RRGwrites

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Posts Tagged ‘Authentic Leadership

5 Questions To People Managers Desiring To Be Leaders

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leadership-questionsI keep meeting and interacting with a lot of mid-level sales managers. While many of them call themselves a leader, sometime with more enthusiasm than the very word calls for, I can observe that they were mostly by-default managers, and least of all leadership as a concept is really clear to them. That said, the same is true for us all too. Just like love, leadership holds a different meaning for everyone. For some, it is a default role, for others it is a position of power; for many, it is a work level and designation and corner office or the offices next to the one in the corner and for a rare few, it means to serve.

I asked all my such people managers 5 simple questions:

“Why are you motivated to lead?”

No answer…

I ask the second one – “Why should anyone be led by you?” I explain this one; ”What is that you have that people who are as smart as you, as experiences as you and as successful as you; your very peers… why should they report to you?

No answer… some baffled faces…

I ask the third one – “If you were a product; what are the ingredients and contents of your leadership and what is the brand value you portray to your followers?” I go further on this one, “And how do you intend to strategically further this brand?”

No answer… even more puzzled looks…

“What do you want from your people?” I ask the next one.

To this one, answers come quick – they all want loyalty, integrity, performance, discipline, mannerisms, result-orientation, process-adherence, willingness to take feedback, et al

And then I ask, “What do you want for your people?”

Puzzled faces followed by few, unconvincing mumbles come back as a reply…

Do you find these questions right? Do share your thoughts…

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Image-credit: scoutmastercg.com

Written by RRGwrites

July 9, 2015 at 3:10 PM

Why Are You Motivated To Lead?

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Why Are You Motivated To Lead

In one of my most read blogs – ‘‘Why Should Anyone Be Led By You’, I asked 12 questions to all leaders and leadership-aspirants – the first one being – “Why do I want to be a leader?”

Over the years, several of my readers, team-mates, leaders I met and trained during leadership workshops have attempted answering these 12 questions. Many of these admitted to me, that they haven’t ever really asked themselves – “Why Am I Motivated to Lead?” In my opinion, (much to the contrary and popular one), everyone is motivated. There is nothing called a not-motivated person. However, the moot question is not IF a person is motivated, but WHY a person is motivated…

More so pertinent a question, if you are a leader…

Hence, as a leader, don’t you want to answer this – Why Am I Motivated to Lead?

If you think this is a right question to ask, do attempt answering… That will be an interesting self-reflection in your leadership journey.

A Leadership Crucible – Managing Below-Expectations Performance

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Almost everyday, we hear the phrase – ‘performance-improvement plan’ or PIP, as it is famously, or rather infamously, known as. This is a scary word, most of the times, for the employee in question. And if we are talking about an employee who is either new to the company or role, and is not found doing as well as it was envisaged, the phrase becomes all the more grave – again for the employee, i.e..

But what about the role that the supervisor need to play in making this employee successful? Aren’t her stakes as high as the employee himself? And more importantly, what is the role the senior leader(s) play in this entire episode? Because for them, the task is two-pronged – one, to ensure fair chance be given to the employee in question, and two, to make the supervisor and other seniors in the hierarchy learn to deal with this crucial leadership challenge, thereby in the process making them better leaders… and the team-leader has to tread this double-edged sword without losing the sight of organisational goals of result-orientation and productivity. Some challenge, this is!

I have faced this challenge many times in my career as a HR leader. And experience has taught me one thing – there is no shirking of responsibility that can happen, if the leader really wants to make his team successful, in all aspects.

Few years ago, one of my lieutenants came to see me with his subordinate, who was herself a young, promising people-manager. They were perplexed with a similar challenge, as I discussed above. Her predicament was – a newly inducted subordinate of hers, who showed a lot of promise at the outset, was struggling within 6 months of joining. Despite a lot of coaching and guidance by herself and even her own supervisor, this new team-mate’s performance wasn’t up to mark. And worse, the business had started to feel the heat…

A long discussion ensued in my office. For my readers, I am sharing a note that I wrote to this manager, outlining my thoughts and an action plan.

