In the corporate setting, miserably and unfortunately, the leader is also seen, as a timekeeper; he/she wastes massively expensive time, in tracking who has come on time and who has left early from the office. The extent of micro management is seen as a yardstick to measure leadership qualities. A leader is expected to have, admittedly, a sound general knowledge of the various facets of business of the organisation, but it is unreasonable to demand that the leader must do everything or single handedly take all decisions. Leaders must do the following, inspire and motivate, to perform, according to the preset and pre agreed direction, the organisation desires to achieve.
A Leader's first and foremost job is to hunt for the required talent; collect skilled and knowledgeable Individuals and then mould them into a harmonised team, while guiding them with the direction to take for the achievement of the corporate goals.
Regardless of how talented the individuals may be, the need to harness the diversified existence of talent, into a well glued team, is imperative. Individual brilliance is to be tamed, trained and lured to work in a group environment; this is unlikely to happen, until the leadership provides the necessary guidance or oversight, leading to forging of close cooperation between individual units of energy.
Just as in any type of sport, individual performance is a necessity, but to be a winning team, all have to collaborate, to be effective on the field. We recently saw in the Pakistan/India cricket match in Sri Lanka (Asia cup) how the Pakistan team fell apart like ninepins; although individually each of our cricketers is brilliantly talented, but in ‘togetherness’ on that fateful day, they failed miserably. The match also proved that to be a winning team, the direction and game plan must not only be shared with all, but it also must be developed in the first place, through a consultative process involving every single team member. It is another matter, that the captain is taking all the flak for poor individual performances, but it is also a fact of management, that the leader takes responsibility for, both, honours and failure.
A team is not just about its members; it is the sum total of its members' talent and skill. Winning teams know exactly what steps they have to take, because the organisations purpose clearly spells that out; it indicates which direction the organisation is wanting to head. Giving purpose and meaning to individuals and their respective assignment serves as the glue that binds them into a wholesome team.
For any team to be motivated, the purpose of the organisation must be extremely clear to its members. All corporations and institutions must have identified goals and objectives that must go towards serving their major purpose. The purpose usually has to be in the realm of the non quantifiable, meaning that it has to extend beyond profits, growth, return on equity, etc. The corporate purpose must be spelt out and enshrined in the ‘vision’ of the institution. For any team to be effective, the members must wholeheartedly commit themselves to the purpose of the organisation. I had the good fortune to work for an organisation whose major corporate purpose , stated, was submission to God, service to humanity, giving and interdependence. This purpose by its very nature is incapable of being bound within the precincts of any number. The flexibility and elasticity of purpose gives meaning to the work that is to be delivered by an effective team.
An American management scientist in 1960 came up with the concept of the human side of enterprise. He espoused and expounded upon what he called Theory X and Theory Y. Within the confines of Theory X, he was of the view that employees generally and invariably need monitoring, he assessed employees as being lazy, idle, slothful and usually have a lackadaisical attitude. And for these reasons they have to be persuaded, rewarded, punished and controlled. Since such employees are devoid of ambition , they shun and shirk responsibility and remain in a state of inertia, until they are pushed by their supervisors to perform. Contrary to this he noted under Theory ‘Y’: individuals do a good job, if they aren’t pursued since they are intrinsically tuned into being trustworthy, and therefore seek both authority and responsibility to achieve corporate goals. These are usually self motivated individuals who are always willing and eager to take responsibility -- leaders aren’t supposed to be control freaks, instead they must be a good guide and mentor.
There are many organisations who pride in their vision statements that encapsulate sentiments like, ‘ our employees are the greatest asset’. Organisations and their management leave no opportunity to declare that they have full faith and confidence in their workers abilities and further that the organisation subscribes to the highest ethical and emotional standards in dealing with the staff members. These statements invariably are meant for the gallery. The exact opposite is practised, this facet of management behaviour is more so visible and this dichotomy is more pronounced in family owned institutions. They ‘owners’ of entities refer to their workers as ‘one large family’, where actually the owner's family dominates the organisational family. A complete eye wash. It is for such reasons that family owned institutions do not last beyond 2 or at best 3 generations -- the squabblings of sibling and cousin rivalry makes it difficult to develop a cohesive and well oiled team. Those workers who are expected to perform under such leadership, are essentially yoked and imprisoned, within the confines of the ‘thought and dictate of the owners’. No freedom to think and discuss openly various issues is not made available. Team building becomes in such situations an extremely difficult call to make.
For effective team building , the leader must express in absolute and clear terms what is expected to be achieved, then the alternative pathways to achieve must be identified; once this is done, then the team must be allowed to develop and grow. It is only when there is no constant shepherding that the teammates, individually and severally become self propelling units of energy, who perform on the peak. The autonomy to think allows team members to find alternative ways of doing business.
To be a team player one has to be tolerant and forgiving. The need to absorb and accept a different point of view is the first sign of leadership. This expresses confidence in the teams.
Diversity within teams must be promoted. There has to be equal opportunity for each team member to perform and all the resources must also be available that facilitate the efforts put into any task/assignment. Teams perform at their best, where the mechanism of feedback is judicious and even more significantly the rewards are transparent too.
Team building requires the presence of a leader, who has the ability and confidence to find individuals who would be better than him/herself. Those who vibrate with energy are most likely to become catalysts for all other individuals in the team, for it to be absorbed at the same level of enthusiasm and energy.
A leader ought to create within individuals a sense of motivation, that creates responsibility, together with skills that will become enablers and thence to drive cohesion between individual performance, for the greater purpose of collective results.
The writer is a senior banker and a freelance columnist