Business leadership is a difficult proposition and a topic that is hotly discussed and debated in the corporate world and academia. People would like to know why some people are more successful than others as leaders. Although, success or failure is not constant. The success of leadership is dependent on various factors including the traits of leaders, the skill and will levels of the followers, the task-in-hand, the environmental components, and time available to achieve the goals.
Leaders lead people and motivate, guide, and inspire them to work individually and collectively for achievement of organizational goals. Leaders are expected to communicate, monitor, provide feedback, and manage teams and organisations with a clear sense of purpose and direction.
Business leaders lead and operate in eco-systems where in the environmental components change with tremendous speed. The changes vary in nature and context, and they follow no specific patterns. In today’s competitive times, the leaders can neither take their positions for granted nor show complacency based on their past successes. In fact, a bit of nervous sense of insecurity is good as it keeps the leaders and the followers on their toes. It makes them respectful and be mindful to the signals emanating from the environment, internal as well as external.
Change is the only constant. But unclear and frequently changing goals keep the team members confused. They are not able to focus on any specific target and the sense of direction gets lost. As a result, the overall, efficiency and effectiveness of the team suffers. When the goals are frequently modified and completely changed without any reason, the teams go into a state of paralysis. The drive and the sense of purpose go missing. It has been noticed in organisations and teams where the leaders frequently change the goal posts, the team members are in a state of constant confusion and leads to demotivation.
A few leaders think that they have answers to all the questions and do not develop a culture of sharing, discussing, and analysing issues, challenges, and solutions. How can they expect people
to feel motivated and see the opportunities and threats as their own? They, simply put, do their jobs, mechanically without any commitments. Lack of participation does not generate any sense of ownership among the team members. Such teams have members but as if they are people without any soul. They go about their jobs without any feeling, commitment, and urgency.
The leaders need to have visions and workable gameplans and it is imperative for them to transfer their visions or dreams to the followers. If the leader is not able to communicate and achieve a buy-in from the team members, achievement of objectives becomes a complicated proposition as there is no sense of purpose for such teams. A common shared purpose is a must to keep the people glued together and to ensure that the actions and performances of individuals and teams are all well aligned. In the absence of any shared vision, people would move in different directions and that would lead to inefficiencies, disagreements, and conflict situations.
There are leaders who allow groupism and parochial feelings run amok in their organisations by either being too tolerant to negative vibes within their organisations or actively supporting and encouraging a few over others. People start operating in silos and the team spirit goes for a toss. The zing factor evaporates, and teams start focusing on non-issues and thrives on trivia, gossips, and finding villains among themselves. This is a recipe for disaster!
Weak and unsuccessful business leaders expect the team members to drive business growth despite not sticking to the promises and commitments that they themselves make from time to time. Many of them make commitments but don’t even bother to remember them as they try and use false promises for temporary adrenalin rush in their people. Such behaviours lead to erosion of their own credibility and destroys the bond that exists between the leaders and followers.
The team members cannot be expected to stick to timelines and be counted and accountable if the leaders show a casual attitude towards time frames. There are business leaders who pay lip service to deadlines but they themselves exhibit a lackluster commitment to the set dates and targets. Lack of discipline creates a culture of almost zero accountability. In such organisations, people work only when the boss is watching; it is party time for them when they are not being closely supervised and observed.
Leaders come in all forms. There is no one specific type and character. Close observation of many leaders has shown that they may have a clear vision of what they want to achieve but some of them operationally focus more on the peripheral activities and ignore the core of their business model. Those peripheral parts of the business could also be important, but they don’t deserve all the resources, including time and efforts, invested on them. For example, instead of focusing on the quality of services and developing customer base, many would devote all their energies on finalising the font type and colour of a not-so-important poster for a social media post. Many devote weeks and months discussing the minute details of who gets what access of their CRM systems. Undoubtedly, CRM could be a critical tool but cannot be treated as the beginning and
end of our business models. Yes, such a decision is also vital to business management, but it cannot be treated as an end in itself.
Many leaders have no time for developing the right set of values, beliefs, customs, and ethos. They ignore the strength of the positive collective values and standards. In fact, many leaders through their act of omission and commission weaken organisational culture by ignoring negativities, unethical practices, and focusing on the end results without caring for the methods and activities used. They are either ignorant or incapable of harnessing the elements of a positive organisational culture. They are too engrossed in their own ideas and in themselves. They encourage loyalty to themselves and not to the organisational values and objectives; they would rather build their own image instead of organisational reputation; they are invested in their personal relationships even at the cost of organisational equity. Many of these leaders are shortsighted and are incapable or unwilling to change. Their organisations stink of favouritism and parochialism. They are too weak to take harsh decisions when required and their personal ego is more important than the larger good of the organisation.
Many weaker leaders fail to understand that leadership is not only about making sugar coated statements. One must take strong and difficult decisions if the situations so demand.
A common issue with several leaders who are in leadership positions relates to a lack of strategic perspective. They are not able to synthesise varied information and inputs that they receive. These leaders are not capable of looking at the emerging and clear patterns amidst the chaotic environment. They keep getting engaged in small skirmishes and ignore the big battles. They are myopic and are not clear of their long-term road map.
Many of these weak leaders forget the basic lesson that all of us are being reminded of since our school days i.e., communication is not only about talking. They do not listen. They are not open to feedback from others. Even when they are pretending to listen to others, they are making sure that nothing sinks in. They are also deaf to the varied noises in the internal and external environment.
Business leaders must have crystal clear strategies. In several cases, it has been found that the visions and the strategies are also not their own. They take a few points from someone else; a handful of elements from someone else’s strategies and prepare a concoction. Their visions are not original. Their strategies are not comprehensive enough. Borrowed ideas and borrowed strategies cannot deliver great results.
Business leaders do not operate in vacuum, and they must always be willing to learn, unlearn, and relearn. Confidence is required but arrogance could be lethal. Past laurels are no guarantee for a brighter future. Your people are the most important of all the resources and, at the same time, they are the most difficult to manage and lead. Before the leaders lead others, they need to lead themselves with openness, transparency, honesty, determination, and willingness to learn.
Leaders must endeavour to build trust with their team members and stakeholders. Committed, talented, and motivated people who are willing to take initiatives can do wonders. Groom and empower your intrapreneurs; they will lead your organisations.