Let me share upfront; this is a rather long note, which I felt was required to cover my thoughts on managing performance and developing a high-performance team. To assist in your reading, I have made necessary modifications. Other than me, the other three characters in the case are:

  1. Ms.ABC – the young people manager;
  2. Mr.JKL – her manager, also my deputy;
  3. Mr.RST – the employee whose performance is being discussed.

Here goes the advise that I gave her:

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Dear ABC

Yesterday, we discussed at length the performance & aptitude challenge that we are currently managing with RST. I heard both you and JKL, and shared my thoughts too. I am writing my notes, as under, to encapsulate my thoughts on this critical leadership challenge that we have on hand.

I have always firmly believed in the gospel of ‘making everyone successful.’ Having said that, to do so is indeed a daunting task for a leader; for multifaceted as the team is, no one ever seems to behave & perform like the other! Out of the lot, the toughest ones to manage are those, who showed a lot of promise & capability while being inducted into the job, but have slipped off the performance charts somewhere.

Now, it requires meticulous thought and concerted action, to bring such team-mate back to where he belongs – road to success for self and team.

Firstly, let me thank both you and JKL for showing commitment towards your team-mate’s development. This is by no means a small act – requires a lot of honesty and courage to stand up and say, “Hey! My team needs to do better, and I am game to make them better, whatever it takes.” Thank you, for recognizing the need for improvement and showing the promise to do better.

Our first step with such a below-expectation performer is to figure out what went wrong. Something did go wrong. Nearly all employees start their new job with positivity, enthusiasm and are raring to go – we all know RST did start like that. Maybe, something along the way diminished his enthusiasm. Or, he killed his own enthusiasm; both are possible in the workplace. Ascertaining the primal cause of this poor performance is the key if you are committed to help teammates like him become, not a poor performer, but a contributing member of our team. No employee decides to have a miserable day at work and feel failure as he leaves the workplace daily. Even an otherwise incompetent or misfit employee wants to do well for himself!

Very importantly, you need to ascertain if RST has his intentions right; for, if he is really a work-shirker, there is little hope for improvement. However, you have all hope if he really wants to succeed. That said, whatever conclusion you arrive at about why he is a below-expectation performer, you must try your level best to turn him around. Start by assuring him that you have faith in his ability to succeed. Inspire through showing the big picture – help him see the what fruits his efforts shall bear – why should he strive to succeed and improve. Guide him and make him set several short-term, achievable goals; which should be time-bound, with clear outcomes about which you agree. Once the goals are set, track execution and progress. And don’t forget the power of daily engagement – make sure he gets an opportunity to record small daily wins; that should take care of the morale front.

We also discussed yesterday the need of a written performance monitoring document. For those who feel that the team-mate who needs a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) will never succeed, I have many success stories to offer – we have seen so many of them succeed. In fact, I have used this to my benefit many a times, in making my team successful. So, I am a believer in the power of a well-planned, measurable PIP that is reinforced by well-intentioned and demonstrated support and encouragement provided by the manager.

We discussed at length yesterday the key ingredients of such a PIP. Some points that I wish to reiterate:

  • Clearly outline parameters of expected improved performance. Please be objective in setting these parameters and explain clearly, leaving no room for ambiguity.
  • State the minimum expectation level of performance. Ensure there is an appreciation of consistency of this improved performance. This is crucial as sporadic spurts of improvement aren’t really sustainable.
  • Discuss and agree the upon feedback mechanism. Specify the time and periodicity of performance reviews. Set the documentation mechanism of each review stage.
  • Ensure he understands measurements of improvement evaluation.
  • Specify what role you shall play in order to make him successful.
  • Explain upfront if he needs to make any changes in behaviour or attitude towards work. Share examples.
  • Focus on ‘what if’ – clearly outline what is the road ahead if expected performance levels aren’t achieved on every parameter, at various review-stages.

With above seven parameters considered, you’d have a robust PIP document ready. With this, ensure you provide any other support, resource, training, et al, which will help him expedite his improvement.

Let me say, I’ve always regarded problems as opportunities to do better, gain experience, and learn more, just to be a little bit smarter and perhaps wiser on how to handle life issues and situations. After all, as they say, we learn best, not by being taught and not by studying or reading, but by experiencing and then reflecting on what we did and what happened and then drawing conclusions and experimenting.

