There has been very many interesting conversations that the earlier post on shared leadership elicited. Here is my take on the topic. Shared leadership in my humble opinion is not sharing of the position. It is not making smaller centers of power that operate in parallel in an organization.
To me Leadership means two things – authority and responsibility. Shared leadership then amounts to how these two variables are split amongst the leaders. Not understanding this is one of the reasons why shared leadership almost never works. The focus in shared leadership is about splitting the power, the position, culling out kingdoms, establishing governance etc. Failure to understand that the only aspect that can be shared are the activities and work – and not really the power and position, has led to a lot of chaos and confusion.
In the current context the most basic mistake in sharing leadership role is the approach to splitting authority and responsibility among two people. It defeats the purpose of sharing and creates split. It splits the role, it splits the function and eventually it splits the company or the institution. A better way to achieve shared leadership is to share authority and responsibility equally with only boundary conditions and exception handling routines. Have one leadership position but create pockets of defined responsibilities. This when done can result in more cohesive functioning, increased band width and growth for the individuals and as well as the enterprise. In my humble opinion, shared leadership is all about allowing people to take charge of responsibilities. It is not creation of parallel power structures or sharing of the leadership position.
The best form of shared leadership is for people to volunteer to share responsibility. When responsibility is fully understood and shouldered, authority literally becomes meaningless, because it is automatic. When you take up responsibility for something you make it happen – you don’t wait for permission to make it happen. If you wait for permission to be granted or bestowed then what you are seeking to share is only authority and not responsibility. This will result in poor leadership anyways. In essence to lead in an area, one needs only responsibility and not really authority. Because to be a leader you need to look forward and lead, not look backwards to see if there are followers. That is the true mark of a leader. And the world today needs a lot more of these!
Can you have two drivers for one car?
Can you have two presidents for one nation?
Can you have two white kings in your chess set?
- And what happens if you actually have two of them? In today’s world of shared vision, shared purpose, shared goals – shared leadership is but another term. However in reality can leadership be ever shared?
The position of the leader is at the helm of affairs. The position of the leader is one that defines the direction. The position of the leader is one that sets the tone. The position of the leader is from where one takes forward the organization. By this very definition, leadership position is one that is right on top (rather right at the front) – and this definition does not permit it to be occupied by more than one.
Which is why you have one chairman, one president, one governor and one white king in your chess set. They represents the apex power – the power to lead. In our earnest interests to energize our people and our institutions we go around talking about shared leadership. In our innocence we all forget leadership as a position cannot be shared. There is and should be only one leader at the helm.
But then what can actually be shared? What is then meant by shared leadership? Rather what should the term shared leadership mean actually? What are your thoughts? Let me know!
A good entrepreneur, owner, CEO, manager becomes great because they take decisions on time, and they take decisions that work for the overall good.
I am not talking about moments in life where you make choices where the outcome was predefined. I am talking about decisive and high impact decisions which can make or break your career and the careers of many behind you. Based on what do you make these decisions?
The wise words of an aged successful entrepreneur rang a bell. During our conversations, when I asked him how he made those important decisions, he thought for a while and remarked “base your decisions on data NOT opinion” if we observe closely very often we make decisions based on the opinions of others. Very often we ask the question ‘What do you think?’ and seldom follow it with ‘Why do you think so?’. It is our hope (another assumption) that they have done their homework of studying their data before making the suggestion.
While I am not questioning the trust that you place on your lieutenants and advisors there are two reasons why I strongly urge my CEO clients to look at the data before we have discussions on the decision points:
1) As you look through the data you will see patterns that no one else can see because every pair of eyes are different
2) It makes you more objective about the situation, for opinions most often are shaded with a tinge of emotions and an amount of past baggage
Therefore the next time when you face a decision point, especially a strategic one, check if you have seen the data before signing the decision off…
The concept of thinking positive and looking positive, as a way to attract positive aspects into life is not a new phenomenon. But every time there is an attempt at re-positioning this old secret desire of human beings it gains world-wide recognition and acknowledgement. I know the power that “the law of attraction” holds on to the lives of so many people. “The Secret” book and DVD became a sensation. Why won’t it? It caters directly to one of the fundamental desires of the human mind – addressing wants! But one of the fundamental things that these books, tapes, videos and trainings do is ask you to maintain a positive look. According to these, if one manages to maintain a positive look, one is bound to attract more positive aspects onto himself / herself.
