My Leadership Agenda for 2015 – Part 2

Are we consciously establishing institutional legacy through definitive Leadership Practices?


In my previous post on this topic, I had posed specific issues that are plaguing Leadership across Boards / Corporations. Having understood the nature of issues confronting leaders, I now share the specific directives and steps leaders need to consciously take to bring sustainable, enduring change.

So what ails the current Leadership Framework and what can leaders consciously do to establish a strong institutional legacy and culture?

My Top 10 points that should define the agenda for Leaders and Corporations to focus on are as follows –

  1. Total Leadership – It is important for Leaders to first undergo “Mental Orbit Shift” to become successful change agents. Leaders will be better served by wearing different hats for different occasions – ‘Motivator’, ‘Manager’ and ‘Maker’. Each role brings different sets of competencies to the front and needs to be judiciously used. Leaders need to reinvent themselves and have to undergo several changes as required to deal with each situation and individual in a specific manner. Uni-dimensional leadership is history.
  2. Enduring Credibility – Biggest issue facing Leadership today is one of “Credibility” of its own actions. Leadership at the highest level is about demonstrating decisiveness, moral courage and integrity – it pays dividend to be morally upright every time, at all points in time, across all situations and across hierarchy. One cannot play favourites on this front. Leaders need to invest in personal equity through the harder, longer road. There are no shortcuts here
  3. Purpose Principles – Purpose is the fuel that drives our life engine, both as corporations and individuals – ‘Purpose is Life’. Purpose of Existence defines who we are, what’s our philosophy and what represents our core identity. An institution without Purpose is like an anchorless and rudderless ship that just floats around without meaning or substance. Leaders need to realize without purpose, they are just playing for luck.
  4. Go Long Go Deep – Today’s world is charaterised by myopic vision leading to short term orientation and decisions. This singular malaise has corroded our thinking cells to an extent wherein everyone expects instant gratification in terms of results, outcomes and benefits. To see enduring results and play for the high stakes, it is important to have a foundation that is deep and farsighted enough to make provisions for adjustments that are likely to come by during the course of a journey. Leadership needs to readjust their ‘scopes’ and sharpen focus on long term decisions and mental orientation.
  5. First Principles – Basic rule of any high quality ideation is – never make any assumptions. What appears to work today is already dated and be aware that it is functioning on borrowed time. Rate of obsolescence of an existing idea (however good it may appear) happens at a pace sharper and exponential than Moore’s Law. Leaders need to realize this basic rule and ensure they encourage disruptive thinking and ideation across all levels of corporation. First Principles represents this thinking and which has become main street courtesy Elon Musk who is a great exponent of this thinking practice.
  6. Exploration Mindset – One of the greatest test (acid test, if I may) of Leadership is how they treat and define failure. Ability to encourage and motivate teams to overcome fear of failure through a prescribed process is extremely crucial and priceless. It is this ability that sets up a culture of innovation and prepares individuals and corporations to be on the cutting edge of constant exploration. Leaders need to quickly learn and realize that they are only as good as their last credible exploration.
  7. Frugal Innovation – Innovation is a much bandied about term these days. It is assumed that innovation by definition involves deep resources and infinite capacities. I am afraid this could be not be any further from the truth. Frugality is the mother of all innovation. True innovation is about aligning competencies, existing resources, immense belief and a strong ‘can do’ mindset. Leaders need to cultivate a couture that seeks to judiciously and intelligently bring diverse competencies and resources together and create self-compression ecosystem that will disgorge invaluable ideas.
  8. Gamification Approach – Excellence is pursuit of internal motivations – passion and belief in making a positive difference. Current breed of high performers are looking for purposeful engagement beyond the standard trappings of a high paying job. This is where Gamification Thinking comes in. This is about applying game mechanics and game design technique to engage and motivate people to reach their objectives. Forward looking leaders globally are now increasingly turning towards Gamification techniques to motivate and fire up the passion of their teams.
  9. Holacracy Setup – Holacracy, an upcoming leadership paradigm, offers a comprehensive model for structuring, governing and running enterprises in a purposeful and meaningful manner. It moves away from the current command-and-control management system in a way that Purpose becomes the anchor point of corporation’s and leader’s objectives. Corporations such as Zappos have embraced this culture and are benefiting from it immensely. We need to encourage our leaders to start adopting this practice sooner than later.
  10. Open Collaboration – When was the last time you truly collaborated? This is not about getting a few individuals with diverse backgrounds into a room and expecting miracles. Collaboration happens only when we have deeply engaged people bound together by a common and shared set of objectives. And this collaboration does not happen in isolation in a garage – it happens when the Thinkers, Adopters, Makers and Users come together on a common platform. What we then have is sheer magic. It is this purposeful engagement that seems to be missing from our collaboration efforts. Leaders need to see this signal much earlier so that priceless time, efforts and resources can be channelised for superior outcomes.