As a coach, I’ve practiced this method with considerable success; it helped me build and develop stronger teams. I am quite inspired by this leadership nugget that I read long ago – ‘the tactics espoused by great managers of people are very simple, they select people based on talent; when setting expectations for the team, they establish the right outcomes; when motivating an individual, they focus on strengths; and, to develop an individual, find the right job fit for the person.’ As we speak, you are currently managing the second and the third aspect, and what will make you successful is the willingness to make your team successful. I am sure; you have it in you do so.

Please do reach out, should you need any support from me.

Happy leading!

RRG

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A rather long note, wasn’t it? However, it helped me manage the challenge at hand. Let me tell you, this worked for all the characters in the story above, it helped each one of us become better. This helped the struggling employee receive a fair chance to demonstrate improved performance, guided and backed by her supervisor’s encouragement and intention to make her team successful. It helped her supervisor learn the leadership lesson in managing poor performance; and helped my lieutenant resolve a crucial team-managing issue and not miss out on either productivity or morale of his team. Given the fact that both these managers were young professionals, they learnt the invaluable lesson on people leadership and taking responsibility for their teammates in an utmost well-intentioned manner, unlike a lot of managers who consider PIP only as route for creating documentation and exiting the employee. What did I get? Well, I got three super-engaged team-mates in return! What more should have I asked for 🙂

Do you agree with my approach? Have you too experienced or observed a similar approach to managing below-expectation performance? Or have you witnessed poor leadership doing the irreparable damage? Do share your thoughts…

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Image-credit: whatisonthetable.wordpress.com

Story Of A Boss Who Cares…

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Caring LeadershipIn the leadership series of my blog, there is a strange trend that I have noted over the period of years. Every time I have written about poor bosses/managers/leaders, the readership of my blog swells. A clear signal that there indeed is a leadership deficit all of us face across levels, industries and geographies!

However, the world also has some brilliant managers; who give us hope that we shall continue to come across good leaders in our careers. Hence, it becomes imperative for me to write and share about good leaders, as and when I come across them. So, this one is to share a simple, yet superb story of one such great manager…

Here is how it was experienced by someone I know…

So, this person worked with a renowned management consulting firm. Got a good offer and wanted to move out after serving an appropriate notice-period. However, it wasn’t as easy. He was an integral part of the senior team involved in a crucial client project, which had just begun. The project was ambitious and relationship with client delicate; and required all attention, commitment and experience that this team could bring to table. So, an early exit was simply out of question – and the conversation with senior leadership wasn’t encouraging at all. “No early release”, he was told clearly…

To make an early exit an even more complicated issue, there was a pressing personal reason too. This person and his wife were expecting a baby, and the doctor had allowed only a small window for safe-travel for a vacation. And those of you who have gone through parenthood would appreciate that if this couple weren’t able to avail this vacation, they would not have found time or energy for at least next couple of years to break away, with a baby and allied changes coming in their lives.

Well – three intertwined issues needed resolution – timely and smooth handover and exit, in time to encash that miniscule window of travel, and be back in time to joining the new role!

It was here when the Boss took over. She heard the issue empathetically, took pains to understand the issues at hand and showed genuine appreciation of the same. Fully aware that the outgoing person was a key member of the crucial project they were in and that replacement wasn’t easy, she assured the best possible cooperation to her subordinate. Well, don’t all bosses promise the same, you’d ask, and yet end up delivering only lip-service? No, not this one. She meant it for real. In order to help, she mobilized her network, organized support, looked for possible replacements, spoke with the client & made them understand, and above all, also convinced her own boss! She took a bold risk, indeed. All so that her subordinate and his wife do not end up missing out on that crucial break!

When I came across this story, I was overwhelmed! And I was also pleased to note that while we all keep cribbing about bosses from hell and what not, with such managers existing, there is hope for leadership, indeed there is. In my view, she could do it because she cared, authentically. Authenticity and Genuine Care for One’s Team – twin bedrocks of true leadership. And it did remind me of what Henry Gruland said,

“Being the leader is more than just wanting to lead. Leaders have empathy for others and a keen ability to find the best in the people… not the worse… by truly caring for others.”

