The Crux of Leadership
Prabodh Kumar Gupta, PMP, PMI-ACP, ITIL
Prabodh graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in 1996 and has 23+ years of corporate experience in tier 1 companies like IBM, Infosys and Tata Group. Prabodh is
an active PMI member and holds certifications in Data Analytics, Blockchain and Cloud Computing. He is currently working as the “First Line Manager” in Project Management Competency in IBM, Bangalore.
What is leadership? As per the standard definition, “Leadership is a process by which an executive can direct, guide and influence the behavior and work of others towards accomplishment of specific goals in a given situation.” But what are the main qualities that makes one a great leader?
I got the opportunity to work under great leaders such as Narayan Murthy, Nandan Nilekani, Sam Palmisano and Ratan Tata and I found that all these great leaders have a few points in common that are vital to be a great leader. I want to touch upon these points.
The first and foremost point about leadership is trust. Employees are unlikely to follow someone whom they perceive as dishonest or unpredictable. As a leader, one should show consistency in action and should speak his or her feelings rather than talking plain and hard facts. When employees start to trust, they also start to follow the leader. Leaders are trusted for their judgement and expertise and not because of their position.
The second most important point about leadership is how one treats one’s employees. If the leader treats employees as capable individuals who can perform at the highest level, the employees will also start doing their best. Leaders who expect more from their team will get more but this should be done gradually. As a leader, one should first help employees achieve “small wins”. This will help the team members build their confidence. The leader should then gradually and repeatedly raise expectations over time. A leader should know how to integrate personal goals of employees with organizational goals. That’s why leadership is an art that provides direction to achieve organizational vision, unlike management where the focus on following organizational policies.
The third point that I want to touch upon is projection. A good leader knows how to project any issue or picture. Doing the correct framing of an issue by using appropriate metaphors, jargons or stories is a vital quality that a good leader should possess. When a photographer focuses on a specific shot, others see what the photographer wants them to see. That is precisely what a leader does – focuses on what is important and highlights it appropriately.
The fourth point about leadership is the ability to enhance the potential of his or her employees. This is not a simple task. The leader should effectively use charisma and positive attitude to create enthusiasm and develop an emotional bond. Once the team members are motivated, they will start giving their best. To achieve this, the leader will have to switch roles to be a friend, philosopher and coach as the situation demands.
The fifth point about leadership is to have the right communication, at the right time and use the right platform. Also, nonverbal communication, such as body language or facial expression is equally important. If the spoken words and the nonverbal communication do not match, the message will not be passed properly to the team. The corporate grapevine produces rumors that can potentially damage employee morale. A leader should act swiftly in such cases and address the situation using the appropriate communication.
Leadership is an art as well as a science. Everyone has a unique leadership style and copying other leaders may not be effective. One has to carefully nurture one’s own leadership style and take it to perfection. Although leadership style is influenced by previous experiences, it is not just a sum of one’s past individual contributor roles. It is a different ball game altogether. However, if one takes care of these five points, there is a stronger possibility of emerging as a better leader.