Leadership: A Conscious Choice

Prof Dr. Uday S... | July 17,2012 10:07 am IST

Nature or nurture is a hotly and often debated, when discussing leadership. Leadership is a competency that can be honed and developed over the years, irrespective of the starting point! .

None of us is born with leadership friendly genes. However, the combination of ur inherent natural psychological orientation, with nurturance through different experiences/development contexts/experiences, leads to the unfolding of our dominant( primary) leadership style.


Some personality traits could accelerate people gravitating faster and naturally into leadership roles, though this is not a condition precedent. At times, an event of extraordinary challenge (catastrophic, dilemma resolution) could generate the sufficient escape velocity for an otherwise ordinary person to display extraordinary behavior. While risng to the occasion, the person is able to experience leadership developmental breakthrough, reflected in the actions and behaviours displayed- that might have remained dormant till then.

People- you and me included- can choose to become leaders, by exhibiting leadership behaviours and connected actions. Such behaviours and actions could be deployed for enhancing his/her self awareness and /or inspiring others with an engaging Vision -to chart the course of future events . Leadership is a process and need not necessarily mean that it is to be exhibited by the pyramidal leader. We choose to become a leader-in family, workplace, community contexts and/or during a crisis. Great leadership is a matter of conscious choice. Hence, Dr Stephen Covey has stated in , quite presciently, Leadership is action. Not Position.

The Managing process and hence those who manage ( the Manager) primary quest is to plan, monitor and control work/related outputs, through supporting the team members- towards higher levels of efficiency and effectiveness. A Manager is expected to provide the resource and other contexts, for people in his team to successfully accomplish their jobs. One of the challenges however , Managers face, is their limited ability to create psychological context for team members to excel. This is due to the way Managers are selected, trained and/or choose to remain within circle of formal authority. When a Manager chooses to enhance his/her circle of influence, he is entering into the spaces of leadership . Leadership, reflected in Management ,means caring about the personal and professional growth of others- instead of only your own- as in the latters success, is the formers growth and wellbeing. That is why Gallup, a leading Employee engagement measurement specialist, says, People join companies. They leave bosses.

Daniel Goleman, the internationally renowned psychologist and the author of Emotional Intelligence divides leadership traits into two broad categories: a) Self Management Skills and b) Ability to relate to others.

The hypothesis is that leaders must first look inwards and be in control of themselves before they step out to try and comprehend leading others. He says that , Self Awareness - Self Regulation - Motivation - as well as Empathy (combined with Social Skills) are the traits that are necessary to build rapport with others and channelize the latter to work together towards a common goal.


While intrinsic motivation spring from ur inner software OR termed as Passion, not all of us are born with good social skills/develop mastery. However, these social skills can be developed, through observation of skilled practitioners, identify acceptable norms in a context, and what is effective. In the 21st century, ones authority would stem from from what one says and does, not from whom one is. Leaders will communicate with people, not to people. The best leader will be the one who has developed superior competence in identifying, developing, listening shaping and empowering others. A leader knows that his team is important to him and that everyone expects to share the experience of being a contributor. This perspective and slant, enables multiple channels of communication to coexist & unfold, resulting in the development of higher order and nuanced patterns of leadership and teaming.

Most Managers know what to expect from direct reports, set goals and objectives, review and reward performance. However, with this focus, the tendency is to deepen micro-management, which is resented by the team members and the Managers leadership development flight is aborted!!!. Transformational leaders are more charismatic. They have, the power to vision, courage to stay focused, instill pride, respect and trust in the team. Great leadership always starts with a Vision and the team then learns to live the same, with persistence, resilience and inspiration.


The transformational leader ignites enthusiasm, excitement for the vision, the shape and contours of his/her dreams - with the team - and also takes pains to articulate how success will look like for the whole and for each one of the team members. He invites and encourages them to participate, by keeping the level of optimism high. This type of leadership travels unexplored/differently structured/unexpected paths- keeping the longer term goal in mind- and hence takes risks. The key is movement, plan-do-reflect, revise Plan, decisive action... Through these routines, he increases the area of his authority( stemming from personal power and influence)- beyond his team, beyond the realms of the immediate organization, towards larger contexts, including engagement with society. Right blend of dynamism, creativity and sensitivity-in simultaneity- to global social, political, economic and environmental issues are some of the qualities consistently engaged with by transformational leaders.

In the past, Business leaders saw change as their most pressing challenge. Today, the complexity of operating in an increasingly volatile and uncertain world is their primary challenge and they feel uneasy and at times, driving with foggy windscreens- unable to completely understand the discontinuous changes playing itself out in our world. Transformational leaders are comfortable with unforeseen challenges thrown up by ambiguity and are open to experimentation. They look forward to connect and inspire a new generation; they lead and interact in entirely new ways. They creatively realign operations; work with speed to optimise resources to create newer products, services and consumer interface.

Leaders in the 21st century know that the accelerated pace of globalization will bring rapid change; it will constantly throw up new opportunities as well as threats and new priorities will have to be defined. Today's successful leader is decisive, passionate, challenges statusquo / convention and is also willing to go on the offensive--against the competition (using contrarian assumptions) and weaknesses within self, organization etc. He keeps a focus on maintaining and building trust within and outside the organization .In the times of crisis, people grow insecure, fearful and skeptical. It is up to leaders to motivate and inspire their teams to achieve greater heights for themselves, their organizations, for their country and for the world.




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