Active Engagement and Communication with stakeholder community will form the bulwark for the Leadership Agenda 2015

While it would my endeavour to encourage leaders to focus on the above 10 Point agenda, Leaders and Corporations will do well to focus on some basic issues as well. In the age and time that we live in, it is important to treat all constituents of our stakeholder community (not just shareholder, who to a large extent is very well taken care of) with compassion, respect and dignity. This means, putting stakeholder engagement back on the prime business table of the Leadership and ensuring they are not only doing good, but are seen / heard to be doing good.

This means apart from being decisive and action oriented, Leaders need to exhibit deep empathy and reflections for stakeholders. Further it is imperative they frequently communicate through myriad channels that are available (offline and online) these days on the specific forward looking engagements that have been taken by the Board. This makes for credible, accountable and communicative leadership that believes in empowering the constituency through active engagement.

It is clear that corporations and leaders who are committed to develop, design and execute an integrated, holistic and cross-level Leadership Ecosystem will make significant advancement and headway in establishing a Breakout Business paradigm. This is very much achievable and is waiting to be leveraged and exploited to unleash the true potential of people, processes and systems. This needs radical changes to our current approach and challenge the established paradigm and assumptions that form the basis of our decisions. In the VUCA environment that we live in, these 10 Points for Leadership Agenda will provide the necessary leadership strength to future ready our businesses.

May the force (and the Leadership) be with you.

Building Vanguard Leaders For The New Economy

Alamy Images

Alamy Images

Leadership and corporations need to do deep introspection and redirect their moral compass to business issues beyond immediacy of profits. The need of the hour is to transform leadership wherein people are encouraged to go beyond call of duty and engage in responsible behaviour that establishes real world people connections and help them realise their true inner potential

The last 20 years has seen rapid erosion of leadership values in blind pursuit of short term profits.  For long there has been serious erosion of intent and authenticity in how Boards have governed institutions that they are supposed to protect and nurture leadership and governance structures. The ‘destruction rate’ of institutional moral fabric is a direct outcome of linking leadership compensation structures to a culture of greed. This has propagated a vicious cycle and blindsided leadership to the pitfalls of short termism and instant gratification.

Leadership priorities and expectations need to be seen through the lens of long term decisions that help establish enduring business institutions.  Great leaders can intuitively connect their actions to the social impact of doing business. They understand building enduring businesses requires emotional maturity, impulse control and the ability to eschew instant gratification; something similar to the famous Marshmallow Test that was propounded by Stanford University in 1960s.

Strong leadership believes in the gift of reason and demonstrates courage to take decisions that have far reaching implications on societies in general and corporations in particular. They realize that decisions made today will irrevocably alter the business mindset and cultural fabric of businesses, people and therefore by extension society. It is here they demonstrate attention to a higher call that establishes personal equity and reputation through value systems. They understand that values lead to value creation

The need of the hour is to transform leadership priorities wherein people are encouraged to go beyond call of duty and demonstrate behaviour that establishes courage and conviction in doping the right things. It is about real world connections and help people in realising their true inner potential. This can only happen when individuals start introspecting about their “Purpose”.

Question is – are we prepared to bring this transformation for a better tomorrow?