Now, considering the response to my previous post Leadership and Redundancy, I think the number of people who have some strong opinions about their bosses is quite overwhelming. For, this post has drawn a huge audience through referrals.
A couple of comments to the last post have inspired me to write this follow up to the previous post – one from Rummuser and the other from Parita.
With the economy sucking big time across the world, one would think it is a time for solidarity and camaraderie among teams so we can all stretch ourselves, work harder as a team and battle the tough times together and blah.
Be that as it may, it has come to pass that doing that would require leaders to put their ‘high pressure’ daily work aside – or if not, at least find more time – to do something far more contextually pressing – to actually lead.
To be fair, the impact of this recession or whatdoyoucallit is so deep and so wide and so high that no one really knows how bad it is, how long it is going to last and how severely it is going to affect our businesses.
And that includes our CEOs.
With that let’s leave the poor man out of this discussion.
This is more about you and me. Like before, it’s about us. It’s about how we deal with the tough times as leaders at whatever level we may find ourselves in the current moment.
A recent editorial on Harvard Business Review titled “Leadership In Hard Times’ sums it up just perfectly in its opening words –
“Leadership is never easy, but it’s incredibly tough right now…”
The editorial actually talks not about leaders alone but also about the team that they are betting on – here’s a brief quote from the article –
…..hire the best possible people to work for you, even if they fought you for your job. Surround yourself with a team of people who can challenge your thinking and whose strengths make up for your deficits. Share credit with your closest colleagues, so that they’re fully committed to your mission. Be sure to communicate, often and authentically, with your larger public. And don’t forget to relax. (Franklin D Roosevelt hosted a cocktail hour every evening, during which it was forbidden to discuss either politics or the war.)
You can read the full article here.
The article goes on to say how it is in fact wise to embrace those in your team that are ‘resisters’ to change that you want to introduce.
“Your biggest critics can be turned into your best advocates if you have the courage to listen carefully. This advice feels all the more important right now, given that an organization’s very survival may depend on making the right changes.”
When you do all that – choose the right people, bet on them, train them, empower them and then set them free – something I imagine Rummuser must have done as a CEO - then you can take up international assignments and come back to be pleasantly surprised the way things have managed themselves rather well.
Parita left a comment that was so insightful that it achieved an impossible feat.
It got me thinking.
Her point is valid - Even if we talk about an ideal situation where every leader facilitates the growth of subordinates, there’s a ‘what’s in it for me?’ angle to it.
That is so true. We are all human beings. And so we are all bound to be ambitious, talented and hungry for increments, authority and growth.
So while we can theorize and make a big deal of grooming others and showing them the way, it does little in real situations to help the leader in question. Does he want to really stand by the end of the road and usher in throngs of people down the right path and let them grow and prosper while he is riveted to the same spot??
Answer is, of course, no. Obviously.
So she is absolutely right. There’s always the question of ‘what’s in it for me?’.
But if you really analyse the problem statement, the root cause becomes clear and so does the solution.
Let me cut the chase and get down to what I think the real root of the issue is. At least in my opinion.
We all look for a certain gratification from our jobs. To take an example, as a young recruit, you might look for affirmation from your boss and acceptance from your peers. But as you grow professionally and as an individual, you get over those and look for gratification in things that are more deep and significant.
Problem with a majority of our so called ‘leaders’ is that the gratification they seek does not widen, deepen or mature as they grow older and move up the ladder. The gratification they look for is stunted and they are trapped in a pursuit that coincides with pursuits of people 1, 2, or maybe even more levels below them. They may become too indifferent to good performers, or become too eager to please subordinates. They may find it difficult to wholeheartedly mentor, coach, guide or even appreciate their subordinates, and in my opinion, this is the real reason some of the bad ones suck.
Go on and take this test. Apply this theory to those ‘leaders’ you have seen in your career. See if this explains the good ones and bad ones. It is very likely that their bosses had a big influence in the way they scored in your test.
As you grow – both in the organization and in your mind, the gratification you seek must also deepen. And that is really what will let you spot things beyond the mundane, give you the ability to look at the larger picture, identify hidden opportunities, spot talent and capability in others without feeling threatened, interact and collaborate with peers and juniors without any negativity.
That is really what will lift you above petty office politics and put you in a position from where you command respect without seeking it.
That is really when you will really achieve more growth without engineering it.
And then you truly find more joy and fulfilment.
And that is when you will have created more able leaders and even though you try to make yourself redundant, you actually become more and more valuable.
That’s what they mean by vision of a leader. Vision seldom is about how you view the objectives of the organization. It was always about how you look at things.
It’s a matter of perspective as much as ability.