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Leadership Matrices

A corrupted JPEG photograph. Result of a photo...

A corrupted image hides any truth

In today’s competitive business environment people often take the short route to success by sacrificing basic leadership matrices. This may work in the short term but what about the marathon? There, they find themselves marooned, shamed and humiliated in the eyes of the ones they lead and the world at large.

Corruption, nepotism and egoistic policies are the three biggest challenges leaders face. A fall from grace along any of these three is suicidal. The recent spate of scams in the Indian market place depict the rot in standards of leadership being provided to the nation be they in the field of politics, bureaucracy, defence or the corporate culture.

To discuss the first- mother of all leadership ills – Corruption. While adorning the highest possible leadership positions where the temptation is too high – people succumb to this great devil, get caught and undermine the faith of an entire generation in the leadership matrices to be followed. Leave aside the disgrace they bring to themselves, they undermine the organisation they lead and demoralise the very fabric they had vowed to defend and be custodians of. They deserve no mercy.

The next in the cardinal sin is nepotism as a leadership matrix. A large number of so called leaders lead through the power of the pen they yield. Suffice to say that they lead sad enterprises bereft of any team spirit and deliver mediocre results.

The worst sin of the leadership matrix is ego. Leaders operating out of this paradigm of life rather than the true values and systems they are appointed to promote create leaders who are corrupt and breed mediocrity through sycophancy.They may rise in careers for a short time but their fall from grace is the worst. Leaders operating out of  these premises of ego and nepotism finally become corrupt and corrupt the organisations they are supposed to lead. This corruption may not be financial alone but one that corrupts the work environment, breeds sycophancy and marginalises talent in the organisation. The net impact is a corruption of minds and emergence of environment managers who sing the bosses tunes over integrity and loyalty to the organisation.

Good leaders thus must guard against the ills of ego subverting their people and organisation. No amount of repeating the Chetwodian Motto is enough to ensure that you excel as a leader through character borne out of an egoless state in which the credits are of your people and failings are yours.

Only then can you be called true leaders.

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Perceptions

And we all make our choices..

Like a blind man feels his way

Eleven Cs of Engagement

Must You Have Conflict at Work?

Conflicts

Well conflict is a tough word..can we say differences?

My linkedin friend Justin Barry asked a pointed question on the discussion board

How do you approach and deal with conflict at work?!

His take is pasted below:

Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.”

Another way of looking at conflict: “A good manager doesn’t try to eliminate conflict; he tries to keep it from wasting the energies of his people. If you’re the boss and your people fight you openly when they think that you are wrong – that’s healthy.”

Why is this happening?

So lets get back to basics.  Conflict occurs because people are not getting what they need or who are seeking their own self-interests.  You may say that conflict is inevitable because we are dealing with people’s jobs, pride, ego etc.

It could be that conflict arises because of :

  • Weak leadership
  • Poor communication
  • Dissatisfaction with management style (e.g lack of openness)

Does this matter, well it SURE does if

  • Affects team/organization performance
  • Affects staff morale
  • Polarizes people
  • Impacts people or team cooperation
  • In extreme cases, eads to irresponsible and harmful behavior, such as fighting, name-calling

BUT remember that conflict can also be positive if

  • Resolves and provides solutions to business problem
  • Provides open communication channels
  • releases positive emotion and deals with staff’s anxiety and stress
  • Helps build trust
  • People improve their understanding and skills of the people and the organization they work for.

The Risk of Conflict can be REDUCED

There is action you can take to reduce these incidents from happening.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Set expectations around goals and staff performances
  • Communicate frequently and honestly
  • Be open about your concerns so everyone knows where you stand.
  • Agree that it is good to disagree so people understand that healthy disagreement would build better decisions
  • Let your teams grow and learn from their mistakes.

    My Take

    Conflict Resolution

    These arguments and suggestions are well taken but these are pragmatic efforts at answering the questions from a managerial rather than leadership perspective. Good leaders take the team on board by clearly articulating the “intent” and explaining the “why” of each activity. Once these are explained and the leader has an open approach towards taking in criticism based on continuous feedbacks..conflicts begin to minimise.

