All entries for Monday 23 March 2015

March 23, 2015

Leadership succession

Let’s assume for a second that John Excellence agrees to my proposal and becomes a smashing entrepreneur with rocketing sales and a highly motivated work force, and this happens because from the inside he has an authentic leadership style. A few years later he parties so much that his success celebrations land him into a horrid medical condition and he is unable to run the business and lead his workforce. What now? His father, brother, sister or any close successor comes to take over his place or one of the directors act on the already devised succession policy and replace John by themselves.

Whoever comes to fill his place will be succeeding him but will their leadership capabilities be able to matchup to the benchmark set by John? Will there be any similarities in leadership style at all? Of course not! It’s hard to replace someone as it is but imitate his every move is practically impossible. The new person will bring his own leadership style to the table which definitely will not favor the company. The workforce that was so loyal to John has already lost their source of inspiration in losing the leader. The last thing they want is someone to take John’s place and be different from him. People generally do not accept change and people who try to bring change will always face a certain level of hostility.

What can be done to fix that? The answer probably lies in devising a system that not only transfers leadership but also transfers the leadership style. A code of conduct for impression management and to standardise the leadership style for anyone who wants to take over the position. It should be set out in the policies as to how the company should be led and it would be preferred that a person from the board succeeds with the position as it would be someone with prior knowledge and experience of how the company was being run.

Dispersed Leadership

All theories mentioned in the books and in journals take a very individualistic perspective of the leaders, while another academic concept gaining increasing acknowledgement is that of dispersed leadership. This multi-disciplinary theory, with its roots in sociology and anthropology, interprets leadership as a process that diffuses throughout an organization rather than lying merely with the formally designated leader. The importance therefore shifts from breeding leaders to catalysing the process of making leadership oriented organisations.

The Trait theory is a method of identifying the key features of successful leaders. It is assumed that through this approach critical leadership traits could be isolated and that people with such traits could then be recruited, selected, and installed into leadership positions. This approach was common in the military and is still used as a set of criteria to select candidates for commissions.

After having studied this in detail, I got to know various leadership theories. These theories are applicable to today’s management as they have to improve according to the situation. Paradigm shifts in the cultures of organisations and the consistent parallel and horizontal development of companies have raised the need to look at leadership in a new angle.

Even though traditional hierarchies cannot be eliminated from the business world today but it is my belief that an effective workforce is not one with leadership at the top but one with leadership throughout the hierarchy. This does not mean that everyone has the responsibility to lead but instead that everyone should possess the qualities and willingness of being a leader whenever the situation demands.

A leader must show some traits and demonstrate certain characteristics to be an effective leader. These essentials are:

1. Good Communicator.

2. Exude positivity

3. Truthful no matter how bitter it might be

4. Promote workplace equality

5. Patient

6. Refreshing the vision within the workforce

9. Accept risks associated with decisions

10. Stay determined

What a coincidence

It just happens to be Pakistan day today and while I was writing my PMA I was listening to a documentary on the partition of the subcontinent and how it happened. The documentary highlighted three people of high significance. The first was M. A. Jinnah leading the Muslims, second was Gandhi leading the Hindus and the third was Viceroy Lord Mountbatten sent by the British to finalise the partition. Both Jinnah and Gandhi were part of the congress and partition committee. But their ability to lead the masses had nothing to with their positional powers. It would be very unusual if millions of people just started following someone for no reason. What Jinnah and Gandhi did was that they made these people realise that they had no vested interests in what they were doing. They did not want money or fame, they had a vision far bigger than materialistic things and people believed in that vision. So on one side we have these two leaders who had charisma and were driven by their vision. No one really questioned them.

On the other side we had the viceroy who had been commanding another part of the British Empire and was now here to deal with the matter. He was known to be a decisive leader who deliberated before making decisions to rationalise but at the same time was quick and rigid with his decisions. He did not really go down as a likeable person in the history books because he favored some people over others. From that his leadership style could be considered at paternalistic as he listened to everyone but did whatever he decided and no one could budge him from his decision. He also picked favorites and ignored what and who he deemed unimportant.

The popularity of these people in the history books can be argued by their capacity as leader and the role they played. Maybe if Gandhi was sent by the British to deal with the separation he would have been just as disliked. But then again, they were in different capacity and they were really different people as well. They might have handled the situation differently in a way that everyone stayed happy, mutual consent. Jinnah and Gandhi were phenomenal leaders and they had millions of followers because they had the authentic leadership style. Their leadership was based on their personal traits making them more likeable and inspirational.

So there is a leadership lesson from the history books. Hope it makes sense. Happy Pakistan Day!

March 2015

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