I am sure this story would inspire some of us, and will help us be better leaders… I know for sure that this subordinate was truly inspired!

Now it is your turn. Do you have a story, an experience of a great boss? Do share…

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Image-credit: alameleadership.com

5 Things You Should Say Today As A Team Leader

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LeadershipWhen I wrote my recent blog on ’10 Mean Things You Shouldn’t Say To Your Star Performers’, many of my readers, friends and colleagues, who were team-leaders themselves, asked my views on the things they should be saying to their teams. That made me think… for there isn’t any dearth of to-dos on this subject. Try googling, and you will get a laundry list of things leaders should be saying to their team-mates.

However, after much deliberation and digging into my own experience of observing leaders and managers and managing large, diverse teams, I am of the view that as a Team Leader, you should be saying these 5 things to your team, given the opportunity, daily:

  1. I am observing the efforts being put in by you. Thank you and keep up the good work. I am sure many subordinates don’t get to hear this sentence from their Team Leader. And worse, at time when they do hear it, it is mostly a lip-service done. Authentic and timely recognition is what a team looks for from their manager.

  2. Hey, all conflict is not necessarily negative. Let’s use it constructively to get better as a team. At times, two or more teammates, either in their pursuit of excellence or otherwise, enter into conflicts of all sorts. Affirmation from the leader that all conflict is not necessarily negative, will not only bring positive energy, but will also help teammates connect better, resolve the issue and not confuse conflict with personal vendetta or mala fide intentions.

  3. It is great that you disagree with me on this subject. I am sure It will bring a different view, let’s understand what you have in mind. This one’s a real big gap today. Leaders often have and/or demonstrate, sometimes inadvertently, big egos. Allowing your teammate to disagree with you is not only helpful in building an open culture, it also saves you from falling prey to the ‘The Boss knows it all syndrome.’

  4. Let me know if you need any help; I am there. All of us look for help from our leaders, and the need is all the more crucial when we fail or make mistakes. When the team hears its leader say that it is OK to fail, and that she will help if they do, it does wonders to the team’s morale and output.

  5. Hey, I told you that I will call you back when you reached out to me. Sorry, mate, I was not able to. Let’s connect quickly now. We all know boss is always busy; but if he is so busy that he forgets to call back most of the times, disconnects start. Even if you say this sentence once a day to one of your team-mate, albeit authentically, not only he, but others will also appreciate your leadership.

Are you a team-leader? Then do you agree with above? Please tap into your experience feel free to add to the above list.

Do you work with Team Leaders? Do you hear above sentences from your leaders? Do share your experiences.

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Post-script: You would have observed the extra stress I have laid on the word ‘Authentic’. Well, that is the real key in leadership & communication. You may read about it in detail here (‘Are You An Authentic Leader’).

My Deputy Is Doing Well. And I Am NOT Threatened!

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BossExamples of quality leadership in our daily lives are almost a rarity. It is even uncommon to see a supervisor allowing & appreciating the growth of his second-in-command. In fact, the world knows so-called-leaders who rather feel unduly threatened if the deputy performs brilliantly and is ready to take on higher roles!

So, today it felt food quite good to read what Mahendra Singh Dhoni had to say about his deputy – Virat Kohli. The most successful-ever Indian Cricket team captain was not only all praises for the vice-captain’s coming of age and successful captaincy stint during the series at Zimbabwe, he was more than pleased to see the youngster easing into the leadership role.

Appreciating the evolution of Virat from a consistently performing star batsman into a mature player and leader, Dhoni said, “The best thing about him is that he is very expressive, and that helps a captain… He now has all the ingredients to lead a side…”

Now, that’s a true leader talking. Mind you, he isn’t only praising; he is rather making a strong case for Virat as a captain. And yet, one can note that Dhoni is least bit insecure to do so, while he knows there can be only one captain of Team India – and right now, he himself occupies that role! Some self-belief, team-spirit and personal integrity, this is…

Not only such examples of leadership magnify high self-assurance and self-confidence, it also amply demonstrates the leader’s commitment towards nurturing his subordinates, timely succession planning and talent development, in a concerted and committed manner. Much unlike than the unauthentic gibberish that does the rounds during annual talent management exercises in the corporate world.

