Monday, February 7, 2011

Leadership is beyond clichés & rhetoric’s,

Leadership is beyond clichés & rhetoric’s, it has more to do with Professional Ethics and Human Values that win you hearts and bring Transformations.

I know it is easier to open a can of worms than a discussion on Leadership. Quite naturally I expect a lot of response in form of views perspectives,discussions, & dissents. I welcome them all, look forward to a great  learning experience

There are many  posts, articles and books on Leadership. In fact  leadership is a topic, where everyone has some thing or other to contribute.This is one area where there are more preachers than practitioners.However some exceptions notwithstanding, most of them are full of  clichés & rhetoric’s. The purpose of this article is to focus on aspect beyond the cliches & rhetoric's. 

We people in the marketing have seen many managers repeating often repeated clichés,  & rhetoric’s. Most of the times without understanding the meaning and consequent hurt that may cause to the person being addressed. These generally are picked up by the first line managers from their middle management bosses, who in turn pick it up from their senior managers who again get it from “C” level managers. This negative percolation down the order was very much in vogue in the good old sixties and seventies when the “C” level managers were from a different country. Certain clichés are not taken affront off in certain countries, but down the orient especially in India, these are not considered gentlemanly (more specifically some four letter words.)

Actually, regressive leadership impacts people faster and percolates down the hierarchy faster than the progressive leadership, which has to be built laboriously brick by brick. But once built, the edifice is too strong to be shaken by avalanches in the form of negative thought processes and narratives.

I just want to give an example of a negative and regressive thought process.

I can quote an instance from the seventies, that relates to a large multinational organization from USA in Pharmaceuticals and Consumer Healthcare. The Country Head from India was giving a presentation to the Chairman and other board members. He spoke eloquently about a product, which had registered an extra ordinary growth during the year gone by; suddenly the Chairman, who made the following statement, rudely interrupted him.

“There is no greatness in selling this product, our brand is like “Rolls Royce “ which sells on its reputation. Even a dog with a brochure tied to its neck can sell the product it does not need any human effort”.

 It is needless to enunciate how the country manager would have felt, but more importantly the regressive attitude and narration was faithfully carried down the line to the junior most level. You can visualise the amount of negative impact, it could have created on the mindsets and morals of the field staff.

Those were the days, when narratives from the top were considered diktats, and carried faithfully down the line.

So leadership is all about taking values from your senior. Managers. The negatives, even if they travel up to you, the buck should stop there.

Now let me cite an example of the positives percolating down.

The Japanese culture and their management method including “Kaizen” are worth emulation by all everywhere in the world.
I cite a small example.

A leading Japanese multinational, which is into electronics and infrastructure, systematically, breeds high levels ignorance in their staff right from the stage of initiation, simultaneously imparting highest level of knowledge in the area of their work. I was surprised to find a senior Japanese technician totally ignorant about his company info like turnover, manpower count, he didn’t even know the name of his chairman. He innocently admitted that he only remembered the person he reported to, and people who reported to him. Yet he had contributed constructively to the infrastructure aspects of the power plants, his company built in many countries.

Now just have a look at his bosses extra intelligence or lack of it.

My friend wrote to this man ( A senior executive) to get a Sony car stereo for his BMW, whenever he came to India next. The man wrote back. “Ok I will get the car stereo, but what about the car.” It took a while for my friend to understand the message. Now the perception of the Japanese was, to get a car stereo, you had to buy a car, pluck the stereo out, and…. What to do with the car? Now he could be excused for the ignorance of the fact that car stereos were available separately in the market. Because this ignorance led to the expertise in his own field.

Nothing except work or work related information.This is what, I call  positive percolation.

Now compare this to a senior executive from west. He will not only remember everything about his chairman (down to the scandals). He will give you all info (including personal) about other heads like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Warren Buffet et al.

(These incidents from early nineties when internet had not invaded our lives.)

Qualities that make a good leader

Attitudes towards goals & goal setting for the team

It is important to take a personal and active look when setting the goals. Get into the shoes of the team members. Think analyze & understand the likely thought process of the team members the moods the attitudes, the fears, the resentments. Allow them to express & justify. Understand and agree with their justification. Bring them into totally non-combative mood. Appeal to their human side.

One thing every one appreciates in a leader is honesty. One thing everyone hates in a leader is duplicity. If duplicity is a part of professional leadership, then it is better to be a personal leader than a professional one.

Explain to them how each member can help save a few jobs, or create a few jobs at the junior most level by reaching the goals. How many more can he help create by exceeding it?

Arouse the philanthropist in him and see how he suddenly becomes pro-active in goal setting process. The leader has to relate to the team directly intuitively & emphatically .the focus should clearly be on the substance of the decision including the repercussions.

Implementation  & Work Pattern

It is important to understand that every member has his own approach to goal attainment listening to them in fact increases the options for the leader. So long as they go with the organizational policy, ideas should be encouraged. The best way of making most of the opportunity is accommodating the members thinking, even if it involves a little risk. This will ensure an involvement of heart soul & body into the task.

Human values require the leader to have a sense of self, an ability to profoundly alter the human, emotional, and economic relationship, the ability to feel separate from the organization. Here the order of preference is the team member, team, and organization.

I know the management purists may not agree with me. But as I said, when nothing works, it is the human values that get you through.

Your opinion on this, as always, is very valuable for me.

Best wishes,


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