My exposure to good leadership started when I was eighteen years old in a brand new sales job reporting to a young MBA from Boston University. This man was neither the boss nor the leader shown above but, a mentor. He saw something in me that tickled his fancy and asked his most successful sales person to take me under his wing to train me.
That Super salesman, let us call him SSM, took me under his wing literally as well as metaphorically and taught me things that have lasted as part of my personality till today. Two of the most significant things that have stayed with me and which wisdom I in turn, have passed on to innumerable mentees are: 1. Be very good in your job, constantly try to be the best among the colleagues and; 2. Build up a healthy bank balance and keep it growing.
At that impressionable age, I could understand the first maxim but, I had to ask SSM to explain why the second maxim was necessary. That wise old man told me that one never knows when one will come across a superior who will not accept or appreciate your ability and the best thing to do under the circumstances will be to quit and seek your fortune elsewhere. The bank balance will help you tide over the period of unemployment.
The second maxim succinctly explains leadership problems that subordinates face as, there will be different types of people in positions of authority and all of them need not be good leaders or even bosses, and could well be monsters.
Many other persons in authority came into my life and, three were particularly great leaders and mentors who ensured that I performed well and in turn became a good leader / manager. Naturally, I also came across many who were neither good leaders nor mentors but they gave me lessons on how not to be. I also had the amazing experience of working for some narcissists who come under a different category altogether. A book can be written about my experiences with those worthies but, I learnt a great deal from them too.
Early in my managerial career, I came across a formula that enabled me to be effective in managerial positions and something that as a mentor, I passed on to my mentees too. This formula is CCDO.
The first C is Connectedness. This implies good relationships with one’s superiors, colleagues and subordinates.
The second C is Constancy. Constancy in maintaining the relationships.
The D is for Dignity. Giving and demanding dignity in all relationships.
The O is for Opportunity. This implies the ability to provide opportunities to all connected with one to perform well and progress. Providing the opportunity would also imply providing the wherewithal to exploit the opportunity.
All the good leaders that I have come across in my life have inevitably shown these characteristics.
There is another important element that often comes into play in leadership and that is what I would call situational. There are people who provide great leadership under particular circumstances but fail to under normal circumstances. I am sure that my readers will readily identify many in their circles who feature this trait. The most famous of such leaders was Winston Churchill who was a great leader during WWII but flopped as one during post war peace time. I have come across many such individuals and as I write this, I am in touch with one particular person who is providing such leadership under totally unexpected conditions. Once the crisis is over, I am sure that this individual will revert to his earlier placid role in his circles and I would be very surprised if he would be comfortable in that role later.
An important element in leadership is the exercise of power. I refrain from writing on that for now as a book can be written on that subject alone. For those who are interested, one book that impressed me a great deal in my formative years and which also helped me exercising power effectively was and continues to be The Anatomy Of Power.
To bring some humour to this rather serious post, here is something that should cheer up many of my readers who would have come across such bosses in their lives.
I hope that you have found this 2 on 1 Friday blog post interesting and I request you to go over to Shackman’s blog to see what he has to say on the topic that he has suggested.