company was planning for a scorching pace of growth and
the challenge is to suggest a way by which all their critical
managers look "Jack Welch". The company had used, they claimed,
all the usual ware. They had been put through several "instruments"
and gained insights into their preferred styles. They came
to know that life is indeed two-dimensional - task-oriented
or people oriented or a cocktail thereof. Matrixes and grids
showed that clearly.
managers bared their personalities, shamelessly and without
embarrassment, for critique by God, man, and the devil in
one go. They also learned to perceive that old women are
sometimes young and vice-versa and hence now use this revelation
to communicate better. They were also put through simulations
- they were left in the sea and in the forest. At times,
they also went to the moon and had to get back, for whatever
reason - in the process, they learnt of leadership and teamwork.
They also learnt that leadership is actually not individual
oriented as much as situation specific - sometimes, leadership
is all about letting someone else be leader, they were told!
They were implored that leadership effectiveness is to use
a style that best fits than one unique way - one size doesn't
fit all! Whatever works best is leadership, they realized.
enjoyed the out-bound training which made them better individuals
and got them back to college days of teamwork. They had
gone through visioneering and can now reel off the strategic
concerns of the company and where it wants to be. They know
of Sun Tzu and about competitive dynamics. They also
have been trained in the seven habits for being effective.
They had gone in for outstanding motivators who changed
their perspective on life, serviced their souls and gave
them trademarked mantras.
cap all this effort, recently someone told the company that
fast trackers must go in teams and see "Lagaan".
There is a lot to learn from Aamir Khan - the way to pool
resources from nothing; the way to work under constraints
and imperfection; to build a strong purpose; coach; empower;
celebrate. The boys and girls enjoyed the movie, learnt
a lot. On the way back they identified secretly in their
own team, the traitors, the langda, the motu,
the chotu, the dream girl, and the dreaming girl.
Each one identified him/herself with Aamir Khan and it was
obvious that they can't ever have a team with all captains.
did not know who they were actually playing against, in
real life. Someone said that the enemy is actually within.
But another said you need a rival, otherwise the game is
lifeless. Some cynics felt that in the market place the
enemy is usually the umpires. Not the rival team - if there
is one at all. Look at the taxations, levies, Competition
Law, consumer protection courts, essential commodity act,
HRD man in this company was at a loss to explain to his
new CEO as to what all has been the impact of this endless
training in leadership - including the Lagaan show.
In retrospect, it all looked like the road-side elixir -
the lizard pickle, the tiger's potion, the snake venom,
gold and pearls. They played an important role - enhanced
awareness, raised expectations, gave fun, improved sensitivity
to peoples/teams requirements. They may have created a "placebo
effect". The HRD man still does not know what great leaders
do. Unless he knows, he can't make the boys Jack Welch.
I wonder if there is new balm that addresses this issue?
Is Kouzes and Posner`s book written in 1995 and still in
great demand - a possible answer? Does John Kotter, the
Harvard's legendary leadership guru, have an answer?
Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner is path breaking
- it is based on research and yet is eminently readable
and practical. Instead of talking about the theoretical
foundations, it concentrates on summarizing the practices
adopted by exemplary leadership. It believes that five fundamental
practices and ten commitments can make leadership outstanding.
The empirical support for this leadership framework arises
from the Leadership Practices Inventory, which was applied,
to over 60 thousand respondents after a methodologically
sound development of the instrument. The conclusion is that
the LPI has sound psychometric properties, which have internal
reliability; has predictive and concurrent validity; and
has been consistent over time and across people, genders,
and ethnic backgrounds as well as diverse organizational
characteristics. The result of this work is the affirmation
that leaders who are successful adopt five fundamental practices
that appear to get them extraordinary results.
first is that they challenge the processes. They
are committed to searching out challenging opportunities
to change, grow, innovate, and improve - they treat every
job as an adventure; treat every new assignment as a start-over;
question the status quo; send people for shopping for ideas;
go out and find something that needs fixing; assign people
to the opportunities etc. They are committed to experimenting,
taking small risks and learning from the accompanying mistakes
- they set up little experiments; honour risk takers; debrief
every failure as well as success; model risk taking.
second practice revolves around inspiring a shared vision
by envisioning an exciting future and enlisting team members
by appealing to their values, interests, hopes, and dreams.
This involves thinking first about the past; determining
what is wanted; acting on intuition; becoming a futurist;
identifying constituents; finding common ground; speaking
positively; speaking from the heart; making the intangible
tangible; listening first and the like.
third fundamental practice is to enable others to act.
