‘Leadership is understanding people and involving them to help you do a job. That takes all of the good characteristics, like integrity, dedication of purpose, selflessness, knowledge, skill, implacability, as well as determination not to accept failure.’ – Admiral Arleigh A. Burke
Evolution of leadership
The concept of leadership is as old/ancient as the human beings themselves. The leadership has been pervasive when more than two persons were alive simultaneously – one being a leader and the other, a follower. But still, the leadership had not attained a stature to the extent it is expected today. Man (and more so, woman) by nature has the instinct to dominate, rule and lead the other. The rulers of the past have been accepted by the people as leaders whether they were pro- or anti-people out of favour or fear. This has, over a period of time, evolved as a concept of leadership. Leadership is all about inspiring the people to do an act, not through coercion but through motivation and persuasion. It is described by few as manipulation or exploitation of ignorance or weakness of one another.
As Warren Bennis puts it succinctly, ‘A new leader has to be able to change an organisation that is dreamless, soulless and visionless … someone’s got to make a wake up call”, a leader has an onerous task of rejuvenating the entire team by setting himself as an example to explore newer paths of performance. The B-Schools and leading management institutes vie with one another in producing a number of managers who play per book but hardly a few of them emerge as business leaders. Managers are thrust on the people by the managements, but leadership is a trusted one and thrust on an individual. Managers operate within the set norms and boundaries, whereas the leaders think solutions beyond boundaries. That is why a big organisation has usually more managers at the middle and a few leaders at the top.
The leaders have all the traits to impress their peers and subordinates and have a say in the organization, not born out of authority but out of authenticity and acceptance. He internalises the golden rules of business like planning, organising, monitoring, etc., and brings in cultural paradigms into focus with a professional stewardship by transforming the task environment into a performance-based ambience by redefining the work style and cultural reorientation. He willingly faces all the facets of occupational hazards, be it good, bad or ugly, and emerges as a value-based, charismatic leader adorned by all. In the context of global competitiveness, organisations of late need more ‘global leaders and visionaries’ and not mere managers. He anticipates uncertainties and acts proactively. For him, emotional intelligence and quotient play a critical and vital role than knowledge quotient which could be easily attained. For him, making the impossible as possible is child’s play as well as a challenge.
He encourages his mates to experiment new things and be creative in their problem-solving initiatives. The techniques for people to quickly and thoroughly scan for values and prioritise based on importance, ensure top values are always embedded in the system of operations et al. are some of the ingredients of an effective leader. For him, self-introspection through SWOT analysis periodically is an ongoing process. He plans and sets high standards of performance, benchmarking the same for others to emulate and replicate. Building relationships, spotting latent potential, sharing the task and as well the credits due thereon, retaining talents and enhancing and engaging the innate capabilities with ambition and drive are some of the virtues of an effective leader. He is respected not only within the organisation but also outside in the society.
He proves by action that ‘when the going gets tough, the tough gets going’ and emerges as successful. He could be judged on how he handles failures and behaves in crisis. ‘No pain, no gain; nothing ventured, nothing gained’ are some of his in-built maxims and he is not a desk-potato but a field marshall. He believes in Charles Darwin’s saying, ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives or the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change’ and hence believes in change and injects it in his team and is prepared always for the unexpected. He could effortlessly convert resistance into support by constant interaction and persuasion and energises peers as catalysts. People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. . . The leader works in the open, and the boss in covert. The leader leads, and the boss drives. Participative management provides opportunities for people to perceive the role and functions of the leaders and acquire the skill-sets and thus emerge as future leaders. A true leader does not make his position or presence indispensable in the organisation but puts system in place so that it moves on even in his absence. The standards he sets in are for others to emulate and excel.
The concept of leadership has been undergoing metamorphosis from time to time based on the evolution of change in the environment and as a result, leaders with strategic designs emerge to lead people in the contemporary world. While political leaders are devoid of any basic tenets by sacrificing everything for their survival, the same cannot be attributed in the case of business and social leaders who have defined objectives and need to have ethical and moral doctrines for a longer period of time so as to establish their name and leave an indelible mark in their domain of operations.