Nearly five years back I did a comprehensive piece on ‘Leadership In The Navy – Past, Present And Future’ and then within a month, having retired from the Indian Navy, I joined a corporate on the civvie street. This article takes into consideration a number of things that I have closely observed in the environment around me. I am convinced that avoiding these things would make a person a much more effective leader.
The Number One Leadership tenet, of course, is that Leadership must be a secondary trait to Love. A Leader cannot be an effective Leader unless he or she is driven by a feeling of love towards his or her resources; the most precious of these being human resource. If you are driven by Love and in the corporate sector not the love for money, you are already on the way to becoming an effective leader. Regrettably, corporates think of a Leader as someone who commands not more respect but more money and many of these leaders actually end up being paid heavily in the hope that they would bring about the necessary change or transformation; which in turn results into being more profitable and hence earning more money. This is from my page ‘Make Your Own Quotes’:
Why is this important? I can give several reasons. However, two of these stand out. One is my favourite tenet: Good leaders have good men. Indeed, Good leaders have good all round resources. This doesn’t mean that their talent hunt is so good that they are able to get good men or women from the market or best resources. It means that what they have quickly become good men and women and resources by the feeling of Love that generates ownership and belongingness. Two, Love rules out an agenda other than to see the best development of your company and resources.
With this background, lets go straight into the Ten Things to Avoid as A Leader.
#1 Falsehood. A leader must have high Credibility with those he or she hopes to lead. False promises, both direct and implied, spell ruin. There can be falsehood in things other than promises too. For example, if the people read in your intent motives totally different from the ones proclaimed, your efforts at sincerity are likely to sound as hollow to them as the arguments of a lawyer who knows his client has done something wrong but still argues in his favour because of promise of fees or remuneration. You may cover up your intent by grandiose advertisement campaigns or HR blitzkrieg, but, you won’t have won people’s loyalty. Remember: loyalty is obtained by loyalty and not by spectacular campaigns. Another pertinent and prevalent example of Falsehood is when you promise to bring about a change and openly denigrate what your predecessor(s) were doing; but in the end, you do exactly the same thing, people below you think of it as a great falsehood perpetrated by you.
#2 Focus on or Driven by only Short Term Goals. From national leadership to anywhere in the corporates leaders are nowadays busy with short-term goals. New language evolves and we have a new and respectable name for this; it is called ‘quick-wins’. Regrettably, many leaders do not go beyond these quick-wins to think about long term development. When you go to South India, you come across temples, for example Somnath temple, that took more than 100 years in construction. Nowadays, people seek instant gratification not just in their lifetime but also in their tenures as leaders which are shortened due to frequent job-hopping. Nevertheless, posterity remembers leaders that look after the long term goals of the company, employees and themselves.
#3 Wasting Time on Unproductive Activities such as PPTs. Leaders should never forget that Meetings, Workshops, Brainstorming sessions and Conferences are means to achieve an end and not an end by themselves. Dissipating unduly time at getting PPTs right, for example, may sound impressive but would eventually result into micromanagement of such petty things as font-size, colour and slides layouts. I have seen many so-called leaders getting engrossed in the endless process of getting-it-right and devising new vocabulary to mask their penchant for petty corrections. Great leaders do not waste time in forever controlling everything in meetings, PPTs etc but demonstrate their ability to take in the real issues involved.
#4 Parochialism. Diversity is the flavour of the month in corporates these days; especially amongst those that desire to emerge as global players. However, we are at the level of paying lip-service to it whilst ensuring that increasingly people from our own backgrounds, regions and religions join and progress in the company. The best thing that I read about Bias is that you have a bias to prove your bias right. All kinds of reasoning finds its way into thought-processes why people of our background only “will be able to do justice to the tough requirements of the job.” The problem with such parochial thinking is that you lose the right yo lead all but your favoured lot. It is like a government coming into power and looking after the interests of only those who voted for it.
#5 Different Rules for Different People. A good leader is consistent about the application of rules, regulations, procedures and practices. He doesn’t give orders that he cannot follow himself. Indeed, whenever he starts a new practice or wants to bring about a change, he leads the change. Everywhere in India we have already spoiled social fabric by inequitable application of rules and privileges. The moment you do so people assume their status to be different or privileged. The oft asked question if such people is: “Pata nahin main kaun hoon?” (Don’t you know who I am?)
#6 Previous Credentials. You join a new company as a senior leader. You denigrate all their previous experiences. You assume that you have been brought there to bring about a change. So, without even understanding how their system works, you jump headlong into imposing your previous experience on them. You must remember that nothing is more frustrating to your new team. It took them years to build up to the system and you straightway commenced throwing the baby along with the bath-water. You don’t just have a vocabulary to support you in your pursuit of bringing about a change, you have an entire philosophy at your disposal. You can quote hundreds of anecdotes and management principles about how Change is painful but necessary; and, how to bring the recalcitrant around to your point. Indeed, in addition to imposing your previous credentials, you now revel in gradually doing away with resistance to change. but, the fact is that you should have first studied the system that you were going to inherit before embarking on the Change Journey.
#7 Constant Change. This is another favoured phrase which is somewhat similar to ‘quick-wins’. You convince people that Change is forever and in order to stay relevant you have to constantly reinvent. Often a major change that you indulge in is followed by another and so on. You want to be counted amongst the well-read. You brought about a transformation and everyone works the midnight oil going through it. No sooner have you completed it that you read another few books and want to bring in more changes. Vocabulary and anecdotes to suit your current pursuit are readily available. You compare life to a river than to a pond and so on. Unknowing to you, people, always being on a roller coaster ride are confused. You never allowed them to come to steady state.
#8 Ruling By Mistrust Loyalty cannot be bought with money. It has to be won with the currency of loyalty. So, if you have built up an environment of mistrust and intrigue in your organisation wherein people speak in whispers and look furtively if the big-brother is watching; you yourself would be a victim of this mistrust. You are forever checking people’s private mails because you have the power to do so or because your IT policy evasively says so, sooner or later, the Spy versus Spy atmosphere that you set in comes to haunt you.
#9 Excellent Speaking But Poor Listening Skills. A great leader is not merely a good speaker well versed with great communications skills and story-telling; a great leader is first and foremost a great listener. A monologue by a leader is something that is not welcome. How many times I have come across so-called leaders who insist that the questions at the end of their talks should be short; but, they, at the shortest question launch themselves into longer and longer harangues. Hogging the limelight in meetings, conferences, seminars without listening to anyone especially dissenting views make for poor leadership qualities. Just as good oratory need to be practised, a good leader should have practised the art of good listening.
#10 All’s well that ends well. Ends don’t justify means. As you climb up the rungs of the ladder of leadership, the short cuts that you took would come and haunt you. In today’s world of transparency put into place by social media and other means, before you know it., your aberrations are made as public as Clinton’s aberrations with Monica Lewinsky. Just because you are in a position to meet the goals, just because you appear to have charisma, doesn’t give you the right to do the wrong things. Of course, these days, we see the wrong-doers ostensibly doing well, having ostentatious life-styles and privileges; but, you would probably win battles with this approach and lose wars.
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