All entries for February 2015

February 22, 2015

Set aside the morals

Don’t judge what he was doing, judge how he was doing it. By that criteria the name that pops up in my mind is Adolf Hitler. Without questioning his motives if we look at him from a leadership point of view, he was a very effective leader who convinced a huge nation that what they were doing was the right thing even though now what they did is condemned. His leadership qualities were:


Effective communication





The man had the ambitions of taking over the world which made his thinking process and his motivation to be of monumental proportions. He was driven by his goal, and his charisma and leadership style made him highly desirable to be followed by his people. All it takes is self-belief and a little sense of organisation and people skills. Some say leaders are born, others argue that leaders are sculpted by their circumstances. The debate of nature over nurture will always remain that, a debate. But leaders like Hitler are not born every day.

Leadership: Helping sway from herd mentality

If you’re from an underdeveloped country like Pakistan you would’ve witnessed the strangest phenomenon ever. A bunch of mindless cows moo-ing and going where ever the rest of the cows were heading. Blank faces, dead eyes, but still moving as if they know where they are going when actually they don’t. That is called herd mentality. I must admit that many times I was also adhering to the same actions but that was because I was so good at it that my actions were inconspicuous and I wanted the leader to grab me and take me out of the herd. But that did not happen. I know that as a student of MBE I need to be more proactive and not rely on people to pick me up but this helped me observe the leaders and their capabilities and the various types of followership that I can demonstrate.

Paul said in class that we are born modellers and that we copy actions as soon as we see them. In my undergraduate school I had a friend who was a psychology major who told me that when we smile at babies and the babies smile back, they are not smiling because they are happy but because they are imitating emotions and actions. That’s who and what we are as human beings. We copy the people around us. Which is why when everyone expresses the same opinion, it is usually hard for people to go to the other side of the matter and raise their voice in favor of it. We as humans fear judgements and welcome social acceptability. These are the two factors that need to be tweaked by the leader to make their followers independent of others’ opinions and have their own original stance.

CSR: Corporate Social Responsibility or Cynical Selfish and Reneging

I am a huge fan of the widely misunderstood Milton Friedman and his stance on CSR. I became an even bigger fan of that man when Zoe Chilton said the words “We are not a charity”. I am not saying I agree with her stance in the true meaning of it which she explained by saying that a company expects financial returns for everything it does, in fact I’m saying quite the contrary. I am saying that if you label your actions as being socially responsible just for the good of it, you should not expect anything in return other than the satisfaction of spreading good.

Milton Friedman never said CSR is bad, he just said that going out of the way to label something as being socially responsible and then expecting financial gains from it is wrong. He argues that if a business is conducting itself responsibly and is operating within the law and is in no way harming anything, then it is being socially responsible. There is no need to label your actions and project them as a marketing strategy. The companies that use CSR as a marketing campaign should be considered the biggest criminals by those who don’t believe in Friedman.

“We are not a charity”

In many ways those words have changed the way I viewed CSR and whatever I have been taught till now. I still won’t expect a penny for a penny.

Do your job

Believe in true welfare

Believe in Friedman

End CSR as a label

Leadership, deception and trickery

The concept of leadership is on one end while the act of deception and trickery are on the other. A leader leads from the front while hoisting the battle flag and reassuring every one of his/her men that he/she will be with them throughout the journey. This is done to show that the leader is just as much a part of the struggle as the rest of the team. Leaders make sure that their presence is a source of comfort for the rest, even if that is the only thing they do. Once such a leader emerges, the whole team would have faith and do whatever the leader asks of them, even if it was asked to change their conduct.

As Paul said, the use of positional power should be a last resort after all attempt through personal power have been exhausted. After the last class, I had an informal reflective session with my own group and many of my classmates from different other groups. We reflected on what one of the classmates had shared in the reflective session by commenting that we had swayed from the state of being a family. After that session, when I was talking to my colleagues, we came to a conclusion that there is an air of deception and trickery in the classroom environment. It is fairly obvious that for many people self-preservation comes first but that is never shown. We also agreed that from the start of the first module till date, we have never been a family. It is all an illusion and where the fear of people might be considered relevant, the divisions within our class need to be considered. The word family is very strong and in no way describes the state of our class right now. We are all acquaintances that will move one and move away with time. Some lasting friendships will be made, but the key word here is SOME. A very simple incident that can be quoted here is the first day of the module when people changed their opinion, regarding the code of conduct, as soon as Paul left the room. If i was to use harsh words I would call people hypocrites. I don't see signs of being a family any where. Our class is, at most, a collection of many small families.

If that is actually a concern then we should use the content of this course and what we are being taught to actually solve the problems. First, we need to realise that we are not a family and if the goal is to be one then we need to work on it together. Greeting and interacting with a fraction of the class and then expecting to be a family is unrealistic. We need to work together to become a family. Being a whistle blower in an organisation is not an easy job. You need to do everything you can to solve the problems before blowing the whistle. This might include confrontations regarding any problems one might have with another person. If you want to make things simple then forget coaching and just talk about it. You cannot expect to win a war just by looking intimidating, you need to fight your way through. If you give up just by thinking on the problem and not doing anything to figure things out then you have already taken the first step towards failure.

Leadership is about trust, faith, belief and most importantly respect. I am very sure we respect each other, if not believe in each other, and we wouldn’t mind lending our ears to aide a cause. Talk to people and communicate your concerns. See the response you get and act wisely. If you don’t get the desired result then go back home and read Dr. Deming because you damn well need to accept the bloody variation in everything around you. The knowledge of variation is a life changer once you embed it in your mind and is even more useful if you add it to your leadership arsenal. And if you think you failed without even doing anything about it, then you just killed the leader in you. So before you go around screaming Armageddon, communicate first. Because leaders lead, not conspire.

