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.

Anything. Everything.

It’s a matter of perspective as much as ability.

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  1. rummuser May 14, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    I am glad that something got you thinking.

    Parita, I am no longer a leader, or a manager or anything else in the conventional sense of the word. I however continue to be an important member of the community in which I live and in my immediate family, where, in a small way, I do provide managerial and leadership inputs. Mind you, this after a very long corporate life doing similar things in a larger scale.

    A time comes in a person’s life, when “What is in it for me?” simply disappears. This is the stage of perfect yoga that Bhagwan Sri Krishna talks about in the Geetha. “Karmanye Vaadikarastey, maa phaleshu khadachanaa etc.” This is not fantasy, and it has happened to me, and to many people that I know intimately. Peculiarly enough, the What starts appearing in abundant measure when they do not bother about it.

  2. parita May 20, 2009 at 7:32 am

    Mr Rummuser, thanks for providing an insight to this. I am only learning about the different aspects of life from elders like you and have a long way to go :).
    Leadership is definitely not restricted to the confines of the bureaucrats and offices. It is most necessary at the grassroots i.e. at our homes. The qualities that one inculcates are more than often a result of what we learn at home. I consider my mom a great leader. Not just because she was a success as a school principal. But because of the values she instilled in us at home. She taught us to be independent and manage things. She led from the front and we learnt by observing her. And I feel a leader will touch people no matter where they are, like you continue to do so and my mom does too.
    The other thing is ‘ The What is in it for me’ that I am talking about is not the material kind. Parents desire that their children learn to face the hardships of life when they are not around to advise anymore. Hence they lead and make the child independent. Mother Teresa led an entire generation into this thought of Compassion for the Needy, again a noble thought. She is a leader because she chose to let her work speak and inspire others to follow en route.
    As long as the ‘what’ is righteous and healthy, I see that it will only make the leadership more meaningful and challenging.

    JV, I was elated that my chatter inspired YOU to write something :). Thanks

  3. rummuser May 20, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Parita, That is a wonderful response and I am very happy to read about your Mom. I used to train managers once upon a time and used to illustrate my spiel with the housewife as the world’s best manager. She is a General Manager non pareil. She purchases, manages inventories, converts raw materials into consumables, she is a HR person, she motivates, plans for the future and most importantly, prepares for mergers and acquisitions plus diversions and fresh investments. Now, there are housewives and housewives just like there are managers and managers. I know in both cases of good ones and bad ones, successful ones and failures and to a large extent, the environment, training and development, background, resources available all, play significant roles in determining success or failure or good and bad. If however one is capable of looking at the ideal situation and learn from it to apply the principles to management, of institutions, and even the self, we can expect to lead comparably better lives.

  4. Sriram Ayer May 27, 2009 at 5:20 am

    Great conversations Sundar! Will visit your blog more regularly.

  5. T May 29, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Being a regular follower of your blog, needless to say i am a fan. Noticed that you have changed your Blog name from ‘Winning Bread’ to ‘Bouncing Thoughts’. Just wondering why this change? Any particular reason? Personally I preferred ‘Winning Bread’as it was a really effective reference to the basic reason we all work- To win bread

  6. rummuser June 7, 2009 at 10:42 am

    Sundar, Just a spelling mistake and you become Sunday! What a wonderful thing to happen now that you are bouncing thoughts. Here is something that I am sure both you and Parita will find fascinating:

    I refer to this particular bit where the ‘what’s in it for me?’ is discussed:

    Q. What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned?

    A. It’s one that I learned early on, and it kept getting reinforced and cemented over time with a number of different leaders. It’s this notion that leaders really think about others first. They think about the people who are on the team, trying to help them get the job done. They think about the people who they’re trying to do a job for. Your thoughts are always there first, and you think about what’s the appropriate response for whatever that audience is, and you think last about “what does this mean for me?”

  7. Jaisundar June 15, 2009 at 5:31 am

    @rummuser: Very interesting article – thanks for sharing the link. our discussions on Leadership have occupied my mind over the last few weeks. The question “Who is a good leader?” will surely get different answers from different people – superiors, subordinates, HR, Finance, investors, Governments, regulatory authorities, media, mothers & fathers will all have different expectations, interpretations and takeaways. But I am slowly beginning to think that some of the most important qualities of a leader have to do more with Metaphysics than anything else.I am finishing a follow up to a follow up to a follow up post in the next few days on this. I hope my readers – or you – dont sigh hearing that!

  8. Jaisundar June 15, 2009 at 5:41 am

    @T:So someone noticed! We win bread, yes, but the result of the experience of winning bread is knowledge, insight and inspiration(not to mention a paycheque). While there is not much I have to say about the paycheque, the rest hold great fascination for me and I will be writing to share those – bouncing thoughts with anybody who cares to visit and bounce a few back!

  9. Sibbie July 10, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    I wanted to use the rss-Feed but feed site shows me some xml errors…

  10. Jaisundar July 12, 2011 at 12:17 am

    can you try the rss link on the home page? it should work there.

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