Some captains, on a misplaced basis, feel that if the vessel is moving in the right direction, with least or zero input from them, it is a sign of his impending recognition as “redundant”. This is particularly true, of those leaders who walk into an organisation that has well-oiled running machinery.
As a new entrant, with lack of opportunity to be seen as doing anything better than what is prevailing, this class sets about to actually undoing the organisation. In such situations, to merely make it known that he is the “Boss”, he starts to tweak, either with the direction of the vessel or the vessel itself. This is done at a peril to self, to the vessel, and to all who are onboard. A chief executive officer (CEO) who experiences similar tendencies as the ‘captain of the corporate vessel’ is never shy to undertake dangerous ventures. To make themselves, at least for optic purposes, if not for real, as being different than others, they tamper with the well-established hierarchical structure of the organisation.
As a sign of changing times, they usher in wholesale transfers, postings, and re-assignments. Nothing is wrong with such moves, if done for the future growth of the company, but unfortunately upon closer examination, such moves have within the womb of thought, a fairly well-directed, but adequately garnished with perceived professionalism, the inducement to the development of a culture of nepotism. The leader starts planting mediocre’s to position of authority. The only requirement to get placed in this category is personal allegiance to the whim’s and idiosyncrasies of the leader. The sacrifice of competence is at the altar of loyalty, however wrongly perceived it may be.
Under the guise and pretext of enhancing internal controls, the CEO’s of this category, alongside the (his) senior management cohorts (this band of men/women derives their power and status by being seen as closest to the boss), a strategy to dislodge colleagues that he sees have a potential to challenge his authority, either in the present or in the future. Armed with his Machiavellian trait, in the dust of confusion that he throws up, he believes lies his survival. Indeed, a totally misplaced belief, but that which you find rampant in many organisations. Here, it is not the case of employment of any technical or professional skills for the achievement of goals or advancement of profitable pursuits, but it is entirely an effort to hoodwink the board -it is another subject to deal and write about the ignorance, real or self-imposed, of the board members. They owe their nomination to the chairperson and consequently they fall head over heels to prove themselves as holier than the Pope, to the ultimate disadvantage of the organisation.
Senior management of any organisation that every now and then ushers activities that go towards re-looking at the strategy of the organisation, are usually the cluster of people, whose only intent is to hide behind their own versions of strategic pitfalls, to cover up for the declining or drastic loss of business. They call such moots as huddles, off-sites, and other fanciful names that are nothing but events to keep the team engaged- a distraction from real effort and work.
In view of this scribe, strategy should be developed and discussed for fine-tuning, in the last quarter of any calendar year. Once agreed upon for implementation, it must be adhered to in letter and spirit, unless there are major market developments that may impel the need to review and change, the company’s strategic directional course.
Another feature of the chameleon leader, called by any title of either being CEO, MD, ED,COO or any other fanciful designation, is that the toxicity of his negative behavior gets reflected in the quality of decision taken by him. It is a complete waste of time and energy for any manager to embark on witch-hunting, for loyalists to previous eras; it makes no sense to de-rail performers, who apparently may not be succumbing to the inflated ego of the leader. Getting back at colleagues, for personal reasons, reflects poorly on the character of the leader.
Firing is the easiest weapon to use in the armory of a designated leader. Instead of cultivating available resources towards his thought pattern, the leader starts to set aside, quite foolishly, the otherwise well-known performing teams, within the entity. When the once known and mighty, a status acquired by pure dint of hard work and performance, begin to fall like nine pins, an environment of fear sets in at the operating level.
Fear’s first victim is initiative followed by resignation of all and sundry, towards maintenance of status-quo. Let the sleeping dogs lie, becomes the slogan of the workforce. No new thinking gets underway. Creativity streak of workers gets shelved. An extremely dangerous sense of calm prevails, like the proverbial lull before the storm, which is loaded with potential to backfire upon the strategy of creating a culture of fear. The CEO gets to be in an oblivious state of mind and pretends not feeling the heat of sitting on a powder keg.
I have had the learning opportunity to witness many leaders - CEO’s, who just would not accept the fact that their personal efficacy mattered very little in the growth of the organisation. They just failed to see that it is always the effectiveness of the entire workforce that ensures success. A hardworking CEO, who clocks in long hours, is never a recipe for institution’s success; it is the ability of the CEO to drive the entire team, to do what he wants them to do, and not what they wish to do.
This single facet is the distinguishing feature between a progressive leadership style and a style that promotes few performing members. Newton’s standard response to his recognition and acclaim was; “If I have seen further, it if by standing on the shoulders of giants”. Your team should serve as a stepping stone; no colleague should remain an impediment. The job of the leader is to create an enabling environment.
Leaders, who fail to distinguish and keep a healthy distinction between delegation and abdication, are bound to commit themselves to a painful end. No head of any organisation can abdicate himself/herself from responsibility and accountability that comes his/her way by virtue of regulatory demands, coupled with obligation that stems from personal behavioral standards. Enlightened Leaders know they can delegate any task with adequate authority to execute it, but the consequent results will always remain within the ambit of his responsibility.
Admittedly, humility in a leader is no more a fashionable trait. It is therefore no wonder that we get to see the narcissist, the egoisticals and the maniacs making it easily to the top of the hierarchy. Those, who lack humility, will only be perilously and precariously perched there…and that too for a very short time. Arrogance never pays any positive dividends, to those possessed of it.
Leaders who demonstrate a self-effacing attitude and exhibit a high degree of the sense of humaneness are most likely to be effective leaders-they engage with all staff at an emotional quotient and hence get their unalloyed commitment to his demands for extraordinary performance. These types of CEOs know how to touch the emotional chords of their team members. Nothing begets greater success than an emotional undertaking of tasks assigned. Such leaders have by their side, an engaged team. While it is best to accept that no CEO-Leader will get all the ticks, in all the boxes, but it is important for him to know, where he gets the crosses. Being unaware is suicidal. A good leader believes in creating good followers. This he can do only by nurturing an environment of comfort and fair play. Anything to the contrary will be counterproductive, in the present, as well as in the future.
The writer is a senior banker and a freelance columnis