Leadership is the most discussed topic. And why should it not receive this attention? This trait determines the fate of societies, nations and organisations. So, even an over dosage of emphasis on this fundamental is actually desirable. Can there be any leadership without followers? The dilemma is what precedes, followership or leadership? No leader, regardless of the strata or segment of society, can lay claim to be a good leader, if he/she has failed first to be a ‘good follower’. History is replete with examples where leaders were misled off the pages of recognition, purely because they failed in the basic requirement to be good followers. Conclusively, therefore, all leaders who are successful in their respective fields have been excellent followers, too. To accept this notion, efforts have to be made to create the right platform and a conducive environment. Only then can the concept flourish.
The various kinds of leadership are largely guided and effectively gauged by how the ‘followers’ make decisions, when the leader is not present in the room. How do people act? All and related behaviour is reflective of the culture the leader has created for the team, organisation or even the country.
Organisations can survive only when they decide that no average human capital is acceptable to them. Only the best have to be hired and only the very best need to be trained in the various facets of leadership. Culture will determine the quality of decision making. Any corporate entity that has ‘fear’ at its roots of culture, will find that decisions within it are either avoided, delayed or procrastinated. If the team, that you as a leader have created, suspects an action of ruthless reprisal for a wrong decision from you, then certainly major damage has been done by the leadership, not followers, to the organogram of the entity. Against this, in a free and frank environment, where knowledge is shared and communication is free, with no holds barred, the decision making will invariably be backed by trust and confidence.
The commitment to delegate down the organisational structure must remain visible. A transformational leader will attempt to get all team members provoked to claim ownership of all decisions taken, irrespective if they were met with failure or success. When done in this fashion, every decision taken will have at its cornerstone, the fundamentals of resource application and its costs; the timelines of the decisions and the need and urgency of a decision will always be under focus.
A company’s culture will determine the type of leadership it will create. An organisation that has ‘influencing’ and ‘mentoring’ as required traits for those moving into leadership positions, will ensure that the progress of the human capital is without any breakout.
The leadership, in the enactment of the organisation’s vision and mission, will lay the foundations of the type of culture that they envision and expect to be emulated. The culture can be forced, inspired or infused. Weak leaders rely heavily on forced cultures’ imposition upon the workforce. Liberal and confident leadership, however, will only promote an organisational culture of inspired and infused workforce.
The fine nuances of leadership, by both word and deed, will seep and find its way to the foundations of the organisation. In such an environment, the entire workforce operates under the concept of being leaders and followers at one and the same time.
In an inspired cultural setting, there would be due recognition to the need and concept of ‘passing the baton’. An environment of enlightened leadership will find itself concentrating on the preparation and timing of creating right successors for every key position. Here, no human capital will lie unutilised or be allowed to rest in the historical limbo of forgotten employees!
The organisation must have a recognition persona – influenced by its core values. The market place recognises organisations for what its leadership likes it to be remembered for. The organisation, for example, that I am associated with is known for generations for its unique ‘legacy of trust’. The leadership here does not offer for negotiation any aspect that could in any manner hurt or damage its reputation of having a culture and environment based on ‘trust’.
For sustainable culture of development of leaders, the organisation must keep a fair distinction between ‘transactional leaders’, ‘situational leaders’ and ‘transformational leaders’. The first type ie transactional leaders are those who emerge on a one-time basis (it could be off-repeated transactions) for capitalising on emerging possibilities in the market place. The transactional leader is bound in time. He can be used later in similar situations where he would excel.
The second type ie situational leaders are more akin to handling the emergence of sudden crisis, contingencies or even the unexpected. Some leaders have the pronounced capacity to respond to crisis management with great resolution. In fact, even the most celebrated leaders, such as Winston Churchill, I personally classify as a situational leader. Can history imagine remembering a Churchill if there was no World War II?
The third type ie ‘transformational leaders’ are those who create and make paradigm changes in steering the corporate ship or even the state ship, with faith and confidence for creating an everlasting impact upon the environment and its resident followers. The Quaid is a perfect example of transformational leaders, as well as Warren Buffet and Bill Gates in the sphere of the business world.
People usually follow what the leader does. In a facilitating environment for promotion of positive leadership, there has to be some exhibition of characteristics such as integrity and uprightness in dealing with challenges. A corporate environment where the leadership focuses on circumvention of laws, rules and regulations and which is found more than willing to bend policies, will never make a sustainable environment. The encouragement to think ‘out of the box’ solutions for avoidance of legalities is reflective of a very narrow and negative definition of transactional leadership.
A transformational environment of leadership development will place significant emphasis on legitimacy of actions. In the end, of all the efforts towards building a viable environment of leadership evolution, it is ethics and character that will determine its longevity or early death.
The writer is a senior banker and freelance columnist