My first boss taught me a valuable lesson – the key to success for any deputy is to do such good work that his boss gets promoted and recommends him for taking his spot!

And here is what I derived from my own experiences of leading teams – another imperative lesson – the key for any boss to do well and become successful is to grow his subordinates; nurturing them into leaders, sometimes even better than him. And certainly, not feeling threatened when they perform exceedingly well!

While the world is replete with poor managers (I refuse to address them as leaders), who start feeling vulnerable when their subordinates outperform them and get ready to take on their mantles, I am also sure there are many like Dhoni around.

That’s the light of hope in the arena of leadership, the biggest skill required in today’s times.

Have you also experienced supervisors who were threatened to see their subordinates out-perform them? Or, you did experience a Dhoni like leader too? Let me know what you think.

Leadership is NOT only about the Leader

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leadersquotesLeadership is not ‘only about self’; you know that feeling of ‘I am the most important and senior of all’. Most of the leaders fail to understand this, and thus, fail at leadership altogether. If a leader does not appreciate the concept of moving over ‘self’ and strive to be with others and serve them rather than being self-indulgent, her followers or subordinates will not entrust her with their trust and confidence. I have said in my earlier blogs – a leader is of no use if her followers do not ‘genuinely‘ wish to be led by her.  Arrogant behaviour, intimidating demeanour and ego are not leadership characteristics. And absence of authenticity will take away the shine off the choicest of pleasant words and flowery language.

Real leaders are ‘real’ people. Fake behaviours will only earn them fake followers…

What do you think?

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Photo-credit: searchquotes.com

Are You An Authentic Leader?

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AuthenticityOften in the corporate world’s setting around us, we hear the magic word, ‘trust’. There isn’t any dearth of literature on this subject, especially when it comes to importance of ‘trust’ in relationships at work; more so, in the manager-subordinate relationship.Trust me, please’ is writ large over every leader’s forehead; you must have observed nearly every leader wanting to secure his team’s trust; so much so, that we HR folks often end up conducting developmental workshops, engagement surveys and what not more around this area of organizational effectiveness.

I agree that trust can be easily termed as one of the most important pillars of organizational effectiveness. However, to my mind, there is an even more crucial aspect to work-relationships – authenticity. Being trustworthy and being authentic are often confused as the same attribute. It isn’t so, in my opinion; they are two distinct behavioural attributes that impact anyone’s leadership quotient.

While everyone loves the idea of a ‘trustworthy’ leader – both leaders and followers share equal appeal for it, very few appreciate the need of genuine leadership traits – ones that begin foremost from every leader knowing and acting ‘true self’, reflecting one’s true personality and thought process in everyday actions. What organizations need and what followers look for are authentic leaders who are themselves aware of who they are, what is their vision for the organization and how to make followers relate to them so as to help them transform their vision a reality.

Over last couple of years, I have extensively researched about what is authenticity and how this attribute plays a pivotal role amongst other leadership traits. In my last year’s blog of the ‘Leadership’ series, ‘Why Should Anyone Be Led By You’, one of the 12 questions that I asked the leadership aspirants was – Am I an authentic person and appear one too?’ Having spent some good time exploring this closely, putting the learning to test and subsequently experiencing the results it brings, I have come to a conclusion that this is the most primary trait of leadership.

Laying down the ‘necessary’ nine skills required for the practice of great leadership’ in his outstandingly simple and practical work, ‘Unusually Excellent’, John Hamm speaks at length about the credibility and character as a primary leadership imperative. He further splits credibility into following three dimensions – a leader being compelling, authentic and trustworthy.

Defining ‘authenticity’, he says,

“Being authentic – knowing who you really are, and holding true to yourself in the most difficult moments – is ‘ground zero’ of leadership credibility… Knowing who we are at the core is the project of awareness, courageous introspection, and thoughtful reflection.”

Hamm makes a strong case for this inquiry and poses a strong question to leadership aspirants:

“What informs and creates our capability to lead with real influence?”

A leader needs to not only know his own self, but also listen to self. His experiences, value-system, how he sees the world, how he sees other people, his feelings & habits, aspirations, all count big when it comes to leading others. They all form an integral whole when it comes to shaping the character of a leader, and we all know, character of a leader makes or breaks the followers’ faith and inspiration in him.

