Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Unreasonable Leadership

These are some excerpts from my mentor on leadership from his experience and success over a period of 20 years in IT Industry.  The definition of leadership is simply difficult to state. However, it is not very difficult to state the terms of leadership.

There are four pillars of leadership at very high level.

1.       Top Line  (Revenue Growth)
2.       Bottom Line (Profit Growth)
3.       C-Sat (Customer Satisfaction)
4.       E-Sat (Employee Satisfaction)

Though, all the four parameters are distinct and extremely important to deal with - these are very much interconnected. One has to be extremely careful in considering the change in any of these aspects as the impact will be severe in at least one of the other aspects in the worst possible manner. Any of the promises that a leader makes in any of these aspects will have impact over the other parameters either positively or negatively or both.  This is a vicious cycle and each aspect of it needs to be dealt in very precise manner.

Leadership is neither a position nor a designation. It’s the style as to how a person leads his/her team. Unarguably, the progress of a leader depends on the progress of his/her team. Leadership is not getting success/failure, it’s the journey of the entire team to the success/failure. The true challenge for any leader is to make this journey most fascinating and worthwhile for all the stakeholders without compromising any of the above four parameters.  It is easier said than done, however, there are lot of leaders who achieved it and showed to the world by creating  products/services which the world would never have been in existence otherwise.

Three Important aspects to consider for a leader to be successful : 

First - The Obvious, The central aspect of the four pillars is Customer Satisfaction which also results in all the other three pillars.  Building trust with the customers is the key for any business and taking it to a different level is the business of the leader. The era is gone where we deliver what the customer needs. This may build a professional relationship between the two entities as it did in past decade for most of the businesses. Ownership of the product/service and providing excellence by working relentlessly within the business boundaries and giving the customers a wow factor for every release is what builds trust. The only way it can happen is by building a team who believes in Innovation as a process and not just a task. By giving a new function - improved performance or enhanced stability or compatibility with all browsers or simple to use User Interface which is not part of what the user gave as a requirement. This kind of proactive ability to help the product/service builds trust which otherwise takes decades to build. This helps the client ignore escalating petty issues and request the team to help them in a gentle manner. It is the job of the leader to make it happen, not by dictating terms but by being part of that process and making the team believe in this divine aspect and considering it as the only way to go forward both for them and for the entire business as an entity.  

Second - The Conviction, of the leader in everything he talk about and everything he does for achieving those four pillars. The leader is not an authoritarian and a delegator of tasks but is an extended member of the team and is a facilitator in the entire journey.  He should help the team develop the same conviction he/she has by being part of the team in all activities possible.  The team is a web and everybody knows one or the other way - even the slightest of actions which are not in align with the envisioned thought process.  Knowing the pulse of the team in a most constructive manner is the best means of understanding and correcting oneself by making the team part of the decision making directly or indirectly. It gives them a sense of belongingness and ownership to the entire mission. By being genuine to each and every team member and by making them believe that they are secure with their future in the organization with this team.  By building a team where one can say "I am very proud of my team, they know what they need to do to handle an uncertain situation or approaching me to handle the situation" is what a leader strives for.   (Please read  'The Power of Intent' a HBR Blog post by HCL CEO - Vineet Nayar :

Third - The most important of all and the toughest to keep the four pillars intact is to be unreasonable for taking any excuses for handling a situation or solving a problem. One should be tough enough to say that it is not acceptable to give an excuse and skip the process of resolving the situation. This should not be done by giving orders but by being with the team in the entire process of resolving it, helping the team with the required resources & time and by shielding the team from any other external pressures. It is this support during the challenges which ensures the team learns to challenge the challenges and handle them to become confident about themselves. This is the period which genuinely builds trust for the client with the belief that the team is here to provide excellence with the product/service that they are building.  This not only makes the team tough but also the result provides great belief within the team and in the circle of entire stakeholders about pursuing excellence.  (Quitting Versus Not Quitting - a beautiful poem which the leaders are made up of: )

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