Mother Teresa said, “I can do things you cannot; you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.” She joined hands with many ordinary people and started a movement internationally towards caring for the destitute and sick. She proved to the whole world that wonders can be achieved if we work together and commit to a purpose. Our business world is no different!
Sometimes we forget these basics.
Traditionally, leaders were considered to be wise and omnipotent; they were supposed to be revered irrespective of their actions and intent. Anyone who questioned the leader’s wisdom, challenged the strength or doubted the rationale behind the leader’s judgement suffered at the hands of the leader. Due to such practices, across the nations, through the ages, a social norm got established around leadership.
Most people believed that leaders are powerful, wise, invincible and are role models. They are to be looked up to and their actions cannot be scrutinised. Times have changed across the world; freedom in thoughts, speech and action has been increasingly valued; democracies have flourished and collaborative actions have slowly found their place in daily lives. Yet, many organisations and their leaders have remained imprisoned in the past beliefs.
What happens if we look up to one Superpower?
Some leaders behave as experts in everything that happens in their organisation; offer solutions, give directions and adopt course-corrections every day on numerous issues without an iota of doubt about their capability to do what they do.
The fact is that in today’s fast-changing world, no one can be an expert in every function in the organisation. Hence, leaders hire experts to lead various areas in their business. However, when it comes to day-to-day execution, some leaders ignore the fact that others in their team are capable and hold the responsibility of driving the group’s agenda forward. Some cannot resist the temptation of taking quick decisions which may be based on myopic vision or limited perspectives. In either case, the result is a disaster. The organisation gets crippled, slow, inflexible and surreal; loses the trust of its stakeholders.
Rather, what needs to be done?
Modern businesses need to respond quickly to the opportunities in the market, innovate rapidly, resolve customer issues fast and make operational decisions without going back and forth. When organisations lean on superpowers often, their decision-making gets slow, their employees do not own up to the broader agenda and hence, the stakeholders, especially the customers and partners perceive the organisation to be slow, hierarchical, old-styled and rigid.
Leaders have to protect their organisation culture from slipping into the hands of a few power centres and clans. They have to establish consultative processes and platforms to involve people at multiple levels in not only co-crafting the future but also in making decisions at appropriate levels in the organisation. This is easier said than done.
It calls for rigorous and conscious efforts to take everyone along, evoke participation from all quarters and listen to everyone’s views. Some views, opinions, suggestions could be conflicting and the problem becomes more intense when there are conflicts or misalignment among key members about their ideas around the purpose and vision of the organisation. The task of the leader in this scenario is a ride up the hill. He or she has to decide and communicate the direction the organisation would take. The challenge doesn’t end here. He or she must have the required level of trust among the employees to accept the final verdict and carry the mantle forward. Consensus building is an important component in building tomorrow’s organisation and laying the foundation for making the organisation agile, ambitious and value-driven.