John stresses on the need of followers to identify with the ‘True Self’ of their leader,

“Trust the power of allowing others to know you. Even through it can seem scary… The real you – no limitations or role-playing – is what people want to know, and the real you is the person to whom they will commit.”

So true this sounds, specially when we see a lot of ‘leaders’ trying too hard to earn the trust of their teams, without actually giving any opportunity whatsoever to let people know what really drives & motivates them, what are their passions, and even sharing their failures – areas where they failed and that it is indeed OK to fail. In short, I have seen most leaders trying to appear ‘perfect’! Now, if that is the case and if that’s the perception they wish to build, how would they ever receive any feedback from their followers?

Feedback comes when people relate to you, not when they see you seeing yourself, portraying yourself as perfect. Specially your followers, who wouldn’t just risk it. Think of it; if your followers wouldn’t know how ‘authentically’ you take your failures, would they ever share theirs’ with you or tell you your own grey areas? Chances are rare, I would say.

John shares this thought on importance of seeking feedback,

“Unusually Excellent leaders find the courage within to be authentic- and that takes knowing themselves, accepting the disappointment of their past, and actively seeking feedback form their teams.

Try to use it (feedback) diagnostically, to improve, not as a threat to your self-image, self-esteem or self-worth.”

If your own image is a portrayal of ‘perfectness personified’, and your followers see you trying to keep it that way, I am convinced feedback isn’t going to come your way. And deep down our hearts, we know that can be ‘Hara-kiri’ of sorts in the pursuit of leadership.

It is this willingness and pledge to authenticity that is the bedrock of becoming trustworthy. Authenticity is a primary skill, even before a leader moves on to establish his trustworthiness. Once we are accepted as ‘genuinely authentic’, then only our followers shall accept our equity as a leader.

Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones, the celebrated authors speak about leaders need to essentially act as ‘authentic chameleons’, in their very well researched book, ‘Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?’. They argue for leaders to,

“…consistently displaying their true selves through out the changes of contexts that require them to play the variety of roles.”

In my view, by saying so the authors dispel the fear that leaders need to be a different ‘person’ in different situations; they rather display their true self in all situations and only ‘act’ differently as per the merits of the situation. That would go far in securing trust and gaining confidence of their followers that to keep them guessing.

Rob and Gareth state further,

“The demand for authentic leadership is there and growing. As traditional hierarchies disintegrate, only leadership can fill the void…CEOs tell us that their most pressing need is for more leaders in their organizations – not the consummate role players who seem to surround them… Authentic leadership has become the most prized organization and individual asset.”

“Can people trust you?” asks Linda Hill, the Wallace Bret Donham Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. She chairs the HBS Leadership Initiative; and poses this question in her widely acclaimed book, ‘Being The Boss’. When I read this gem of a book few years ago, this one question stayed with me and it has been instrumental in shaping my thought process on ‘why would people trust me in first place if they don’t know me? To my mind, this ‘Why’ is primary and fundamental over the ‘Can’ part.

To this point, Linda emphatically says,

“The quality of work they (followers) do, the care and commitment they devote, their willingness to expend extra effort, all depend in significant part on the kind of person you are.

To be trusted, you must reveal yourself in order to demonstrate your competence and character. To create trust requires that you take pain to be explicit what you value as a manager, how you work, what you want from others, and not least, who you are.”

Needless to say, I am more than convinced that people won’t trust you completely if they don’t know the real you. And that certainly needs you to put in special focus on ‘who you really are and do your people know the real you.’

And it is here where John cautions us in a rather straightforward manner,

Be careful about ‘trying’ too hard to be authentic. Being yourself should feel easier that being the image you think others want of you. Don’t be authentic in the way someone else is – do it your way.”

 

My message – don’t be a copycat leader; be you. It works better.

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Photo-credit: createpresence.com

Prime Minister. Is He A Leadership Material?

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Listening to Barack Obama’s spirited election speech yesterday, I could not help recall the pride our own Prime Minister takes in speaking less. Well, I am myself not an advocate of leaders’ babble and ranting without a cause and I am also not falling prey to the Time and Outlook magazines’ works on the respective ‘Underachievers’. However, as an ardent student of the idea of leadership, I cannot fathom as to why would the leader of world’s largest democracy fails to communicate and motivate his nation!

