Winning-Take 2

This post is in continuation to my earlier post on Winning-Take 1. Earlier, I wanted to go one chapter at a time, which I like but now, I am going to pick chapters as I feel about it. So, the chapter of the discussion will be random but at the end of this series, I feel I am going to share a lot of myths and usual working professional style in conjunction with the book.

We are going to concentrate Take 2 on “Leadership”, one of the most confused and badly defined word in today’s corporate world. Well, we will first point out the the different traits the book discusses as the defining characteristics of “Leadership” and then discuss them all putting the present scenario around and break some of the common myths that we see around. Before that, let me be very clear, all managers are not at all “leaders” but all leaders are definitely good managers. This statement makes us ask why there is a question on “managers”. Well, because in the corporate world, unfortunately managers (or sometimes, Leads such as Project Leads, Team Leads) are named as leaders. I am sure one would have encountered a statement like this too often, “we choose to decide Mr. XXX to lead the team. Again, a wrong word all in all. It should be “manage” and sometimes, it just remains to few predetermined guidelines with no power at all. At times, I have heard my friends say to me, I don’t know what’s wrong with Mr. ABC. He was a good guy till he became a manager. Now, he feels as if like he owns us. In other terms, Hitler left his hierarchy as attitude of managers.

According to Jack Welch, the following traits define a leader:

  1. Leaders relentlessly upgrade their team, using every encounter as an opportunity to evaluate, coach, and build self-confidence.
  2. Leaders make sure people not only see the vision, they live and breathe it.
  3. Leaders get into everyone’s skin, exuding positive energy and optimism.
  4. Leaders establish trust with candor, transparency, and credit.
  5. Leaders have the courage to make unpopular decisions and gut calls.
  6. Leaders probe and push with a curiosity that borders on skepticism, making sure their questions are answered with action.
  7. Leaders inspire risk taking and learning by setting the example.
  8. Leaders celebrate.

Let us consider point 1. Three points become prominent here: Leaders evaluate, coach and finally, build self-confidence. Evaluate what? Evaluate making sure right people are in the right jobs, supporting and advancing those who are. There is an issue here in advancing. In my short career span, I have seen a lot of highly talented people going mediocre because his/her manager does not care about him. The general statement is: one is paid for doing something in the job, no matter it is a routine job. Well, be careful when you hear these words. These are kind of “signals”, signals that convey that you are at the wrong place and with a wrong person. Once evaluated, Leaders Coach, helping people improve in every way possible. And finally but most importantly, Leaders build self-confidence poring out encouragement, caring and recognition. Why point is important is that too many managers limit the people development to annual performance review and sometimes, just in discussions rather than being open in with the comparisons. Many times I have heard that don’t compare yourself, but then I have one question for all those: when one is given 4/10 and 9/10 in performance, then it makes me hard to believe one has not been compared because for simple reason that it is not a Mathematics course test, where you multiply right to get the right answer immaterial of what.

Point 2: Vision. This is one characteristics that will differentiate the leader from usual managers. Leaders possess visions and they don’t fear to communicate it. I feel visions should be loud and loud enough that everyone hears it. But no vision in worth the paper it’s printed on unless it is communicated constantly and reinforced with rewards. Only then will it leap off the page and come to life. Please don’t confuse vision with “deadlines” or “expectations”. We will take about them sometime later. Vision is something a leader visualizes for the benefit of the whole group for a long term. Visions can make a simple manager CEO and its group as the star performing group of the organization. And of course, please don’t confuse it with number of years that one has to stay with the organization. Generally, when an organization grows to a big size, the general rule dictates one has to stay for x years to be at Y position. This is not vision. Vision is something that will break these borders, redefining the rules of the game by setting news standards and if a general rule is x years, then in x-z years, one gets the position, where z is a substantial period.

Point 3: There is an old saying, “The fish rots from the head”. It’s mainly used to refer to how politics and corruption filter down into an organization, but it could just as easily be used to describe the effect of a bad attitude at the top of any team, large or small. Eventually, everyone’s infected. An upbeat manager goes through the day with a positive outlook somehow ends uo running a team or organization filled with…well, upbeat people with positive outlooks. A pessimistic sourpuss somehow ends up with an unhappy tribe all his own. The right attitude makes a manager leader.

Point 4: With Indian attitude, becoming a manager (or so called leader) is a real power trip. Probably, more than an individual, it is our society that has imbibed this attitude but the issue is we resist to change. Such people relish the feeling of control over both people and information. And so, they keep secrets, reveal little of their thinking about people and their performance, and hoard what they know about the business and its future. With this attitude, they forget that leaders are leaders because people feel strongly about their leadership skills and not because someone is a Manager by the tag name. Trust plays a major role here but honestly, you know it when you feel it. It is that simple. Most importantly, leaders take responsibility for what’s gone wrong and generously pass around the praise. To be a good leader, never forget you weren’t give an crown, you were give a responsibility to bring out the best in others. For that, your people need to trust you. And they will, as long as you demonstrate candor, give credit and stay real.

Point 5: Leaders don’t fear to make tough calls because they don’t consider themselves to be in a popularity contest. I feel one’s gut feelings play a very important role here.

Point 6: When you are an individual contributor, you try to have all the answers. That’s your job – to be an expert, the best at what you do, maybe even the smartest person in the room. When you are a loeader, you job is to have all the questions. You have to incredibly confortable looking like the dumbest person in the room. Every conversation you have, must have “What if?” and “Why not?” and “How come?”. Questioning alone, however, is not enough. You have to make sure your questions unleash debate and raise issues that get action. At the same time, what distinguishes a leader from a manager is leaders know that saying something doesn’t mean it will happen.

Point 7: Winning companies embrace risk taking and learning. But in reality, these two concepts often get lip service – and little else. Too many managers urge their people to try new things, and then whack them in the head when they fail. And too many live in not-invented-here wordls of their own making. Leader set examples themselves if they their people to experiment and expand their minds.

Point 8: What is it about celebrating that makes managers so nervous? Maybe throwing a party doesn’t seem professional, or it makes managers worry that they won’t look serious to the powers that be, or that, if things get too happy at the office, people will stop working their tails off. One another eason is as if like they are spending fro their own pocket for the celebration. Whatever be the reason, there is just not enough celebrating going on at work – anywhere. What a lost opportunity. Celebrating makes people feel like winners and creates an atmosphere of recognition and positive energy. Imagine a cricket team winning the World Cup without champagne spraying everywhere. You just can’t! And yet companies win all the time and let it go without so much as a high five. Work is too much part of life not to recognize moments of achievement. Grab as many as you can. Make a big deal out of them. If you don’t no one will.

To summarize, the beat leaders care passionately about their people – about their growth and success. And we can find them comfortable in their own skins. They are real, filled with candor and integrity, optimism and humanity. Please don’t fall into the trap that leadership happens one day when one becomes a boss and gets the power to change the rules.

Disclaimer: In no form, the above perceptions can be related to any particular individual or organization. In case done so, I take no responsibility and the firm/individual will be doing so for its own insecurity, thus, proving the negative effects mentioned being followed by themselves.

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