Leadership has always been a perennial issue because of a related area that is more challenging called followership! In any given group-based situation, there has always been a dearth of followers than leaders. Everyone chooses to believe that they would be the best leader for the group or team. Hence, we have a paradox with many wanting to be the leader and none the follower. This leads to an inherent intra group conflict and thus, neither the team nor its leader are able to effectively achieve the team goals.

Looking at it from a psychological perspective, we grow with this erroneous mindset of win­lose. In the Indian context, leadership has also been assumed based on criteria such as age and seniority and sometimes even status in society. As we realise, one of the most important aspects of a leaders job is to communicate, for many, a preconceived assumption is that communication means talking. Further, the fact that talking is seen as a more superior activity than listening leads to a breed of executives who wish to demonstrate their superiority by speaking out irrespective of whether they are aware of the subject or not. As a consequence, those who speak more often are seen to be holding more power and command over others in the peer group; hence, automatically assuming a leadership status.

This is notwithstanding the fact that there may be very few willing listeners. Thus, there is always a continuous effort to upstage the existing leader and grab the leadership position. Thus, the leader instead of using his skills to improve group performance is more than often worried about protecting his position and retaining it. This affects the progress of any team or group drastically. The feeling of insecurity in the leader restricts him from developing potential leaders who could take over from him over a period of time. Thus, the team becomes a parking ground for mediocre people who do not perform and power seeking despots who wish to grab the leader’s position. As a consequence, the leader neither contributes nor develops new leaders, leading to stagnancy and redundancy.

Whilst the debate continues about whether leaders are born or made, it is now a widely accepted fact that leaders can be developed. The first premise that we need to accept is that leadership development is a step by step process that could last for a period of at least five years. The first step would be to indentify the top performers with the right set of attitudes and catch them young to groom them appropriately. Such talent indentified could go through a process of planned job rotations, specialised training sessions, be allotted a mentor and enable them learn the leadership lessons early enough. The second step would be to then follow it up with key postings and turnkey assignments where they could demonstrate their leadership skills.We must ensure that such projects should be chosen where we could have different leaders for different projects; thus, ensuring the concept of situational leadership which allows for a leadership status based on expertise and not other factors such as seniority and qualifications. The young leaders here learn the essence of followership as much as they do about leadership. The company is developing a top management talent pool that could be mentored to become future leaders.

The leadership dilemmas could be easy solved by appropriate and meaningful interventions by HR such as creating a conducive work culture, giving importance to the overall personality development of employees, and developing a robust career planning system for every employee that could be the basic input for the succession planning process.

Source: Mirror

Date: 8/07/2015


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