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ashokbhatia

In an earlier post, we had looked at the various leadership styles which emerge from an upgraded Blake Mouton Grid which has three axes: Concern for Production, Concern for People and Concern for Ethics. One of the styles we came across was that of the Charmless Charlies.X Y Z upgraded

These are hapless souls who could not care less for getting results, or, for that matter, for the people who slog their butts out for them. Issues of ethics or improprieties involved in any decision-making do not appear to affect them.

They rank poorly on all the three dimensions – Concern for Production, Concern for People and Concern for Ethics. In terms of an upgraded Blake-Mouton Grid, they would earn a rating of 1,1,1. These are CEOs who, having reached their level of incompetence, exemplify the Peter Principle.

In large organizations, these could be very senior managers who carry a rich legacy of…

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ashokbhatia

What is the best Christmas present a CEO can give to her organization?

In keeping with the Yuletide spirit, the best gift could perhaps be a resolve to take decisions based not only on commercial considerations but also on sound ethics and values. Decisions which would serve the strategic interests of the organization and would never lead it to a situation of public disgrace and compromise.

An upgraded Blake Mouton Grid

If one were to take the liberty of modifying the Blake Mouton grid, the leadership style of such a CEO would qualify for either a 9,9,9 or a 5,5,5 classification.X Y Z upgraded

Here is a quick rundown on the various leadership styles which emerge from a grid of this nature:

1,1,1: Charmless Charlies

One can only wish their organizations the best of luck.

9,1,1: Road Rollers

They would achieve a target by ruthlessly crushing anything that comes in their way.

1,9,1:…

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A vast majority of professionals decide to be ‘passengers’ and not ‘drivers’ in their careers. They are happy to behave like headless chickens, strutting about sounding very busy but with meagre results to show. Typically, they outsource the thinking part to brainy birds around them and lead a mentally sedentary but self-contented lifestyle.

Call them file-pushers, clock-watchers, head clerks, or what you will – they do serve a useful purpose in keeping big bureaucracies running like well-oiled machines. They can also be groomed to become devoted followers for charismatic and dynamic leaders.

(Excerpt from my book ‘Surviving in the Corporate Jungle’, the English version of which was released recently. Here is a video clip which captures the journey of the book so far:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/10/14/surviving-in-the-corporate-jungle-a-video)

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They are to be found in all spheres of life. They have perfected the art of boosting the sagging morale and flaccid ego of their superiors, thereby securing better perks and intangible benefits for themselves. Due to close proximity to their bosses – whether perceived or real – they end up being king makers.

Smart bosses easily figure out how to remain at an arm’s length from them. The tricks they use to steer clear of yes-men: a discouraging body language, asking for hard evidence for all the charges being levied against someone who is absent and generally berating them on select occasions in public.

(Excerpt from my book ‘Surviving in the Corporate Jungle’, the English version of which was released recently. Here is a video clip which captures the journey of the book so far:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/10/14/surviving-in-the-corporate-jungle-a-video)

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The cultural ethos of an organization is essentially reflected in the way the top honchos conduct themselves. It also manifests in the manner in which the organization handles its relationships with diverse stakeholders.

Empathy is a critical component of the ethos of an organization. The trait of being able to put oneself in another person’s shoes and arriving at business goals and decisions by consensus helps the organization to be more efficient.

Understanding and empathizing with the perspective of the party of the other part also makes it easier to negotiate and successfully close tricky business deals. As an example, when one tries to finalize an order with a customer of Japanese origin, one discovers the value of empathy and mutual trust, because the latter is apt to ask for a detailed costing of the product on offer, a prospect often disliked by most businessmen hailing from a different culture.

Unfortunately, empathy and consensus do not always form a part of the arsenal of business owners and CEOs who are considered successful. Quite a few business leaders have brought to fore a leadership style which tolerates no dissent and abhors a natural impulse to seek consensus. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos are some who have demonstrated that a leadership style which celebrates conflict, disruption and dominance is not only a virtue but possibly also an enabler of sustained creativity, technological evolution and advancement.

