Saturday, 31 August 2013

The Convalescent Leader

How to lead others in Innovative ways, to help architect a better world.

It is well-known principle that leaders aren’t born, they’re made. The crafts of leadership and management, like all arts and skills, are versed and barbed by practice and experience. The pre-independence era was not particularly a good time for our Indian revolutionary army. They were tired, demoralized and poorly equipped as compared to the British forces.

Yet history clearly records that despite the severe conditions and lack of equipment that left freedom fighters to stand on their feet, the men who emerged winners never gave up. Why? Mainly because of the encouraging and selfless example of their leader, Mahatma Gandhi. He didn’t ask his followers to do anything he wouldn’t do. If they were cold, he was cold. If they were hungry, he went hungry. If the people surrounding him were uncomfortable, he too decided to experience the same discomfort.

The lesson Gandhi’s profoundly positive example teaches is that leading people well isn’t about urging them, directing them or appealing them; it is about compelling them to join you in pushing into new domain. It is motivating them to share your zeal for pursuing a shared objective, goal or a mission. In essence, it is to always present yourself in ways that reaches out to others that you believe people are always more important than things.

As a manager myself, I can confirm that achieving my goal, be it in training a new generation of capable men and women for service, handling a team to achieve desirable success is paramount. Yet this doesn’t allude that I should indiscriminately pursue my goals or blindly achieve my objectives at all costs. For me, having authority over my subordinates and staff does not mean exercising power over people; but rather, it’s about finding potent ways to work with people.

The most compelling form of leadership is supportive. It is synergetic. It is never assigning a task, function or role to other people that we ourselves would not be willing to perform. For all business-like purposes, leading well is as transparent as remembering to remain others-centred instead of self-centred. To achieve this, I try to keep four imperatives in mind:

Be attentive: 

Listen to other people’s ideas, no matter how different they may be from your own. There are evidences, dime a dozen, that the most imaginative and valuable ideas tend not to come from top of an organization, but from within an organization. Be frank to others opinions; what you hear may make the difference between being good and eventually becoming great.

Connect with others:

As a leader, the ability to emphasize relationships is a must. One should make the people on one’s team, colleagues, competitors, customers, and future talent a priority on par with delivering results. He should fix/resolve conflicts within the team, proactively or promptly. This can only happen when the leader is kind, candid, reachable and responsive in timely ways. He has to match audience with communication method and message, know when to stay silent.

Influence:

Without Influence, leadership does not exist. To be an effective leader, it is important to influence others to support and carry out decisions that the leader and team members apprehend are necessary. Influence can be with people, things or events. Mastering the art of Influence is a key leadership constituent. If ideas are to be acknowledged toward a given change, leaders must learn the craft of influence.

Lead and engage:

In a work culture, Leaders need to spread the individual ownership mind-set. This includes guiding all to think and act as if they are the administrator or owners. Most of the times, I try to frame a question in the minds of my employees: “What would I/you do if I/you owned the place?” This question helps in unifying the team and adds a sense of responsibility in their work attitude. Also, one has to see that the employees are not too much burdened with their work that they forget to smile, laugh display emotions. The atmosphere should be fun, humor-loving.

Last but not the least, from my own personal experience, the biggest leadership lesson I have learnt is to create, groom new leaders in your own vicinity. It is not about having more followers. When you lead, knowing that your leadership orchestrates people coming together to unleash their talents, you instantly realize what it means that ‘This world is not about you’. But, what is about you to know, share and evolve your qualities. This is what helps you to lead and leave your mark on those in your team. And the flipside of this approach is that you have to be susceptible to criticism, scrutiny from your colleagues and at times from your juniors. A leader must also have the ability to say NO and then also justify the reason. 

That concludes the Convalescent Leadership blog. This was just a leaf out of my own professional book. I hope, I continue to be a disciple of leadership in years to come and the journey to improvise myself in every aspects of business may continue for a very long time.