In the wonderland of leaders
In most football teams the quarterback is the team leader. Why is that? Is there something magic about that position? Does he automatically become the leader – the guy who makes the team play and achieve goals when he is named quarterback by the coach? No, there’s more to it than that. He is named quarterback because he’s already a leader. He’s already the kind of guy the other players like to follow. And if the coach is wrong about making him the quarterback, he probably won’t stay quarterback very long. If he can’t lead the team, he won’t have much value even if he can hit a receiver at 40 yards. Every successful team must have a leader.
“Your actions are so loud, I can’t hear what you’re saying,” observed Ralph Waldo Emerson. Every time a leader sends a message, he or she is providing two messages: one is the content what the leader wants done and the other is the process or style how the leader conveys it. The latter is more important than the former, because it provides the cultural context for the recipients.
In the revolution led by Mandela to transform model of racial division and oppression into an open democracy, he demonstrated that he didn’t shy away from taking up arms, but his real qualities came to the fore when world saw him as an activist — during his 27 years in prison and in the eight years since his release, when he had to negotiate the challenge of turning a myth into a man.
Leaders establish the behavioral realities at the workplace. They establish and embody the real values of the organization and, by extension, its relationships with customers, suppliers, competitors, policy makers, government, and to environmentalists – to all out there. A leader’s canvass has to be large enough to support the details, objectives, methodology, scope and the goals to be achieved. He is required to provide true perspective. He should create a picture of future with lots of colors in it – making it striking for his followers. Because if the picture of future is absurd no matter how he convinces his subordinates, they will start searching for the truth.
Alfred Sloan was able to take the best of what the theorists could offer. The fact is Sloan had raw guts to revolutionize decentralized bureaucracy, as each General Manager of General Motors was fundamentally bureaucratic. Each Division had a full set of assets and resources, self-directed management principals and practices, designed to meet its unique needs. Each GM could enter into external alliances and business deals. This often saw one division (SBU) in “friendly” competition with other SBUs. Sloan was literally hero worshiped by many as he practiced what he preached. General Motors as a company moved away from vertical integration to a flat organizational model. This gave the world of cars frequently new models with a slogan “building a car for every purse and purpose”. Whilst their competitor Ford was following strict Taylorist systems in building the famous “black cars.” Sloan at General Motors sold cars in all shapes and colors, and occupied leader’s position in the market. This acumen of Sloan kept General Motors in good stead for decades.
No matter what the nature of an organization, no one in it really reads up well or writes or does what he/she means. Each one believes what he/she sees. There is no more powerful shaper of behavior in the organization than the leader of it. In an organization the leader is considered an archetype.
Margaret Thatcher played the catalyst that set in motion a series of interconnected events that gave a revolutionary twist to the century’s last two decades and helped mankind end the millennium on a note of hope and confidence. The triumph of capitalism, the almost universal acceptance of the market as indispensable to prosperity, the collapse of Soviet imperialism, the downsizing of the state on nearly every continent and in almost every country in the world – she played a part in all those transformations, and it is not easy to see how any of this would have occurred without her.
Leadership is not a science. Hence being a leader is an adventure, this because the leader himself can never be sure whether he/she will reach the goal, he may stumble or fumble. If only he is driven by genuineness, serenity and passion he can achieve goals.
“Think Different.” Mahatma Gandhi, in his younger days a sophisticated and Westernized lawyer, did indeed change his thinking more radically than most people do. Ghanshyam Das Birla, one of the merchant princes who backed him, once said, “He was more modern than I. But he made a conscious decision to go back to the Middle Ages.” This is because he wanted to reach out to the millions of poor, uneducated Indians who would accept a leader who could be related with, associated with and represent them. Gandhi changed not only his external appearance but he had the compassion – he changed internally too.
Some people inherit leadership positions, such as kings, or nobles, or heads of family businesses. Some are elected: chairman, governor, patrol leader. Some are appointed, such as a coach, a city manager, or a den chief. Or they may just happen to be there when a situation arises that demands leadership. When a disaster occurs, masses start searching for a leader.
In 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her bodyguards and hastily Rajiv Gandhi was sworn in as the Prime Minister. Prior to this Rajiv Gandhi had not shown much interest in politics. He attended college at Cambridge, England; married an Italian, Sonia Gandhi; and worked as a pilot for the Indian Airlines. But, once he took charge of the Prime Minister’s post his government encouraged foreign investment, and industry boomed with the loosening of business controls. He sought to increase Indian investments in modern technology. He removed many restrictions on imports; India invested in exports thus encouraging foreign investment. He has a extensive vision, a large imaginative canvass to draw pictures of modern India! As no leader is spared of criticism; Rajiv Gandhi was also criticized that he was indecisive as he changed his cabinet members frequently.
As a young boy, Narendra Damodardas Modi helped his dad serve tea in Gujarat’s Vadnagar railway station. At the age of 63, and as leader of India’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, he is about to serve the world’s largest democracy as prime minister. Modi built his reputation over the years with his Gujrat Model on economic growth, building an efficient business administration and selling the state to the world: in 2009, the Gujarat government hired the US lobbying and public relations firm, APCO Worldwide, to promote this state as an investment destination. Since Modi took control, Gujarat has led the nation in GDP growth and accounts for 16 percent of industrial output. This western state boasts of uninterrupted power supply and the finest road infrastructure in the country. Modi’s biographer, Mukhopadhyay, describes him as charismatic, an “extremely hard working person” a good administrator. Narendra Modi personifies the “rags to riches” story. He is set to become the 14th Prime Minister of India on 26th May 2014.
In the end, it’s the leader’s self-discipline, his truthfulness and the excitement and commitment with which he works. A charismatic and genuine leader I always emulated. His clarity in messaging, his actions, his guiding spirit, his affection towards his team mates, his style, his dressing sense, his diction determine his and in turn his organization success.
Friends, good leadership is indeed the need of the hour.