NOTE: Please don’t misunderstand me – I’m not against being positive and I am definitely not promoting being negative as an alternative. But I am only using it to highlight how this is affecting decision making.
When this “positive thinking” school of living is borrowed by leaders in businesses and other institutions, the first thing that happens is that they don’t want to acknowledge challenges, problems, issues, etc. Because a positive person is always positive, speaks positive things, thinks positive things and acts positively. Your product is not selling? -Be positive, push harder it will sell. Productivity is a creeping issue? – Be positive, talk to your team, motivate them for all is well. Rosy picture indeed! But the downside of this is that challenges are constantly subdued without objective analysis. While they can be suppressed for a while, over time they come back in a different form and in a much stronger manner. Often by the time the institution is forced to acknowledge the problem, it is too late.
Why not on the contrary be neutral? Neutral to the changes that happen, neutral to challenges that crop up, neutral to positive and negative results with equal poise. This will enable a leader look at issues objectively and make the best use of resources at large. This kind of leadership will make the greatest impact on society. Think!
Pope Benedict XVI was whisked away in a white helicopter that flew over St Peter’s Basilica on the last day of February 2013. But not even this was more dramatic than the decision of his to resign from the papacy. The exit, the upcoming election for the office, the process and the other paraphernalia are being discussed and followed up with great vigour.
Of all these what caught my attention was the action of the85-year old leader, defying hundreds of years of tradition. It is always difficult to take a path breaking decisions, especially if you are the leader whose actions are being watched, emulated and followed by millions. The reason for pope’s decision to resign was based on the practical consideration of his body and mind not being able to keep pace with the demands of this highest office. While on one side this looks like an admission of frailty, the objective view would indicate mark of tremendous courage. The ability to put the cause ahead of one’s self. The ability to recognise and implement, what one firmly believes is right for the larger ecosystem. The courage to walk the path.
As officials sealed the papal apartments and the elevator, the world began its wait for the successor. And the man who moved out by his own choice, in all humility promised to ‘obey’ the new elect!
Here lies in this whole act a message not just for leaders but the multitudes, who hold some responsibility or other towards the larger community!
I had the opportunity to interact with some students last week. The conversation post class got onto goal settings. A young one remarked as his argument towards setting high goals ‘One should aim for the stars; you may not get them but you will atleast not come down with handful of sand’ An often heard statement so I was least prepared when I heard a vociferous counter to this. Another student vehemently said this statement was one that reflected a very sub average goal setting mindset.
Surprised we listened on as he explained: ‘The statement is asking you to reach out for some stars from the millions available. So once you manage to stretch your hand; your options are actually limitless; but the goal statement limits it to just a handful. Also the second half of the statement makes it look like you have already built in a certain acceptable level for failure. The reason for setting this goal does not seem to be to encourage the doer to grab the stars – but to tell him it is okay if he fail!!’ In a normal situation I would have dismissed this as a typical cynical reaction by a Gen-Y to something that is so established. But on my way back to office; I could not help being bothered by this. Do we have leadership lessons here?
How do we set our goals? Whenever we start something new, what is our approach? Does it define success and achievement in Boolean or does it allow a permissible error? How often do we make statements similar to ‘Let us attempt for 120 so at least we will achieve 100’..Very often our goals have certain negotiable factor to success. Then is this the right way? When you set goals like this could you be countering your own intent?
Instead of aiming for just a handful of stars from the millions that are available – should we not aim for the singular Moon? Then like the archer who is focused not on the parrot as a whole but its ‘eye’ – all our efforts would then be on the single success criteria. In today’s highly competitive environment apart from redefining our outlook; we may even need to reframe the existing sayings and quotes to be more aligned to our current context!
How we set our goals for ourselves and our team, how we communicate them and how we lead to achieve these are important. As leaders it is important that are thoughts, actions and attitude align themselves without any margin of mis-interpretation or error. Tough task – but who said being a leader is easy?
The reason people follow someone is because they are not sure of the way, or they want someone more courageous to lead them on the path they want to walk, or they need directions etc., Fundamentally they seek support, inspiration, direction and someone to trust!
