On Leadership…

Leadership has always fascinated me.I believed that I was a born to lead but the myth was broken as soon as I was put to test in the real world entrusted with the task of leading a real ‘team’.

I failed but I figured out a few things :

1.Its one thing to be great as an individual worker and it’s another to lead a team to greatness even to achieve desired results

2.In a corporate set up its not always that your management wants you to succeed and they can use your team to set you up. Dynamics of a corporate environment are no different from the social set up we live in and struggle for survival continues be a basic instinct.

3.Still as a leader  you don’t necessarily stop being your self and emerge as someone who is real and is able to inspire others

4.I learn’t that saying what you do and doing what you say is the simplest and most effective way to build trust.Sometime people do take time to understand your words an actions but they ultimately do.So you don’t need to explain your actions and do what is right.

Have since continued my efforts in the direction of learning more and more about leadership more from the standpoint of a scholar than from the view of a stakeholder or practitioner.

I just picked up a collection of  10 HBR essays on the subject of leadership.Here are some nuggets of wisdom :

1. Technical expertise or knowledge of subject matter is just a first level qualifier. It does not mean in any way that the folks who report into you directly or indirectly will look up to you as a leader.

2. Emotional intelligence is perhaps the most important ingredient of leadership and a leader just cannot survive without it.It must be learnt and developed consciously and with effort if required but there is no way you are going to the top being emotionally bankrupt.As a leader you are dealing with emotional beings who will stop at doing nothing or everything depending upon your emotional connect with them.The sooner you learn this the better.

3.The next big thing is social skills. Sounds cliched but you will be amazed how many top executives don’t even understand the meaning of the phrase.Social skills do not mean sending flowers on birthdays and wreaths when someone passes away but they imply a constant alertness about your day to day behavior.Again these are skills so they can be nurtured and cultivated but only if leaders realize that they lack them.

4.An important point that the book also makes is about why should people be led by you. As humans we are egoistic beings and our ego does not allow us to surrender ourselves at someones will very easily. For leaders to emerge they must demonstrate a superior ability to take decisions even tough ones when everyone else is not so sure.Leadership is all about change and change is always challenging – if there are no wars there will be no generals as they say.Regardless of one’s positions they will looked up as leaders if they provide a direction when there is none.If you can take a lead or initiative and prove that you have been able to steer the group to glory you can be accepted as the leader.

5.Leadership is not about holding the top positions.Leaders can emerge at all levels regardless of the hierarchy.In fact most leaders have very humble beginnings and while their superiors continue to languish they rise very fast through the ranks to surpass everyone else to the top.Leadership is not about surrender but about adulation, praise,acceptance and trust. Those who win these keep increasing their circle of influence until most of the organization falls under it.Again this influence is not about servility but about camaraderie and friendship. A friend whom you like and also look upto as a guide and a philosopher so to say.

6. One last phrase that struck me was about the difference of being a good a good manager versus being a great leader.

The book says that a manager deals with complexity to organize systems and processes so that the organization become people Independent and drives consistency. Leader deals with change to motivate and inspire people to not only accept and imbibe the change but also to innovate so that change is no longer a challenge but an opportunity.Believe me this is easier said than done. Where as a manager will try to kill creativity by streamlining ways of working a leader will do something exactly opposite – instill and nurture creativity to encourage people to come up with new ideas and ways of working. It may mean a higher risk but that’s what a leader is all about – taking chances, at best taking calculated chances.

Will keep adding to this piece as i highlight my notes and ponder and delve little more. Keep track if you want to be the CEO or the President of your place….