Friday, 27 January 2012

Leadership Series - Part 2

This Part of the series will explore the different leadership styles and their respective effectiveness in a given situation. As I had emphasised in Part 1, leadership is situational and it is important to understand that leaders should be able to:
  • recognise the different demands of each situation; 
  • develop flexibility to be able to draw on the style that is most appropriate for the situation; and
  • adapt frequently and meet one’s own needs.

The main leadership challenge that arises is in adapting the natural leadership style to a different one based on the demands of the situation while maintaining a balance with one's own needs.

This is none more obvious than in the situation of coalition politics where the demands of the situation is conflicted with one’s own needs or preference.

It is, therefore, essential to anwer these questions:
  • What is your natural leadership style? 
  • What leadership style does the situation demand? 
  • What do you have to do to be a successful leader?
Leadership demands finding the right balance between both your natural leadership style and the style demanded by the situation. Not only do you need to recognise your own strengths and exploit them, but you also have to adapt your style to different situations frequently in order to be effective. 

Leadership Styles

There are many classifications of leadership styles but they can be broadly categorised into the following:

1. Authoritarian, Dictatorial, Autocratic
2. Participative, Consultative,  Democratic
3. Delegative, Laissez Faire, Collaborative
4. Bureaucratic, Rule bound, Process focussed
5. Charismatic, Transformational, Inspirational

Authoritarian, Dictatorial , Autocratic

The leaders tell their employees what they want done and how they want it accomplished, without getting the advice of their followers. Some of the appropriate conditions to use this style is when you have all the information to solve the problem, you are short on time, and your employees are well motivated. This style is also well suited in dealing with emergencies or crisis or in conflicts where the leader has to direct actions.

Some people tend to think of this style as a vehicle for yelling, using demeaning language, intimidating the team, using their administrative authority to harass the staff, leading by threats and abusing their power.

This is not the authoritarian style, rather it is an abusive, unprofessional and unethical style also called “bossing people around.” It has no place in a leader's repertoire and is often resorted to by some to neurotic or insecure managers.

Participative, Consultative, Democratic

This style involves the leader including employees in the decision making process (determining what to do and how to do it). However, the leader maintains the final decision making authority. This not only increases job satisfaction by involving team members, but it also helps to develop people's skills. Team members feel in control of their own destiny, so they're motivated to work hard by more than just a financial reward. Using this style is of mutual benefit — it allows them to become part of the team and allows you to make better decisions.
Because participation takes time, this approach can take longer, but often the end result is better. The approach can be most suitable when working as a team is essential, and when quality is more important than speed to market, or productivity. 

Delegative, Mentoring or Laissez faire 

In this style, the leader allows the employees to make the decisions. However, the leader is still responsible for the decisions that are made. This is used when employees are able to analyze the situation and determine what needs to be done and how to do it. The leader sets the priorities, milestones and takes on a monitoring / mentoring role.

This style is adopted in highly creative organisations or functions and is very effective. Organisations in the IT sector, media, advertising etc. predominantly apply this style.
Delegation does not mean that the leader is absolved of the responsibility nor can the leader blame others when things go wrong. Rather this is a style to be used when the leader has full trust and confidence in the team. The leader continues to be responsible for the actions and hence it is important that interim milestones are established to ensure that the program or task is on course.

Most often, laissez-faire leadership is effective when individual team members are very experienced and skilled self-starters.

Bureaucratic leadership

This style is often associated with red tape or civil service. Believe you me, even this style has a place and relevance!

Bureaucratic leaders work "by the book”. They follow rules rigorously, and ensure that their employees follow the procedures precisely. This is a very appropriate style for work involving serious safety risks (such as working with machinery, with toxic substances, or at dangerous heights) or chemical plants, Inland Revenue etc.

Charismatic leadership

A charismatic leadership style can seem similar to transformational leadership, because these leaders inspire lots of enthusiasm in their teams and are very energetic in driving others forward. However, charismatic leaders can tend to believe more in themselves than in their teams, can act like control freaks and this creates a risk that a project, or even an entire organization, might collapse if the leader leaves. In the eyes of the followers, success is directly connected to the presence of the charismatic leader. As such, charismatic leadership carries great responsibility, and it needs a long-term commitment from the leader.