Of humility, consensus and culture

However, it appears that CEOs with a Western mind and an Eastern heart are configured somewhat differently. Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, sounds passionate about leadership and transformation, but the route he chooses is based on ethos, empathy, empowerment and democratization. In his book Hit Refresh, he concludes that ‘the choice of leading through consensus versus fiat is a false one.’

He goes on to propose that the ‘C’ in the CEO represents culture, thereby implying that culture building forms the core of his leadership style. In his leadership paradigm, hubris gives way to humility and envy to empathy. A CEO is as much responsible to the investors as he is accountable to the citizens.

A transformation in the offing?

Brand Microsoft has never been about empathy. Rather, its operating style has always been that of crushing the competition. But then, why would it allow Linux applications to run on Windows as well? Perhaps, rapid progress in the realm of technology is making friends out of foes, leveling off the field and making diversity and inclusion the critical components of a business strategy.

How this transformation plays out in future would depend on many factors. The way the market environment shapes up. The degree of freedom truly enjoyed by a senior person at the helm of affairs. The collective consciousness and value system of the core team which supports the CEO in steering the business, possibly based not only on a commercial compass but also on a spiritual one.

The argument one often comes across is that when satisfactory business results are coming in, what is the need for management to deploy such soft practices as empathy, humility and consensus in their operations?

In his book entitled “Be Unreasonable”, Paul Lemberg argues that when a top honcho believes in being reasonable, the business only gets buried deeper in conventional wisdom. He goes on to demonstrate how unreasonable strategies can bring one unconventional success.

This does seem like a workable proposition, especially when one is working in a highly competitive and disruptive environment. However, such a materialistic approach is open to challenge in some ways. One, the long term sustainability of business itself could come under a cloud. The success can then be fuelled only by a perennial outpouring of disruptive innovations, a feat which many businesses may find difficult to achieve. Two, the human capital of the business is likely to remain underserved and underexploited. It is almost certain that team members working under such conditions would not be happy souls who put in their best performance.

A feminine touch

In yet another noteworthy piece of work entitled Shakti Leadership, authors Nilima Bhat and Raj Sisodia argue that too many people have bought into a notion of leadership that exclusively emphasizes traditionally ‘masculine’ qualities: hierarchical, militaristic, win-at-all-costs. They propose that this approach has led to corruption, environmental degradation, social breakdown, stress, depression and a host of serious problems.

They show us a more balanced way, a leadership that is generative, cooperative, creative, inclusive and empathetic. These are traditionally regarded as ‘feminine’ qualities, but are worthy of emulation. In the Indian yogic tradition, these are symbolized by Shakti, the source that powers all life.

Indian scriptures speak of the concept of Ardha Naareeshwara, a form which is an eclectic mix of masculine and feminine features. This is what could turn out to be a better recipe for sustained success in the decades to come. A leadership style which is based on both masculine as well as feminine traits.

The technology explosion

Much like capital, technology in itself is soulless. However, American author Tracy Kidder has held that ‘technology is nothing more than the collective soul of those who build it.’ One would therefore not be wrong in surmising that even in the face of the technological explosion that we experience in our times, human beings – and as a logical corollary, human values – shall always play a definitive role in shaping the society along more just and humane lines.

The power of social media to shape public discourse and reform political decision making is already on display. Yes, there is always the danger of people getting manipulated by an overt use of the same social media. But surely these are short-time blips on the dimension we label as time and cannot last too long.

The future holds hope

Empathy appears to be kicking in. So-called feminine traits like creation and inclusion are taking centre stage. Competition is giving way to collaboration.

A noteworthy feature of organizations which believe in the virtue of empathy is the intention to give back to society some part of what the business gains from it. What follows is a keenness to offer products and services for the overall good. That is the kind of approach that Microsoft and many other enlightened businesses take.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/super-leaders-the-near-perfect-ceos)

 

 

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For those interested in the art and science of management, here is a video clip which captures the journey of my book so far.