Then, another questions comes to mind, is he actually a leadership material? Or, was he, when he donned the cap of the PM in 2004?

However, I am not writing this blog blindly criticizing the Prime Minister; so many of them seem to be doing that off late. Nor is this blog aimed at hailing Obama as a better leader than Dr.Singh. I am rather thinking aloud; is this good man, the genius academician and a man of indisputable repute in Indian economy and polity, a real leader? Does he possess what we call the skills of leadership? Or, is he a sad case of Peter’s Principle, where he was mistakenly promoted to his levels of incompetence?

My mind says; he was never a leadership fitment. He was always an academic genius, who excelled in all he did, albeit as an individual contributor. Those who carefully noted the happenings in early 1990s in India, a period that credits Dr.Singh as an architect of liberalization of the Indian economy, would certainly remember it was the might and backing of PV Narasimha Rao, the then Indian PM, under whose leadership and guidance Dr. Singh, the then Finance Minister could take those bold decisions the nation thanks him today for.

In my assessment, he was never a leadership candidate, not at least for this crucial responsibility. Retuning back to power in 2004, the Congress Party found him as a befitting person to be given the top-job, with a clever agenda of ‘remote-control-ruling’ by the Party President. He possessed all qualities the common man would look in a chief of our nation – unblemished track record, authenticity, credibility, knowledge; he enjoyed the trust of the masses. After all, we saw him as a messiah of the economic reforms. In him becoming the PM, the party found a silent front, and the nation was led to believe that with all these qualities, he would but obviously be the true leader we always wanted.

Eight years later, we find things so starkly different. He is just not THE leader we assumed him to be. Authentic and trustworthy still as a person, he emerges a fit case of poor leadership. He just doesn’t inspire, just doesn’t invoke confidence in the masses. We still believe he is a great man. But a leader? We doubt. Many don’t even doubt; they believe he isn’t.

When I heard Obama speak with passion yesterday, I found his words compelling. Not just plain oratory it was, it appeared authentic to me. It invoked enthusiasm. It inspired me. Something that one always misses when our own PM speaks.

What does he lack, then? Why don’t we feel compelled or inspired by him?

John Hamm, the celebrated author of the bestseller ‘Unusually Excellent’, speaks at length about leaders being compelling. Parts of this book are so befitting in the current case,

“People who are authentic and trustworthy are usually good and fair…. They might be candidates for a good friendship. But it is not obvious that we should follow them – anywhere.

 …We (followers) must feel compelled (to follow)… there is no such thing as an unwilling follower, only one who has not yet seen a compelling reason to join…

 Hamm continues, and speaks at length about the five E’s of excellent leadership:

  • Great leaders know how to engage
  • Great leaders enroll people
  • They energize the troops, to forge them into a cohesive unit, orient them towards the common goal, and marshal the resources to support them in their task
  • They empower; build leaders under them
  • They enthuse…making their mission exciting for their followers, compelling them to follow…

Does Dr. Singh possess above qualities? I wonder, as I don’t see them, howsoever hard I try to locate them in him. I don’t get answer to the crucial question – ‘what’s in it for me’, in his leadership.

And how would I see these qualities in him, even if he possesses all of them!! After all, I don’t just see him talking; I just don’t see his passion. Being nice & introvert is all fine; when would he start building confidence in his followers? When will he start to engage and enroll? When will he, like a strong leader, reprimand and rein his rather notorious ‘gangs of ministers’, who just don’t do him any good in the failing attempt of governance? Will I ever see him as bold and courageous?

Does he even know that he NEEDS these skills to be able to lead us? I doubt yet again.

Failing me on all above, PM is just another ordinary replica of a corporate world’s manager, who got promoted to a role of ‘leader’, without anyone caring whether he had it in him to be one or not.

One thing that I am confident of – I’m not the only one thinking aloud like this.

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Photo-credit one: economictimes.indiatimes.com

Photo-credit two: firstpost.com

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are author’s own and not of the organisation he is associated with.

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