05 Aug 2015 20:12 IST

Be a leader who orchestrates success

Leadership is not for the everyone. From vision and strategy to organising, there's a lot to be done

We talked about organising for execution in the earlier week. Before I start this article, I’m putting down, as a roadmap, at the outset, the areas that will be looked into in more detail in this two-part series on leadership:

1) Setting up a compelling vision/mission statement

2) Evolving a strategy to achieve this

3) Organising the resources and people required to achieve this

4) Creating enabling organisational culture and values

5) Set goals, communicate, galvanise/motivate the organisation towards that goal

6) Create an appropriate monitoring, reviewing and rewarding mechanism

Of these, in this first article, I will discuss in-depth the first four points.

Key attributes

Successful leaders have been successful because they got most of this right, at least most of the time. Now I am saying two things here. One, you need not have to get each of these perfect to succeed – You don’t have to be a 10/10 in each. If you are by and large there, you are in the ‘Game’. Second, each one is not equally important. Virender Sehwag didn’t need good footwork. His eyesight, coupled with sheer self-belief, compensated for that.

The competitive context will determine the relative importance of each of these attributes and good leaders have a sense of that.

Setting up a Vision/Mission

Every organised effort starts with a need to create and leave behind a better world. From Buddha to Gandhi to Ford to Jamshed Tata, the objective has been the same: To see a better world, to solve a problem, to make things better for mankind. They may have chosen different paths, given that their contexts were different and that they had different motivations.

A compelling and coherent vision/mission is the definitive starting point for the success of any organised effort. Some are articulated very well, right in the beginning, but in most instances it starts with a generally understood and accepted set of beliefs about the status-quo and about what the elusive ‘better’ state would be. Once the core is there, even if not fully coherently articulated or integrated, you have the momentum to kick start. After all, even Buddha and Christ didn’t start and conclude their philosophies in one lecture.

Evolving a Strategy

‘If wishes were horses, beggars would ride’ goes the popular saying. A gameplan is essential to any vision, of how one is going to achieve it. Henry Ford backed his dream by coming up with the ‘Assembly line’ and Model – T.

Gandhi started his movement of passive resistance to oust the colonialists. Jamshedji Tata did this by setting up an iron and steel company.

Round up the resources and people

Rome was not built by one man and it was not built overnight. It took India not just men but women and children to help Mahatma fight the British. It still took a long time to win freedom. How do you get the resources and people to participate? What kind of people and resources? What characteristics and nature, pre-disposition, skills, competencies, outlook, world views, and perspectives? What value systems and ethical/value paradigms?

How adequate are they? Should you start with the task at hand and work back the requirements or get started and figure out by-the-by and need fulfillment? What is the threshold? There is no science here. The leader/leadership team uses its judgement/gut feel/horse sense and takes the plunge. Risky? Yes, very. Leadership is not for the feeble hearted.

Does it mean you just close your eyes and plunge in? No. You certainly analyse the terrain, the available people and resources at your command, use your judgement in terms of timing and adequacy for the threshold and make your march. This is an important part of organising to succeed.

Creating an enabling organisational culture and values

Having done all the hard work, if you, as a leader, do not create an environment that enables people to be happy, feel fulfilled and thrive, you are short changing your self.

People should jump out of the bed on Monday mornings, raring to get down to work. People must see meaning in what they do, they must be able to relate their jobs/roles and be able to see a connection, even if tenuous, between the overall vision/mission of their careers.

We all know the story of the two brick layers, one who said he was merely building a wall and the other, who said that he was building a palace. Perspective matters, and each person working under you should feel like what they’re working towards is part of a grand design.

The leadership is singularly responsible for creating such a culture and value systems that make people do their best and be delighted about it. That’s how excellence is built.

(This article is part one of a two-part series on leadership)