So, if you want to be a leader you need to be sure of where you are going, communicate it clearly, allow people to decide to follow you, inspire them to continue the journey, show them that you are moving along towards the milestone, walk the talk by leading them from the front. In today’s world most of the leaders find it very difficult to do two things:
a) Walking the Talk (Building Trust)
b) Staying the Course (Displaying Consistency)
This is leading to a lot of people who speak, inspire and then let down. This has made the followers get worried on whom to follow. They run after their leaders faithfully in circles – realizing very late that they are just where they started or worse find themselves where they never wanted to be.
Hence we need a leadership revival, one that will produce authentic, genuine and committed leaders who will put the cause ahead of themselves and show people the way. We can see examples in Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi. It’s time the world has more of them.
Are you ready for the challenge – the challenge to take on the responsibility of leadership?
During the 3 days at ISBA 2013 conference, I came across numerous leaders, doctorates, scholars, teachers, policy makers, incubator managers and entrepreneurs. In many different ways they all made references to creating leaders in the Indian entrepreneurship ecosystem. As in many other areas in India, this ecosystem also requires strong visionary leaders to pave the path. While a lot of aspects were discussed one particular issue stood out – mindset. Without exception most speakers and practitioners (off the stage) shared the feeling! Without a change in mindset most policies, strategies, plans are not going to work. This is because a 5 Litre container can only take 5 Litres of milk. If you want it to pour more you need a bigger container. This means lifting the lid to a greater height.
So, one of the things that leaders need to do is increase their capacity to take on more. This will only arise as a result of changing your mindset. To do this one needs to explore newer avenues, tread un-walked paths, question the accepted, apply differential thinking etc. This means we need more entrepreneurial leaders. The question is can we create them? How?
I came away from the conference with great hopes for a stronger India. It also gave me re-assurance on things that I am working on currently:
è Strategy & Scaling Solutions
è Leadership & Entrepreneurship
Lots of work to do…………
No this is not a review of James Hadley Chase book !!
Very often the reason why students want to take up Entrepreneurship is because of the (mis)understanding of what it means to be a leader. We often hear that they want to become CEOs because they do not want to listen to someone giving them orders; they want to lead and not follow. They believe they can experience freedom when they lead. The exhilaration of having lesser people above you is what makes leadership positions covetable to many from a distance even in a corporate setting.
However leaders will tell us this is far from reality. While as you ascend, your reporting hierarchy does get reduced – but the span to whom you are accountable and responsible for increases. You realize while earlier you had to listen only to your boss – now you have to listen to your board, your client, your vendors, your teams, your peers, your family and worst of all to your inner voice that constantly pushed you to achieve this position.
Not only do people have very less tolerance to mistakes you commit – your every action becomes more visible. You feel a hundreds eyes are on you – you need to be now leading by example and there is no room here for a slip. It does sound scary and morbid. But a seasoned leader (rather a person seasoned for the leadership role) takes it in their stride. These constraints instead of fatiguing them, builds within them the discipline and self control. The very chains that seem to tie down the leadership spirits – become the fire that polishes the gold.
When we were discussing this with a group of business unit heads in our recent training, a participant said this reminds him about the James Hadley Title “Goldfish have no hiding place” but he also added “It is better to be a brilliant goldfish than an unknown fish!!”
Leadership as they say is not something that comes with position or achievement. You can become one only if you desire to be one and have the skill, perseverance and genuineness to serve. Leadership then is a choice – one that very few make.
Most often we elevate people to lead us because they have done well in some area of their lives. But sadly, while a few graduate to the needs of their followers, most others don’t. Those who don’t graduate tend to hold on to their position; making the followers go astray. Some even misuse their power to retain a limited following. Not only are they doing a disservice to themselves but also to the future generations. By not leading while retaining their position in the front, they are not allowing the next generation of leaders to grow. Very often they are allowed by their followers to continue leading, only because there is no other alternative available. We see this happening in firms, institutions and in any form of comunity where a group of people gather together for a common cause.
It is up to the leaders to recognize their strengths, enable their followers to march on till they can, and step aside when they find there are better people to do it. The last quality is especially important because that is a mark of a true leader – one who thinks more for the general good than for themselves. The lack of maturity to acknowledge this is what creates a lacunae of leaders around us.
The mantra that should guide a leader is ‘Lead, Follow or Move Away’. It is in everybody’s good to do it. Take the responsibility if you have it in you, follow others if you are still unsure else just move out of the way so that others may lead! Because true leaders are the ones who not just lead, but allow leaders to emerge around them and give them way to lead at the appropriate time.