome of the vote, made contingency plans, and are content that the most likely result for their business is ‘no change’. But this seems unlikely.

We have recently been conducting some research on resilience as leaders increasingly report being faced with constant, disruptive change. Looking for opportunities in change is a way of reframing positively often negative, knee-jerk reactions.

Our survey results seem to demonstrate this. Those UK-based directors who reported expecting Scottish independence to have an impact on their business felt that the impact was likely to be negative (34%). This reflects a natural human response to change where uncertainty creates anxiety, and a vacuum of information is filled by worries and concerns about the future.

Change can cause a sense of chaos, of frenetic activity and confusion. Our work on resilience demonstrates the effect of leaders having a clear sense of their own purpose and values. Without such focus, leaders can easily lose their sense of themselves and their strengths. Our work has also highlighted the value of emotional intelligence, looking after oneself, and support networks. Helping and caring for others emerges as important for resilience in times of stress.

The question for business leaders on both sides of the border will be how to prepare themselves and their staff for change, and how to manage the ambiguity and anxiety associated with it. Their own resilience, and that of their employees, is likely to be tested. With that thought in mind, reflecting on how they might develop and support their own and others’ resilience could be time well spent.

Dan Lucy is head of research at Roffey Park