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Leaders Listen Passionately


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”.

Myths of Leadership Failure

Myths of Leadership

These are the myths of leadership failure. My apologies but then…

Due respect to the leadership coach but I strongly disagree to these myths which negate optimism and pro activity in leading. If anything these are managerial mental failures which when harnessed under the regime of collaborative leadership can all be easily brushed aside.

Inability to Organize Detail This is the last of the leadership functions after you have approached your issues with  systems approach. It is a managerial function of visualizing the innards of a problem which your technical  and domain knowledge will give you. Don’t begin with the details as a leader –  that is a low end managerial function. First get the bigger picture straight and spell out your intent unambiguously after due deliberation with your team.

Unwillingness to Do what you ask of others This is true but not very important in a trusting team which has mutual confidence in each other. Trying to prove you can do it better may result in complacency or antagonism from the team. “You think you can do it better” starts inter personal rivalries. Yes the leader must put his shoulder to the wheel and demonstrate the capability to dirty his hands, when required, but as a routine let your team flower.

Expectation of Pay Knowing and doing can only be harmonized in a collaborative leadership environment. The word “they” should principally be corrected with “us or we” – then you will automatically rise to your level of competence. It is the leaders role to empower the team to transcend issues such as pay in favor of performance – pay would follow. Sack the leader if he can not measure up.

Fear of Competition This is the most misunderstood concept in leadership. Your leadership and its dedication is dependent on only one factor and that is your own out put. Leaders who perform unmindful of the competition and develop blue ocean strategies for their teams stand apart and do not have to worry about any competition – even from arch rivals in businesses or life functions.

The rest are academic issues which can be labelled under poor leadership skills and styles. Selfless leaders rise highest – others also run.

Choice is yours whether you want to follow point by point manuals or harmonize your larger construct as a leader transcending trivia. The day you develop the third eye to look with in and understand your own power – these one minute myths will not matter any more.

Being is more important than Becoming

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!

Pro activity Pays

Proactive Leadership

Pro active Leaders are always at the front

Leadership means exciting, enabling, educating and empowering the team to deliver across the full range of activities in a swarmed manner, happily & willingly.

The acme of leadership’s deliverance is in producing results by each member of a team in such an egoless manner that every activity generates multiple options for the leadership to exploit to active the organizational goals. Creating this win win situation for the organization, leader and the led remains the basic art of leadership.

Articulation of Intent

When each member of the team pushes the envelope to the best of his capabilities, the combined synergy that is produced far outstrips the imagination. A leader has perforce got to be the visionary who articulates his intent unambiguously and leads from the front in each endeavuor of the team. He has to have the third eye to “see” situations and conflicts arising well in advance and take corrective measures in time to propel the team. Proactively pays!

Calling the Calling

An essential component of leadership function is to convert each member of the team to be a self

Calling the Calling in practice!!

starter. Initiative, innovation and experimentation are the key to exciting and empowering the team. However, the leadership has to be acutely conscious of putting the “right peg in the right hole”. Each person finds his mean in certain specific activities. If positively energized, that becomes the person’s calling. A progressive and enabling leadership works towards discovering this calling in each member of the team and assigning him requisite missions. An empowered team member working in sync with his calling will always produce the best results-no matter what!

Lateral Thinking

Lateral thinking is an attribute most often misunderstood with warped thinking. It is not. It is the ability of self energized team members to generate out of the box blue ocean strategies to perform an assigned mission. Debono articulates this well.

Application of OODA Cycles.

As the OODA cycle enunciates by its name – the “Os” are times to observe & orient so as to deliberate and debate on all aspects of a problem at hand and generate multiple options. This is the phase that demands utmost sincerity in discussing debating and evolving options. Once the decision is taken, the team needs no more discussion but acts in a synergized manner to generate the desired momentum towards the next OODA cycle. The faster a team completes an OODA cycle, greater are the chances of success.

When such pro activity permeates the environment you stop managing but leading change.

Do that and watch miracles happen!