The Fact about Leadership

The Fact about Leadership

Countless CEO and senior executives have declared, "our people are our greatest assets" .This declaration has resulted in cynical laugher in many companies across the globe.

Contrary to popular belief, research completed by many independent survey companies have found that effective leadership and building of strong performing teams is not the sole criteria for growth in most organizations. The managers are aware of the fact that they will be suitably rewarded for their personal individual achievements and skills rather than leading or mentoring people.

Numerous leadership and mentoring programs have been developed since the birth of modern management and reputed business schools have come up with exclusive leadership programs.

Numerous leadership and mentoring programs have been developed since the birth of modern management and reputed business schools have come up with exclusive leadership programs.

But, the fact remains that we have still not been able to produce as many leaders as we would want to and meet the demands of the industry. Many family- run businesses suffer because of lack of leadership in the second or third generation. Large corporations suffer from not being able to scale up due to lack of senior management bandwidth.

  • Where are we heading?

  • Do we, as leaders know that theres a quiet crisis that is going to explode and this is just the lull before a storm?

Fundamental difference must be made in our approach, thinking and solving our business issues since we have come a long way from the time we emerged from being an agri-based economy to industry and now to a knowledge industry. The challenges and complexity we face in our personal lives and relationships, in our families, in our professional lives, and in our organizations are of a different order and magnitude. Surviving, thriving, innovating, excelling and leading in this new reality requires a new mindset, a new skill-set, a new toolset.

Coaching Infrastructure – Antidote to the traditional approach.

Companies that dont include coaching plans suffer a major setback as the enterprises start scaling up and venturing into new geographies. The art of planning relevant and effective coaching lies with the senior leaders or executive management to ensure that the organizational structure is conducive to produce more leaders. The coaching plan requires different approach such as the following:

  • The freedom to choose individuals roles & responsibilities and not restricted to what the organization wants

  • Tallying the organizations goals with individuals aspirations

  • Creating an environment which is open to new ideas and innovations.

  • Creating an environment that does not pose any restrictions to the individuals capabilities.

What exactly does a leader whos in charge of an organization do? How does he keep from being a micromanager caught up in the details of running the business? What does a leader do to create a leadership pipeline? What is the right approach to create a second line of leaders?

There are seven essential behaviors that form the first building block of creating a coaching infrastructure:

  • Assessing peoples capabilities

  • TEmpowering people

  • Expanding peoples capabilities.

  • Setting realistic goals for the business.

  • Following through on actions.

  • Rewarding doers

  • Know thy self

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Note: Follow through and Follow-up may sound the same, but in reality these two words hold different meaning. The follow through culture naturally connects the leaders with colleagues whereas the follow-up is action-oriented and does not create an environment to coach.

When a particular business is not doing well, the leaders often work on identifying the pain areas faced by the employees and plan on how the gaps could be filled and the changes that could be implemented in the workplace. They are now aware that the “soft” stuff – people’s beliefs and behavior – is at least as important if not more as hard stuff , such as organizatonal Structure. Making changes only in strategy or structure restricts the growth of the company. The analogy is the hardware of a computer is useless without the right software.

This approach of creating a coaching infrastructure is practical and completely linked to measurable business standards required and results which ensure that the individual’s skills and competencies are on par with the requirement of the relevant job.

Improvement in the competencies and skills surface when the leaders make their position redundant and delegate to mid-level executives. The approach doesn’t need a lot of effort. The leaders need to mould people’s attitude so that they produce results. This would be the key element of the coaching process. People would then be duly recognized and awarded for producing the required results .If they still fail to deliver, they need to undergo additional coaching. When we create an environment that encourages coaching for the growth as well as productivity, it would automatically lead to a much better place to work in.


Once you understand social software, it becomes clear that none of the leaders who are disengaged from the daily life of the business can possibly change or sustain its culture. Leaders get the behavior they exhibit and tolerate .Leaders change the culture of a Company by changing behaviour of its colleagues. Leaders measure the change in culture by measuring the change in the personal behavior of its colleagues and the performance of the business.

For example, some leaders use regular conference calls as an operating mechanism to drive change in the culture by forcing new candor and realism into the dialogues and decision making of the company’s top leaders. The calls introduce accountability and followthrough .The leaders’ own behavior, including the communications with people at various levels, model and reinforce the belief and behaviour of people needed to learn and excel.

The communication skills adopted by the leader in these calls exhibit the total company picture for all to see. Future plans and discussed and systematic planning is done. Methods and plans are finalized in case results are below expectations. By discussing the entire business and having a focus on the external environment, everyone participating knows more about the trends, competition, issues, and roadblocks faced. On the other hand if expectations are met, the information will cascade throughout the company for the knowledge of one and all.

Given the many things that business can’t control, from the uncertain state of the economy to the unpredictable actions of the competitors, we assume that companies have intrinsic ability to pay careful attention to the one thing they can control – the quality of the people, especially those in the leadership pool. An organization’s human beings are the most reliable resources for generating excellent results year after year. Their judgments, experience and capabilities make the difference between success and failure.

