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Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 - A milestone in leadership?

Has corporate India learnt lessons of new leadership in the year gone by?
Leadership emerges from shared experiences, external pressures and more so, an internal need to break free and do things better. What are some of the recent developments in leadership theories? Has there been any path-breaking research in 2011? "I think leadership has evolved from a closed format to an open one. Earlier, power and authority to decide were restricted to only a few people, especially the ones that belonged to the top management; though there is a stark change in this approach, the lower-rung employees still do not enjoy decision-making power. Nations developed from autocratic to democratic and our family system (which once upon a time was ruled or monopolised by men) now resembles a modern-day egalitarian structure. The transition needs to take place in the corporate scenario as well," says Vidyadhar Prabhudesai, managing trustee, LeadCap Trust.
At the same time, there are those who feel that not much has changed with respect to the basic concepts underlying leadership. Ask Mirza Yawar Baig, president, Yawar Baig & Associates and author of several books on hiring and entrepreneurship. He says, "The beauty of universal truths and fundamental principles of leadership is that they are unchanging. The qualities that lead people to become great and beneficial leaders are universal truths and so they are not subject to constant change. However, people today suffer from what I call the ‘instant coffee syndrome' – they want everything instantly – at the most – from a two-day training programme."
Another leadership theory that has emerged is that of tailored leadership approach. "A diverse and tailored leadership approach is more in-demand with growing employee expectations. A one-size-fit-all approach leadership is inadequate for ensuring smooth work in the 21st century. Keeping this in mind, collective leadership is the most recent development, according to me. A large group of people come together, make an actionable plan, brainstorm and commit to making things happen. Participative theory encourages contributions from group members who are committed to the decision-making process," feels Deepak Kaistha, director, Planman Consulting.
So while 2011 witnessed certain path-breaking leadership movements across countries, corporate India had its own share of leadership action. In the process, some hard-hitting realities also emerged. "Leadership is always a hot talking point. It is in the implementation wherein the problem lies. The corporate fraternity wasn't just hit by the crisis - they are the ones who created it. One hopes that some lessons were learnt. There was a pressing need to analyse what went wrong and take steps to ensure that these kinds of blatantly ‘criminal' actions are never allowed to happen again," adds Baig.
So what should one expect to see in 2012? "The coming years would explore participative leadership. Leaders here act as facilitators and not dictators. They share information, facilitate ideas, synchronise people with their vision, and ensure that the task is carried smoothly with an ultimate decision taken by them. Donald Trump (American business magnate) is a live example. It's a collective group's effort; however, the last call is taken by the leader. People here work cohesively, collaborate and the environment is less competitive," sums up Kaistha.
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