Despite the rapid progress being made in technology by leaps and bounds, it is becoming increasingly evident that organisations cannot attain high levels of consistent performance and value creation by the use of technology alone. The critical part played by “the person behind the machine” cannot be fully matched by robots or artificially intelligent machines. It is the people working in the organisation that can make the difference between it remaining a “good” organisation, and growing into a “great” organisation.
A lot of emphasis is put on “Management” in the corporate environment. For an employee, an MBA degree is often considered a sure-fire route to corporate success. If we look at Management from a high level view, it basically consists of controlling two out of three parameters – Time, Quality, and Money. If you work at optimising two of these, the third usually suffers. Produce high Quality in less Time, and you will need more Money. Reduce expenditure of Money and aim for high Quality, and you will need lots of Time. Reduce expenditure of Money and do the work in less Time, and Quality will suffer. It is extremely challenging and rare to be able to get all three parameters to the best possible level all together. Almost no organization achieves that superlative level of management.
It is widely acknowledged that “people” is the fourth parameter which is critical to business success. But then, Management does not appear to be working on that aspect at all ! We have Time, Quality, and Money. So where are “people”?
That is where “Leadership” comes in. Knowledge of Management is essential to business success. That is undeniable. The ability to Lead people is crucial for transforming from a mediocre organisation to a great organisation. And that is undeniable too.
Leadership is not something which is essential to only the “top honcho”, the “C-Suite”, or the owners of the business. Leadership has to be a culture in the organisation. Leadership is to be practised every day, all day, at the work place by everyone in the organization. It is the consistent, small acts of leadership which lead to the big results.
“Leadership” has been defined in many ways by many thinkers. My favourite definitions of Leadership are :
- Leadership is the ability to influence people without authority.
- Leadership is the art of getting people to want to do things which you plan to get done.
A leader does not wait to be announced as a “leader” before demonstrating leadership. The leader leads by habit, at every possible opportunity.
A leader does not wait to be formally granted authority over someone else before exerting influence. The leader influences others in subtle ways, even without being formally “in charge”.
A leader does not wait to have a large enough group of followers to lead. The leader leads even in a group of two persons.
A leader does not make the followers feel lost without the leader. The leader makes the team feel that they have achieved success on their own. The leader gives credit for success to the team. The leader takes responsibility for any failures and does not blame the team.
These, and hundreds of other small important steps, go to make a true leader. It is not necessary for a leader to be always spectacular, loud, prominent, or have a large following. Start small, with groups of two or three if required. And if everyone in an organisation develops this habit, the productivity of the organisation as a whole will see huge increments in relatively short periods of time.
There is one important point one must never forget – To be a good leader, you must also be a good follower.
Think that over, as you develop the leadership habit in your organisation.
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Col Bharat Haladi