Yet the same leaders who exclaim that “people are our most important asset” usually do not think hard about choosing the right person for the right job. They do not have a precise ideas about what the jobs require- not only today, but in the future too – and what kind of people are required to fill those posts . As a result, their companies don’t hire, promote, and develop the best candidates for their leadership needs.

Quite often we notice these leaders don’t pay enough attention to people because they are too busy thinking about how to make their companies bigger or more global than those of their competitors. What they are overlooking is the fact that the quality of their people is the biggest competitive differentiator. The results probably won’t show up as a big acquisition. But over time, choosing the right people is what creates that sustainable competitive advantage when the enterprise scales up.

When we look at any business that’s consistently successful, we find that its leaders focus intensely and relentlessly on people selection. E.g. CISCO, EDS, HP, IBM, Whether you are the head of multibillion–dollar corporation or in charge of your first profit center, you cannot delegate the process for selecting and developing leaders .It’s a job that leaders have to love doing.


Common sense tells us that the right people have to be in the right jobs. Yet so often they aren’t. What is the root cause for these mis-matches we see every day? The leaders may not be able to predict the skills of the people they are appointing. They may pick people with whom they are comfortable, rather than others who have better skills for the job. They may not have the courage to discriminate between the strong and weak performers and take the the necessary relevant steps.

Some causes of failure?

Leaders often lag behind in confronting realities. The realities generally have to do with the behaviors of others who can affect the business outcomes like Customers and markets; traditional industry competitors; policies of governments and regulators ; the expectations of the capital markets; and a host others players whose roles may not be obvious .

The other realities include the organization and behaviour. People often miss the external realities because they are overly focused on internal processes, policies and politics. That doesn’t keep them from mis-judging the internal realities. Leaders overestimate their capabilities and under estimate the difficulty of achieving their goals. The ability of a leader should be to foresee issues before something hits the top-line and bottom-line and finally the ability of a leader should also be to face the hard ground reality .

Some of the most common traits that can be noticed with unsuccessful leaders are:


For all the information that is exchanged in business, its surprising how often people miss the critical facts that could make all the difference .They may be getting information only from people with the same point of view. This is typically the case in organizations looking at the world from the inside out, rather than from the outside in. Or the information may be distorted by people governed by their own biases and pursuing their own agendas.

Getting Wrong messages from Wrong people: The information may be good, but its no good if the decision maker turns deaf when its presented. Leaders practice selective hearing for a variety of reasons. The most common are preconceived notions or past experiences –looking into the rearview mirror, the arrogance of success –and the refusal to confront problem because they can’t see a solution.


Wistful thinking is the root of much of the people issues in an organization. The head of an organization thinks that the company can achieve good financial results since he or she has made a commitment in the board meeting. This sort of wistful thinking does not take into account the current strengths and weakness of people, their behavior. Any information to the contrary does not make it through the screen.


Lack of confidence, embarrassment over possibly saying the wrong thing at a meeting or the fear of repercussion from the boss leads to ineffective communication or rather lack of communication. It’s quite frequent that we hear of unreasonable bosses who fire people for disagreeing with them. More common and more destructive in companies is where attitude is one of the criteria , people who make their superiors uncomfortable risk being downgraded to a lower performance percentile.

Emotional attachment

People can accomplish great things when they are deeply committed. The disadvantage is that their emotional attachment in a project may blind them to its weakness. Quiet often, the mindset of an organization cannot accept a new reality because its goes against all belief and culture.

Unrealistic expectations of financial results

It’s vital to create value for shareholders is what the world finally learnt during the nineties. They responded by making unrealistic and impractical promises which resulted in a major downfall in business In the process, companies end up losing the market focus, and not being able to be competitive.


If the present leaders are interested in scaling up their enterprises, they need to make major changes after identifying the requirements of their employees. If the leaders actually consider people as their greatest assets, then they must be coaches and consultants not controllers and commands. The leaders must create an environment that gives equal opportunity to all concerned in order to meet their aspirations. It is the responsibility of every leader to spend at least 30% to 40% of their executive time in coaching colleagues. It would also be practical and effective if coaching is considered a part of the leaders’ KRA. .In the end, great organizations are built with strong value system, beliefs and culture which provide an equal opportunity to achieve organization goals.

About the Author

Mr. Rangarajan Sriraman is a serial entrepreneur having spearheaded the founding of Maples ESM technologies which was sold to Barings Equity Partners in 2005. He has 25 years of project planning and execution leadership experience in India as well as the GCC, ASEAN, Australia and UK markets. He is most known for his entrepreneurial ventures in the IT sector and as the Founder Chairman of Athena Info Consulting Pvt. Ltd. He spent the early part of his career at P&O Nedlloyd, now Maersk. He is an active member of TiE, NASSCOM and CII- where he is particularly focused on mentoring young leaders and entrepreneurs. His articles on Leadership and Entrepreneurship have been featured in Business Mandate, Data Quest, CIO Online etc.

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