People with this leadership style are leaders who inspire their teams constantly with a shared vision of the future. While this leader's enthusiasm is often passed onto the team, he or she can need to be supported by "detail people”. That's why, in many organizations, both transactional and transformational leadership are needed. The transactional leaders (or managers) ensure that routine work is done reliably (lime Tim Cook of Apple Inc), while the transformational leaders look after initiatives that add new value.

Transformational leaders create something new by changing the basic political and cultural systems. This differs from transactional managers who make adjustments to the organizational mission, structure, and human resources.

Transformational leadership accomplishes this by challenging and transforming individuals' emotions, values, ethics, standards, and long-term goals through the process of charismatic and visionary leadership. On the other hand, transactional leaders engage with their followers to create a connection that raises the level of motivation and morality in not only the followers, but also the leaders themselves.

In some situations, a leader will be required to use multiple styles of leadership. For example:
  • Telling your employees that a procedure is not working correctly or performance is below par and a new approach must be established (Authoritarian). 
  • Asking for their ideas and input on creating a new approach (Participative). 
  • Delegating tasks in order to implement the new approach (Delegative).
So, how does one determine the appropriate style of leadership for a situation?

Some of the factors that one should consider before choosing a specific leadership style would be:
  • What is the issue at hand? If it big goals setting or creating a vision for the future?
  • Is it a major crisis or a disaster scenario?
  • Does it entail significant change to the organisation?
  • Type of task: Is it structured, unstructured, complicated, or simple?
  • Are relationships based on respect and trust or on disrespect?
  • Who has the information — you, your employees, or both?
  • How well your employees are trained and how well you know the challenges of the task?
  • Are there Internal conflicts?
  • Level of staff morale
  • How much time do you have to make an impact?
To sum up, an effective leader has to be able to adapt his style to the needs of the situation and balance it with one’s personal needs.

The next part of the series will cover the five levels of leadership and what does it take to become a Level 6 leader!!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Leadership Series - Part 1

Leadership is a huge subject that cannot be covered in one article…and hence, this is first part in a three part series on leadership.

Let's deal with key questions up front:
·         What is leadership? and
·         What makes a good leader?

Leadership is a term that we often associate with leaders, but most leaders lack leadership.

What is leadership?

When we pose this question, the usual explanations are about styles of leadership or qualities one expects in a leader.

Leadership entails:
·         Inspiring people to take action;
·         Doing the right thing for the right reason;
·         taking tough decisions in the face of adversity without trying to be populist;
·         having the humility and the courage to accept that they do not have all the answers;
·         helping others to succeed

Leadership is NOT about:
·         the Leader
·         being the most popular or trying to win popularity contest; (the more one tries to be populist, the more the alienate themselves!)
·         your business title or size of your office;
·         seniority or power or having answer for everything

So having defined leadership as what it is and what is not, let’s examine what makes a good leader and the typical qualities one looks up to in a leader.

So what makes a good leader?

What makes a good leader largely depends on the degrees to which an individual’s qualities match the demands of the situation / context.  More importantly, the leader should be able to adapt his style to the nature of the demands of the times and inspire people into action.  They should be able to make the people feel that they are very core to the task and each one of them makes a difference to the success of the enterprise.  The greatest myth is that the leaders are born.  Most leaders have emerged because of the circumstances and their courage.

A very good example that comes to mind is Winston Churchill and his inexorable attitude during WW II. A sense of urgency was created in the course of very few days and no delays were condoned; telephone switchboards quadrupled their efficiency; the Chiefs of Staff and the Joint Planning Staff were in almost constant session; regular office hours ceased to exist and weekends disappeared with them.
Churchill’s robust optimism is excellently showcased in a speech he made in the House of Commons on June 4, 1940, when he spoke these famous words:

“We shall go on to the end.  We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be.  We shall fight on beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Yet, he steadfastly refused to take the credit for the victory.  When commended for the victory, he responded, “I have never accepted what many people have kindly said, namely that I inspired the nation.  It was a nation and race dwelling all round that had the lion heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.”

There were many great leaders in the 20th century who inspired people to give everything for the cause, viz. Gandhi, MLK Jr,, Mother Teresa, Swami Vivekananda, Florence Nightingale, Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev and many more…

…core qualities that makes a good leader…

No matter what, there are some leadership qualities that are context-independent, that is essential to be a good leader.  Some of these qualities that a good leader to have would be:

Act with Integrity
Above all have a good sense of humour

In Summary

Leadership is situational and a good leader is one who can adapt himself to the demands of the situation.

We shall explore more on leadership styles and its effectiveness to a given situation in my next part…