What lead­ers do…

We need to keep ex­plor­ing and learn­ing. We need to en­sure that we en­cour­age cre­ativ­ity and in­no­va­tion by lis­ten­ing to the ad­vice of peo­ple with vastly dif­fer­ent opin­ions. We need to oc­ca­sion­ally get down in the trenches with the mem­bers of our teams so th

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - Guide - - JOB FUNDAS -

Gauri Ch­habra

While cel­e­brat­ing the 64th Repub­lic Day, we need to pause for a few mo­ments to pon­der that what we had in the 1950’s that we do not have in 2013. To­day, we have greater GDP, higher dis­pos­able in­come, an ever-grow­ing cor­po­rate class and bur­geon­ing bu­reau­cracy, how­ever what do we ac­tu­ally lack is lofty lead­er­ship that we had in 50’s. The man­age­ment ed­u­ca­tion has given us man­agers who can get things done from other peo­ple, how­ever we have dearth of lead­ers who can take the ini­tia­tive re­quired to chal­lenge sta­tus quo and break the in­er­tia.

Is there any way to bring more lead­ers in the sys­tem?

Can lead­er­ship be taught or is it just an in­her­ent skill?

Re­cently, I had spent a week­end at a high school grad­u­a­tion, where teach­ers glow­ingly de­scribed the fairly small class as a group of lead­ers. Although, par­ents and kids basked in the glory of achieve­ment and praise, it was clear that some in the group were more equal than oth­ers—more ac­com­plished, more con­fi­dent and com­posed. While the speeches were heart warm­ing, they seemed in­suf­fi­ciently real­is­tic; clearly not all in that class are des­tined for success, and not all will be lead- ers. That ex­pe­ri­ence clar­i­fied one thing to me: lead­er­ship skills are vis­i­ble in early stages and if prop­erly nur­tured we can have lead­ers on our or­gan­i­sa­tions.

What are the skills you need to de­velop to be­come a leader?

Never stop learn­ing

In an ed­u­ca­tional en­vi­ron­ment that fo­cuses on learn­ing and test­ing, a draw­back that comes with it is the grow­ing feel­ing among grad­u­ates that “I have ar­rived”. Learn­ing has stopped.

What we fail to re­alise that learn­ing ac­tu­ally starts from here. If we want to show the way, we need to take that path first, which in­volves over­com­ing fear of the un­known, risk­ing the wave of re­jec­tion and fail­ure. It has been rightly said, “You know the great­est dan­ger fac­ing us is our­selves, an ir­ra­tional fear of the un­known. But there’s no such thing as the un­known– only things tem­po­rar­ily hid­den, tem­po­rar­ily not un­der­stood.”

In the same way, no mat­ter what your or­gan­i­sa­tion does, it helps to never stop learn­ing. The more knowl­edge you have the more cre­ative you will be. The more you’re able to do, the more so­lu­tions you have for prob­lems at your dis­posal. Sure, you might never have to face down a rep­til­ian alien on a desert planet, but you never know what the fu­ture holds. Knowl­edge is your best key to over­come ob­sta­cles in your way.

Be bru­tally hon­est

When we skirt is­sues and try to please peo­ple by false prom­ises, we are liv­ing a life of sham. Peo­ple will be able to see through the façade you have put and would not trust you. Lead­ers are not in the race of pleas­ing peo­ple but do not hes­i­tate to tell the truth how­ever bru­tal it might seem. It may not be taken in good taste ini­tially, but grad­u­ally ev­ery­one around you will de­velop a feel­ing of awe and re­spect to­wards you. They will come back to you when­ever they need help in their per­sonal and pro­fes­sional lives.

Com­mu­ni­cate roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties

An­other im­por­tant trait of a leader is that he is very clear about his ca­reer path and also serves as a light house in com­mu­ni­cat­ing roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to all those who are ver­ti­cally and hor­i­zon­tally tied with him. This avoids am­bi­gu­ity and over­lap­ping of roles. As a leader, pro­vide a path to success not only to those with lead­er­ship prom­ise but also to all em­ploy­ees. Some­times this will mean dif­fi­cult changes, but re­mem­ber the most im­por­tant skill of a leader: never sur­prise an em­ployee with bad news. Have a devel­op­ment plan for all, and a get-well plan for those whose per­for­mance lags. Make sure ev­ery­one knows the plan.