The unappreciated follower

John F. Kennedy once said in his speech that victory has a thousand fathers but defeat is an orphan. That comment is not only limited to the battlefield but also to our daily lives as well as the corporate culture prevalent from as long as I can remember. During these two weeks filled with exercises and simulations, the same trend could be observed but not in its usual announced manner. Any team that failed had a leader that was subtly attributing the defeat to one of the team members but could only be noted with careful observation of their body language. As Paul said, communication is only a relatively small percentage verbal, the rest is body language and the tone of the voice used. A leader needs to own the results of its team’s performance whether it is over the moon or in the ditches. The tone needs to be kept positive and same goes for the body language. Otherwise you will leave behind a demoralised team after the task.

The time given between sessions for coffee usually ends up in an informal cigarette break/reflection session. Numerous times I heard my colleagues, who were team members, say that their leaders complained a lot and probably despised them for the effort they put in because it was obvious from the leader’s response that it wasn’t enough. Even if that were true, the leaders need to give credit where credit is due and not overlook the positives and highlight the negatives. That is what usually leaders do and use bad performance as a form of motivation, but that rarely works. I grew up reading a quotation sticker on the back door of my mother’s office, concealed by curtains, which read “If you do something good no one remembers, if you do something bad no one forgets”. That stuck with me throughout my life to a point where I used to quote it whenever any such situation arose.

The followers give their leaders all their belief, faith, trust and choose to follow them blindly. If after that these people are not appreciated and are shunned aside by their leaders then this is criminal of them. If this trend is followed then you will never succeed with team projects because you have failed as a leader!

February 21, 2015

Leadership substitution

As the exercise constituent of the substitution of leaders partially relates to my dissertation topic, I was intrigued by the coincidence of ending up being the substitution. Over this exercise all leaders and deputy leaders got to observe two teams and the dynamics of change and adaptability. Nothing in this world is a perfect symmetry and the appreciation of asymmetry is something that we have been able to extensively, if not fully, comprehend thanks to the works of Dr. Deming on variation. This is exactly why the 8 people changing position within four different teams cannot possibly know everything there is to know about the teams. Based on permutation and combination it would take various combinations to actually experience all teams with all possible structure. But they did not get that opportunity as it is practically unviable and no one in the real world is that darn lucky to actually be given such an opportunity. The leaders and the deputy leaders had to work with what they had.

Based on the rules of the simulation I was the deputy leader of one team for two quarters and the leader of one for the next 4 quarters. Before the lunch break when it was announced that the deputy leaders had been promoted to leaders, even though the full situation was not communicated as part of the simulation, I had already started planning. I was under the impression that I would be leading my own group and that did not really impact my thought process. I knew what had to be done and I was now behind the steering wheel. This gave me room for zero excuses to justify the loss of learning opportunities if there was any. As I went in a task-focus, I went on with my plan and my team had quite some success. During the feedback when I asked for areas for improvement, my team members said that even though it did not apply in the simulation, in the real world it would be essential to a change that the new leader communicates with the team to bond with them and align the goals for a successful change process. This made me realise that during the change of leaders, where I had a lot going in my mind, I had over looked the fact that the new team was already in a state of shock and frenzy.

The change of leadership brings with it so many aspects that are really hard to address all at a time especially considering the situation. The best possible way to deal with that, which I did unintentionally and found very useful, was to enter the organisation as a blank sheet of paper and asking the team members to reflect their past performance, decisions made and their impact on the performance. This will not only update the leader on the statistics but will also bring out from the team members something that, as humans, they cannot hold back: THEIR OPINION.

February 11, 2015

Contingent leadership

My country is currently being run by a prime minister who is a conventional businessman and he is failing miserably. This is his third tenure and he was not able to fully complete his first two terms successfully and was forced to step down. Where he and his team are more than capable to devise marketing strategies to get him and his party elected, without questioning the legitemacy of their actions, the leadership qualities are absent. His networth puts him unquestionably among the richest people in the country because even as a prime minister his priorities face a conflict of interest. His ability to run a business and to lead his companies to profitability does not qualify him to lead a country. Just because a person can lead a group of people to achieve something does not mean he can be assumed a universal leader. There will always be variables and they cannot be ignored. Different situations require different leaders armed with the appropriate skillset.

Here I refer to the lifeboat excercise we had in class where one of the teams chose a managing director as the leader for the situation. They based their decision on the fact that this person had people skills and that his age reflected maturity. But what does that have to do with a lifeboat situation? When you have a person retired from the Royal Navy on board, would an aged person really be your first choice? The parameters of the situation define the requirements of the leader.

If we started establishing universal leaders, the leading MNC's would start hiring high ranked army generals to lead their organisations. I in my right mind would never do that, would you?

February 2015

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  • Haha, the credit goes to the team. It was amazing working with you guys! by on this entry
  • I agree with you and I share your sentiments but we if we look at it from a leadership context you'l… by on this entry
  • It definitely does have a lot to do with the atmosphere and the swaying level but it more importantl… by on this entry
  • Best nurturing doesn't really stand for everything. You have quite a lot of knowledge about the Paki… by on this entry
  • A nice and impressive reflection. I feel like when we say family. We actually mean the environment t… by on this entry

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