Recently, Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat state, made a statement about the Indian Prime Ministers absence from office. Modi had called Manmohan Singh a weak man and had criticised the Prime Minister for being away from office for several weeks despite knowing that the PM was undergoing surgery.
For those of you who aren’t in the know, the PM had gone through a rather serious heart bypass surgery and was out of office for around two months.
In a recent NDTV interview with Narendra Modi, reporter Suhasini Haidar confronted him saying his comment on the PM was a hit below the belt.
Now I am not affiliated to the BJP or Congress, nor am I judging Modi’s comments, but Modi’s response gave me an insight that I thought was very deep and is actually true, regardless of whether it is about political leadership or leadership in our cubicles.
“I didn’t not say something wrong”, Modi had said, explaining himself. “ What I had said was that Manmohan Singh was away from office for two whole months and the nation went about its business not even realizing he wasn’t even there!”
I tried to translate the inteview in English above – you can get the original interview in Hindi here (reference to the PM at 5.00 minutes). But if you cut the rhetoric and filter the politics, you will be left with a remarkable insight into leadership.
If your team doesn’t feel your absence when you are away, then what your leadership amounts to can be one of two things.
- You have created a team of highly motivated, self driven and independent leaders who don’t depend on your participation in every activity or decision that needs to be taken when you aren’t around
- You have been so hands off and uninvolved, your team does not need you and wont even notice it if you aren’t around.
Typically when we talk about leadership, we tend to think of people who occupy the chair of the highest office in the leadership hierarchy. We tend to think of powerful CEOs and leaders like Jack Welch, Indra Nooyi, Anil Ambani and so on. Truth is that those bullet points above are valid for people in leadership positions all the way down from that CEO chair till you actually run out of people who don’t have anyone reporting to them.
Truth is that Leadership is about what we do. Yes, you and me. Not always about what the CEO does.
Leadership is about dealing with people reporting to you in a way that they are motivated, challenged, inspired, productive and happy. It is all about tapping that motivation and happiness and aligning it with the objectives of your organization. Even if those objectives are your own KRAs.
Leadership is about investing in people who report to you. It’s about coaching and teaching them the ropes. Giving them all the tools to perform. About getting them to think. Training them, giving them direction. Getting them committed. It’s about getting people empowered.
Leadership is less about you. More about those looking up to you.
Leadership is a job much like that of a make-up man at the sets. You have to do things to make other people look good – and success can only be convincing if the work you have done is not apparent – the less apparent, the better your job.
Leadership, in the end, is about mentoring, understanding strengths, about unlocking capability, about tapping latent potential, about making achievers. It is about creating more leaders, making more people who can be as effective, if not more, than you.
It is all about making your role redundant.
When you do that, when you step aside and create people worthy of the glory of achievement that you deflect to them, then you become a great leader.
That’s your reward.
PS: What do you think leadership is? Do you agree with this post? What are your experiences with good leadership and bad leadership? Who was a good boss you had? Why was he good? Why was your bad boss bad? What are moments that you cherish as a leader yourself? Do leave a comment and lets discuss this.