Cre­ate a work­place cul­ture that val­ues real peo­ple re­la­tion­ships

“It is all about the right peo­ple on board the bus,” says Jim Collins in his mono­graph “Good To Great”. That's when it dawned on me too: we need the right peo­ple in the or­gan­i­sa­tion. And re­la­tion­ship build­ing is the new fab­ric that binds peo­ple to­gether as a new lan­guage. For many em­ploy­ees, work­group re­la­tion­ships and re­la­tion­ships be­tween man­agers and work­ers drive en­gage­ment and loy­alty more ef­fec­tively than foot­ball machines, logo T-shirts, and Thirsty Thurs­day gath­er­ings.

Be fair and open

This does not mean treat ev­ery­one equally. It means to have trans­par­ent pro­cesses for man­ag­ing and lead­ing. Em­ploy­ees are more likely to re­spond pos­i­tively to change when the process used to man­age change is fair.

Lead by ex­am­ple

Model the be­hav­iours you seek. Just as the head­mas­ter at the high school did, ac­cept your re­spon­si­bil­ity as a leader and act with en­gage­ment, com­mit­ment and re­spon­si­bil­ity. Do this ev­ery day.

Each of us pos­sesses skills, strengths, tal­ents and flaws. Each of us seeks to be­long, to be en­gaged, to re­late to those around us. Loy­alty is built on re­la­tion­ships, shared un­der­stand­ing and trust. En­gage­ment and com­mit­ment re­quire loy­alty, shared goals and fair treat­ment. Don’t take loy­alty and en­gage­ment for granted – cre­ate a re­mark­able cul­ture where there are pos­si­ble and re­ward­ing out­comes of the work­place. We are only hu­man af­ter all – ev­ery one of us. Ev­ery leader. Ev­ery brand. Ev­ery work­place. Ev­ery per­son.

Be part of the away team

“Risk is our busi­ness. That’s what this star­ship is all about. That’s why we’re aboard her.” Said Cap­tain Kirk of the Star Trek fame. When­ever an in­ter­est­ing or chal­leng­ing mis­sion came up, Kirk was al­ways will­ing to put him­self in harm’s way by join­ing the away team. This is ex­actly what you need to learn as a leader. With your boots on the ground, you should al­ways be able to make quick as­sess­ments of the sit­u­a­tion, lead­ing to su­pe­rior re­sults. In­stead of scream­ing slo­gans, be a hands-on leader, lead­ing the van­guard of your crew as they ex­plored in­ter­est­ing and dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions.

When you’re in a lead­er­ship role, it’s some­times easy to let your­self get away from lead­ing away team mis­sions. Af­ter all, with lead­er­ship comes perks, right? You get the nice of­fice on the higher floor. You fi­nally get an as­sis­tant to help you with day-to­day ac­tiv­i­ties, and your days are filled with meet­ings and de­ci­sions to be made, and many of th­ese things are ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary. But it’s some­times easy to trap your- self in the cor­ner of­fice and for­get what life is like on the front lines. When you lose that per­spec­tive, it’s much harder to un­der­stand what your team is do­ing, and the best way to get out of the prob­lem. What’s more, when you’re not in­volved with your team, it’s easy to lose their trust and have them gripe about how they don’t un­der­stand what the job is like.

This is a les­son that was ac­tu­ally im­printed on me in one of my first jobs, teach­ing a bunch of schools kids. Our prin­ci­pal spent a lot of time in his of­fice, fo­cused on the pa­per­work and mak­ing sure that we could stay afloat on the ra­zor-thin mar­gins we were run­ning. But one thing he made sure to do, ev­ery day, was to come out dur­ing peak times and teach the kids. He didn’t have to do that, but he did. The fact that he did so made me like him a lot more. It also meant that I trusted his de­ci­sions a lot more. That’s what I im­bibed and ex­uded in my per­son­al­ity when I be­came a leader.

Fi­nal take­away

We need to keep ex­plor­ing and learn­ing. We need to en­sure that we en­cour­age cre­ativ­ity and in­no­va­tion by lis­ten­ing to the ad­vice of peo­ple with vastly dif­fer­ent opin­ions. We need to oc­ca­sion­ally get down in the trenches with the mem­bers of our teams so that we can un­der­stand their needs and earn their trust and loy­alty.

In short, if we have to be a leader, we need to lead by ex­am­ple so that peo­ple are forced to fol­low us not be­cause of our po­si­tion but by our pas­sion… (The writer is a Pun­jab- based ed­u­ca­tion coun­sel­lor with 12 years of ex­pe­ri­ence. She can be con­tacted at gau­ri_­nag­pal@ya­hoo.com )

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