    Each human has a desire to out perform the given standards. A good leader doesn’t pit one member of the team against the other to ensure better performance or does not institute individual rewards for accomplishments. Instead he sets parameters for each member to push the envelop and out perform himself. In such forgiving and enabling environments personal conflicts are minimised to a large extent as team members work to produce collaborative answers. They do not hesitate to take or give advice and suggestions to improve work in their sphere of influence. In such win win environments alone can conflicts be minimised for the larger organisational good.

    Such leadership environment can only be developed by leaders willing to learn, love, share and mentor their team mates. They multiply the power of their team members rather than adding them.

    If conflict still persists, it is time to change the leader.

    I would end it with this quote

    “Put organisation above self..it will largely help you flow like water and brush aside what obstructs your thoughts. If your thoughts are powerful enough they will erode the opposition over time. Else, you like water, again choose the path of least resistance to follow your organisational goals.

    Leaders Listen Passionately

    listening

    Active Listening is the Greatest Learning Tool

    Often we hear leaders chatter on endlessly about their “intent”, “visions” and how the teams should flower under their tutelage. They never tire of torturing an audience till the organisation tires out of the “How” that the leader explains with such disdain each time he gets an opportunity. This is accentuated if the employees only get to listen to the leader and are seldom allowed the latitude to articulate their own aspirations and visions about either the task at hand,  the organisation or the team.

    When they listen, they “hear” with a view to out talk the led. Such leaders start the cycle of cynicism in an organisation, especially when the leaders are not able to Walk their Talks. Teams hang on to every word, motion or activity of the leader. While a blabbering leader may forget what he said yesterday – the team remembers – and thus starts the Chinese whisper in an organisation, disempowering the teams across verticals.

    Good leaders listen and listen actively to absorb the aspirations and callings of each member of the team. This helps them find each team member’s true calling. There is nothing more motivating in an environment where a team member feels confident to explain his point of view succinctly and without parental oversights by the leader. This simple habit of the leader energises the team members and motivates them with an optimism that their views would be heard passionately towards the larger good of the organisation. They then push the envelope as active participants in the growth of the organisation.

    It is true that leadership and mentoring are not a one-size-fits-all propositions. “Different strokes for different folks” is more like it. Some people need a lot of direction or hand-holding; others need autonomy and freedom to experiment and grow. Some team members may need different things at different times, depending on challenges that arise, the level of difficulty in job assignments, and the ebb and flow of motivation. Amongst all these variations, leaders can rarely afford to stop listening passionately- it helps keeping their ears to the ground and invert the pyramid in an environment of trust and mutual respect.

    This passion is contagious across all levels of leaders and the led, where leaders automatically produce leaders and not mere followers. This creates an enabling environment where the “why” overrides the “how” and unleashes the true potential of each team member.

    Active listening accentuates an organisation’s trajectory in geometric progression and provides the leader with the most vital component of organisational success – feedback.

    As they say in the military, “passionate leaders lead by actions not words”.

    Contact is the Name of the Game

    Yes you read it right it is contact and not contacts!

    In leadership positions management often demands too much of our time. Managing processes, tools and possibilities is a tedious, thankless and time consuming work if not understood and delegated efficiently. We can manage every thing but people,which we lead and for that we normally run out of time.

    When it comes to people the mantra is leading by example. Unfortunately in  bureaucratic public sector enterprises where jobs are secure and accountability is low the system revolves around managing the environment to survive at the cost of organisational efficiency. The challenge of leadership in such environment is far too intense as compared to businesses with quantifiable bottom lines.

    In both however, the operative word in leadership styles is contact. Remember the “Jadu Ki Japhhi in Munnabhai” – that contact meant a world to the lowly janitor. But the contact we are referring to here is not as much about getting physical as about physically understanding the aspirations, hopes and fears of our team mates by keeping in touch. It breaks barriers if we get to know their names and the names of their children and spouses. If we take an extra step to interact personally, the team members understand us better and are more responsive to the needs of the leadership challenges we face. It is also the best means for getting first hand feedback.

    However there is a catch here. The team is always smarter than the leader in identifying phoneys putting up a facade of contact. So it is best to have genuine contact, if you consider it vital to your leadership function, or let it be.

    There are plenty of smart tools available today to help you manage the team data. One must use them to remember names but keep it simple by genuine concern – as differentiated from courting cheap popularity.

    In the armed forces, this is the only mantra that helps you lead from the front without worrying whether the team is behind you or not. It works everywhere – as Vineet Nayar says, Employees First!