Feedback is welcome.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/07/31/a-tale-of-two-countries-and-a-book-launch

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/10/01/surviving-in-the-corporate-jungle-some-comments)

 

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Ravana, an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, was not only a great scholar but also a capable ruler. He had a great taste in music and had mastered the veena. He is said to have been an expert in astrology and political science. He is also believed to have written a treatise on Siddha medicine.

He is described as having ten heads which are said to represent his knowledge of the six shastras and the four Vedas. Folklore has it that even while lying on his deathbed, he imparted valuable wisdom to Lord Rama and Lakshmana.

Much like powerful CEOs of large corporate bodies, Ravana had the necessary knowledge and skills to steer his kingdom to great heights. But his sheer pride, arrogance and a tendency of stifling dissent did him in. His obstinacy, and intolerance towards dissent, eventually led to his fall from grace.

The fact that he coveted a woman who was someone else’s soul mate also led to his ruin. Popular belief takes a jaundiced view of his character since he had abducted Sita and had held her in captivity, thereby inviting the wrath of Lord Rama. His wife, Mandodari, brother Vibheeshana and grandfather Malyavaan – all advise him to return Sita to Rama. Instead, he chose to listen to his courtiers who played on his ego and pride and advised him not to do so.

Learning from Ravana

If CEOs of today were to take a leaf out of Ravana’s life, they would avoid becoming proud and arrogant. They would learn to be more tolerant and open-minded to views which do not match their own. They would run their fiefdoms with much greater finesse and grace, ensuring sustainable prosperity for all stakeholders to their business.

Getting rid of one’s ego does not necessarily mean that the CEO becomes a doormat. Or that he allows his team members to exploit the system and take advantage of his good intentions and decent behaviour. It simply means that he cultivates an ability to see the other person’s perspective before arriving at a decision; that a consultative and collaborative approach to decision making gets followed; that those who happen to be shy in a meeting are drawn out so he may check if they have something valuable to add to the issue on the table.

Consciously letting go of his pride is another quality they can cultivate. Privileges which go with a corner office can be readily forsaken. Exclusive car parking spaces can be given up. Preferential treatment in the common food court for employees can be politely declined. The barriers between himself and others can be lowered to the barest minimum. In all official proclamations, an ‘I’ can give way to a ‘We’.

Arrogance can get avoided. Instead, feigned anger can get used as a tool, either to defuse a tricky situation or to gently put in place a team member whose behaviour crosses the limits of decency.

Discouraging yes-men amongst their team members is yet another critical quality a CEO needs to develop. Encouraging healthy and objective dissent goes a long way in enjoying success in all spheres of life.

Respecting women in the workforce is another trait which is essential. Promoting a culture of zero tolerance towards harassment of the opposite sex helps a company to shore up its productivity and improve employee morale. Top achievers in the team cannot be allowed to act upon their amorous instincts at the work place.

Several qualities of Ravana are worth emulating by CEOs of today. Always striving to learn something new. Forever looking for new markets and new customers, much like Ravana harboured an ambition to conquer dev-loka, the heavens beyond. Tirelessly seeking different ways to achieve a goal. Adopting new technologies and cultivating an innovative mindset. Developing hobbies and interests which would help to keep a sense of balance in their lives.

The real victory is within us

This year, too, on the day of Vijayadashmi, we shall witness the burning of Ravana’s effigies and believe it to be the victory of good over evil. But would we stop for a moment to introspect and try to get rid of our own king-size egos? Would we resolve to let go of our arrogance and become good listeners, especially when someone like Vibheeshana is trying to tell us an unpalatable truth?

The day a CEO starts doing this would indeed be the true Vijayadashmi day for him!

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/management-lessons-from-ramayana

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/06/07/some-management-lessons-from-india

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/super-leaders-the-near-perfect-ceos)

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