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
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.
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 email@example.com )