Exemplary leaders foster collaboration among team members
by promoting common goals and building trust - they always
say we; they increase interactions; focus on gains; form
planning and problem-solving partnerships; conduct a collaboration
audit. Exemplary leaders strengthen team members by empowerment
in a comprehensive manner which includes developing competence
and offering visible support - they increase return on square
footage; enlarge people's sphere of influence; educate;
organize own " great huddle"; make connections and heroes
of other people.
fourth practice has been titled as "modeling way"
which centers around setting examples by credible behaviour
and achieving small wins that foster progress and commitment
into the future. The commitment required includes taking
a look in the mirror; writing leadership credo; opening
a dialogue about personal and shared values; auditing actions;
trading places; being dramatic and telling stories about
teachable moments. Achieving small wins can be easy by taking
it personally; making a plan; creating a model; breaking
things up and down; using a bulletin board; selling the
benefits; taking people to dinner!!
last practice is to encourage the heart by recognizing
individual contribution and celebrating success regularly.
The book implores the readers to be creative about rewards
and recognition; recognizing publicly; providing feedback
en route; creating pygmalions; finding people doing things
right; coaching. Celebrating accomplishments can be easy
by scheduling celebrations; being a cheerleader; being a
part of the cheering squad; having fun; determining social
network and bolstering it; staying in love!!
recipe appears simple and even too simplistic. Yet the book
makes abundant sense, even if there is a smacking of several
familiar clichés a la the One Minute Manager. The hope that
this approach generates is that leadership, in effect, can
be process driven - you adopt a few practices consistently
and they will make you an exemplary leader and a creator
of high performance teams. There is a hint that managers
need not be endowed with dominating traits, charisma, assumptions,
or values that would support good leadership - the practices
and commitments would probably retrofit the individual to
a workable leadership framework.
is also interesting that the approach adopted by John Kotter
in his eminent writings (see, What Do Leaders Do? Harvard
Business Press, 1999) center around good practices that
distinguish leadership from management and make managers
good leaders. He believes in the power of direction setting;
aligning constituents and motivating and inspiring. An important
point Kotter had made is that leadership training is different
from management development - it involves change and taking
risks; is inductive; supports flexibility; is longer term
oriented; empowering than controlling; appealing to the
values of the group; energizing; cheerleading and the like.
The thirty years of research of John Kotter has been summarized
in the following ten statements:
change requires a complex and time-consuming, multi-stage
process. Managers must create urgency, build a strong
team, create and communicate a vision, empower individuals,
deliver short-term results, build momentum, and ensure
that new behaviours become part of the culture.
of the ingredients to successful change vary with the
situation, and good leaders are able to distinguish what
is required in a particular situation and resist the "one-size-fits-all"
effective managers with good intentions make predictable
errors in attempting to create change.
the problems associated with creating change are a result
of applying management skills to creating a change rather
than the required leadership skills. For example, structure
and systems may be over-emphasized and communicating and
increasing pace of change means that all managers are
being called upon to do the work of leadership.
are therefore required to create budgets and visions,
develop formal organizations and informal networks, and
motivate others using both management controls and inspiration.
are now required to work in and through a complex web
of relationships in addition to the formal organizational
than exercising formal power over others, managers must
increasingly recognize and manage their informal dependence
dependence and leadership place a renewed emphasis on
traditionally non-managerial tasks such as managing the
boss or building organizational capacity outside your
activities of effective managers rarely resemble stereotypes
of managers, leaders or executives. However, their seemingly
disjointed conversations, interruptions and joking around
make a lot of sense in the context of the complex, difficult
and diverse agendas they must implement in order to be
leadership paradigm being advocated by both fit the new
enterprise well. The new enterprise has to function less
on the basis of formal authority and more by informal processes.
Leadership had been defined as the art of influencing behaviour
- with or without formal authority. These approaches give
us hope for this art to spread. Yet, I have a disquiet on
three counts. The first is the feeling that leadership behaviour
as described is positive behaviour all through. As someone
said, leadership is not a popularity contest and Noel Tichy
had commented elsewhere, along with an expletive, about
Jack Welch to make this point. General Powell was reported
as commenting that leaders are responsible for the welfare
of the group and "being responsible sometimes means pissing
people off." The second worry I have is the cultural specificity
- despite the statement of statistical validity in the Kouzes
and Posner work, the leadership practice paradigm appears
distinctly American -centric and some practices prescribed
could stick out as alien in the German, Japanese or Indian
third is more worrying. If leadership is a process driven
affair, (a) there could be a belief that leadership behaviours
can be fashioned through process control and (b) there would
be doubt if we require all the behavioural instruments at
all. There may be a demand for a Scorecard instead or a
process certification for leadership - neither of which
guarantee sustainable strategic advantage, as there are
no barriers to copying for long.
Kouzes, Posner and Kotter`s perspectives, prescriptions
and the training modeled after these may be just another
balm, a flavor of the times, a passing fad. But I would
rather suggest a new flavored balm to the company than the
stale and rancid oil palmed off as medicine.