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Leading the Leaders
A leader is the pivot of an enterprise and the success or failure of the enterprise depends on the executive leader’s ability to lead. The crucial role of a leader’s ability in the success of an organisation has been a point of discussion since times immemorial and itis important that we check the abilities of the executive leadership of any organisation. There are a plethora of diagnostic tests, evaluations, profiles and assessments that may lend us insights into leadership abilities, or a lack thereof but these may be overly analytical, too theoretical, and may also be subject to bias, whereas there may be more practical, easy and more effective ways to assess leadership ability. The easiest way to determine someone’s leadership prowess is to give them some responsibility and then see what they do with it and how they do it and whether they fulfil one of the primary responsibilities of leadership i.e is to create more and better leaders as there is no success without a successor.
Let’s talk about few important things which may prove to be a boon or bane for a leader’s success or failure. It is a matter of serious concern for an organization if it has leaders who fail to grasp the concepts outlined here and also calls for time to restructure and to set things in tune.
Leaders who can’t see it, may not find it: Leaders without vision will fail. Leaders lacking vision cannot motivate performance, cannot inspire teams or create sustainable processes. Poor and tunnel vision, a vision that is fickle or non-existent will cause leaders to fail. A leader needs to align the organization around an unambiguous, feasible and achievable vision. This is not possible when the blind lead the blind.
When leaders fail to lead themselves: A leader who lacks integrity or character will not be able to endure the test of time; no matter how intelligent, persusive, affable, or savvy the person may be. If leaders are prone to making efforts to rationilise unethical behavior based upon present or future needs, they will eventually fall prey to their own undoing. Optics over ethics cannot ever be a formula for success.
Show-up or give-up: Nothing mars poor leadership like lack of performance. No one is perfect, but leaders who consistently fail are not really leaders, no matter how much we wish they were. While past performances may not always be taken as certain indicators of future events but a long-term track record of success should not be ignored. A person who has consistently had success in leadership roles has much higher probability of success than the one who has not. It’s thus important to remember that unproven leaders may bring in a high risk premium, that’s why smart companies do recognize potential, but they reward performance.
Beware of the know-it-all: The best leaders are very much aware of how much they don’t know. They donot need to be the smartest person in the room, but instead have an unending desire to learn from others. It is also often said that leaders who are not growing themselves cannot lead a growing organisation. One of the signs of great leaders is insatiable curiosity and desire to learn. If a leader isn’t curious about every dimension of the organization, there may be huge problems on the horizon.
Failure to communicate: When leaders are constantly bemused by those who don’t seem to get it, it reflects leadership and communication problems. Leaders with poor communication skills will usually be short-lived in their positions. Great leaders have the ability to communicate effectively across mediums and environments. They are patient and active listeners, fluid thinkers, and know how to handle situations.
Service above self: If leaders cannot understand the concept of service above self, they will not be able to engender the trust, loyalty and confidence of people they lead. Success of leaders is usually directly proportional to their team’s desire to be led by them. An overtly abundant presence of ego, pride and arrogance do not count as positive leadership traits. Real leaders give the credit and take the blame – not the other way around. Thus, if a leader receives a vote of non-confidence from subordinates, it is the end of the story.
One size fits all leadership style: Real leaders are flexible in their approach and fluid in their working. They understand the relevance and necessity for contextual leadership. Typical and conventional leadership styles may result in a fractured culture and eventually a non-productive organization. Leaders who quickly recognize and adapt their style of work to the situations and contexts may prove to be more successful. So, we not me , surrender not control, and collaborate not dictate is the key.
Lack of focus: Leadership is about prioritising and the best leaders pursue focus. Those who lack the focus and attention needed to utilise resources in an aggressive and committed fashion are sure to perish. Leaders who lack discipline will tend to model wrong behavior and will eventually spread themselves too thin. Organizations are at the greatest risk when the leader loses focus and intentions should align with results for leaders to be successful and effective.
Getting Invested: Leaders who are not fully committed to investing in those they lead, tend to fail. Real leaders support, build, mentor and coach their team, and truly care for their team. A leader not fully invested in his or her team won’t have a team in the real sense – at least not an effective one.
Lastly and most importantly- Real leaders are accountable: A real leader does not blame others, doesn’t claim credit for success of his or her team, but always accepts responsibility for failures that happen in their leadership. Most importantly, leaders are accountable to their own team and leaders who are not accountable to their people will eventually be held accountable by their people.
To conclude, leaders need to be honest, have a proven track record of success, be fluid in work style, be excellent communicators, emphasise on serving those they lead, have laser- like focus, and a bias towards action. If the traits discussed above are missing in an organisation’s current leadership or emerging leaders, it’s time to work on it and reroute and relead the leaders so that they may lead your organisation from a rocky road to the beautiful pavement of success..!!