Managers and Leaders

November 29th, 2007 by sachin

“Our leaders have to be admired for their thought leadership and not just competence.”
This is the quote from Mr. Subroto Bagchi’s recent interview in Economic Times (Nov 30, 2007)

This resonates so well with what Amita and me have been talking for past few days - Leadership style !!

Both of us have seen Indian and Global managers at very senior positions.
These are not the celebrity leaders, but these are the managers who are responsible for growing businesses and leading people. These managers, especially in large organisation have to be good leaders. It is not easy for people to join and connect with faceless organisation. For people, their managers are the face of the organisation and most of the time people join or leave their managers. In such cases managers carry enormous responsibility to provide not just the business competency but good people leadership.

This is where the leadership style and approach differ.

I have seen many competent professionals. They are good at their function and their job. But when it comes to leading people (there is a difference between managing and leading people), they fall awfully short.

I have personally worked with entrepreneurs, professional managers and good leaders. I have worked in corporate sector, have worked in social sector. I have seen different type of people. I have seen the difference between leaders and manager. The ability to inspire, create vision and walk on the chosen path - is the the most important aspect to be successful in being a leader - be it in corporate life or in social sector.

To be a successful leader one needs to have both the capabilities - competency and inspiring people. Just the competency can not take you too far. I have seen some entrepreneurs who had vision (later on I realised that they had only dreams), ability to inspire people but did not have competency in business areas. They simply couldn’t succeed. Some entrepreneurs I have seen who were competent in business areas but did not have the vision. Their businesses did not grow beyond a point. Good professionals did not like to stick around such people for long and hence business did not grow.

When it comes to professional managers leading the people, most think managing people is good enough. They focus on giving right job description, right work to the people under them. They give pep talks so that people can deliver the numbers. The most professional managers follow M-B-O (management by objectives) process to get work done. They think by setting up the objectives people deliver the desired results. It is true to some extent. But it is not the entire truth.
People mostly look up to their managers for direction and inspiration. People like to work for such leaders. The inspired and motivated people tend to give much more than set objectives. They help create more vibrancy in the group. They help create happy and creative atmosphere. In this age of Knowledge economy, the dependency is on people than just the processes.

The good leaders provide this important ingredient - inspiration and vision (thought leadership) - which is so vital for growth than just the straight jacketed MBO or task oriented process.

Why Do we Work?

November 21st, 2007 by sachin

While reading “The Evening News” by Arthur Hailey one thought crossed my mind. When a journalist working for one newspaper leaves that newspaper and joins another one he does not change his religion. He continues to do his job – collecting news and reporting.

The thought crossed my mind - is it true in case of people working in Red Hat. To take it to more general level what do we do when we change jobs from one IT company to another company.

I tried to answer the later question first.

Our job, as a sales person, is similar to a journalist job. Here we bring the information about one company, its products and services to the users. We are doing the job of a facilitator. The nature of, features of products and services keep changing.

But then, can we apply this in case of people working in Red Hat and going to work for other companies.

My answer is no. From Red Hat we not only communicate the features of product and services but we actually propagate the values and beliefs of opensource. Unless we start believing in its core values, the way of software development, the belief in its “openness” we would not be really successful.

In such case, can we go out and join the other companies who stand anti-thesis of this entire model. If we have to do that we need to change the religion – in a way of changing our beliefs. If you are ready for that go ahead.

What are the ways we can continue to work to represent these beliefs and values but for different products and services? The only option is to look for companies in the same space. Do you have many options? Check it out for yourself.

If one works at RH just as any other professional without understanding and believing the values of open source, chances are that that person would have short life at RH and he would be as unhappy as in any other company. In such cases, he is either working for the manager or for plain simple money factor. Such person would leave the company the moment he is not happy with the manager or the monetory conditions.

We all have to ask this question to ourselves. Why do we work at a particular place?

Is it because we like the people around

Is it because the manager is good

Is it because the company provides good facilities

All the above conditions are subjected to change and how long can we work for such external factors.

I have been brought up to look at reasons to work beyond place and person. Because place (the conditions) change, the people and their behavior change. We need to have some principal in life that remains as steady and as guiding as a lighthouse, come what may.

Power of Context

September 10th, 2007 by sachin

People behave differently under different stituations. There is no point in putting a lable of “aggresive”, “dominating”, “meak”, “Friendly” etc to any person. This is one message that got stuck with me from this book “Tipping Point”.

There are many examples, many psychological tests and many research quoted in this book.

Point is not the book. But about understading the importance of this aspect of human behaviour. While reading the book I was constantly scanning my own behaviour under different situations. The study could not have been more apt for me.

Similarly when I look at the important aspect of an organisation - i.e. getting best out of the people, making them feel responsible and accountable to the growth, I realised this is most important aspect that we as a leader should keep in mind.

I always belived in the saying that “Every sales man should be a CEO before he goes out to the customer”. What does this mean is that if the Sales-man is put under the situation of CEO, he would be more effective in his role. He would be able to communicate with his customer much more authoritively, much more convincingly.

I have experienced it myself. When given a responsibility, a larger vision, I have performed much more than my role demanded. And it is true that if the sense of responsibility is too narrow or limited, the output has been just equivalent of what is asked. This is a typical employee - manager situation. If we turn employee into the owner - in the sense of responsibility - we get dramatic results.

When I was in my 2nd job, just 3 years into my professional career, I was given a responsibility of setting up and running a whole new centre. It was the sense of responsibility that was driving me and brining more than the best out of me.

On the other hand when I was in a big company and was known more by the emloyee number to my finance people than by the name, I knew I was giving just what was expected of me.

I know when I made my juniormost team member responsible and owner of the project, he/she used to give better than the best. It has always helped me to empthies with the people becuase I always looked athe situation that they were in and not lable them by their past behaviour. My team members have always felt that they have learned and grown in their profile. They have shown hightest committment while working with me.

But to get these results require huge involvement, close working with the team and sense of caring about them.

When you apply the thinking of “Context”, you actually understand people better. The challenge is to create those situations which would make people give their best.

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