One ‘top’ company for example uses metrics to evaluate the success of leader placement decisions 2-3 years after the placement was made. Another uses metrics to track how effectively business units are moving talent thus making mobility of talent both possible and a key success measure for leaders.
While the organisation is focused on its practices and honing talent, effective leadership is an inter-play between several aspects of a person.
Know-how is interpreted in different ways such as competencies or capability but what it truly means is do our leaders have the know-how to successfully run the business. Of the three this is relatively easier to acquire and gauge for a nimble manager. However, it takes a lot of unlearning and re-skilling.
Leaders define the desired culture but more necessarily they need to demonstrate it, hence walking the talk is non-negotiable. Culture, whether you like it or not, is defined top down and leaders must manifest that culture through their behavior. The challenge is in demonstrating the values, the culture and in managing the bandwidth. We have all heard of the GE values, but these are not mere words but standards against which leaders are constantly evaluated. What Ratan Tata has demonstrated in the Singur controversy was in line with what we all know as the Tata values. This is the legacy that leaders leave behind.
Bandwidth however from an individual’s perspective is the most challenging of the three. It is not so rare that you have an individual who has the know-how, demonstrates the desired values but struggles with managing his/her agenda. This is particularly true of leaders in transition. Many leaders prefer to be in their comfort zones and strongly believe that what got them here needs to be held on to dearly, for if they have been promoted it must be because of what they did well in their previous role and hence they need to just do more of it. Unfortunately it is never so.
”What got you here won’t get you there” and that is indeed an apt summary and can be a guiding light for all leaders in transition. Bandwidth is not only about knowing, what to pick up but more importantly what to let go at your current level and prioritise.
Forces acting on leadership: The forces operating in the manager’s personality including his or her value system, confidence in subordinates, inclination toward leadership styles and feelings of security in uncertain situations. The forces in subordinates such as their willingness to assume responsibility, their knowledge and experience, and their tolerance for ambiguity that will affect the manager’s behavior. The forces in the situation are such as organization values and traditions and the effectiveness of subordinates working as a unit. The nature of a problem and the feasibility of safely delegating the authority to handle it, and the pressure of time are also considered as the forces.
Leadership is a prized commodity that organisations and individuals have to work hard to develop. While top companies don’t just anoint leaders, they groom them through critical experiences and invest in having that ready talent pool. The individuals don’t just rest after that coveted degree or sojourn to the management, they need to reinvent, repriortise and constantly challenge themselves.
And yet having a ready leadership pipeline does not mean that companies can get myopic, for even the best of companies like CITI, P&G and Unilever have in recent times not hesitated to go beyond their existing pool to get who they see as the right person at the top. Companies need to be courageous and should choose to buy when you know you cannot settle for the second best. Some organisations enable leadership much better than others and this in turn is their competitive advantage. If a company is unable to develop leadership, the ultimate leader of the company would do well to remember President Truman’s famous placard on his desk at the White House: The Buck Stops here.