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What They Don't Teach at the B-Schools about Leadership!

C. Mahalingam
Thursday, December 9, 2010
C. Mahalingam
Jim Collins, co-author of "Good to Great" and a few more best-selling books said:"at this moment, leadership has replaced God in filling our gap in understanding!" Nothing can be closer to the truth than this statement.

Despite decades of research into this exciting subject of leadership, there still remain more questions than answers. B-Schools syllabi on the subject of leadership have not changed for a few decades now. It is the same old stuff – nature or nurture, situational or dominant, democratic or autocratic and so on and so forth. Not that all this is outright irrelevant, just that most of these models and frameworks seek to put the leaders and leadership on a high pedestal.

In the knowledge era in which we live, leadership requires to be deglamourized. Leadership therefore becomes a quality that is in every knowledge worker. Such a belief and behaviors that follow ensure that organizations potentially have leadership in abundance. Great companies have recognized this and transformed themselves into becoming leaderful organizations! Conventional belief that the tasks of leadership is to establish a vision, enroll people of an organization in it, and hold them accountable through measurements and rewards seems no longer valid. Such a belief that reinforces the notion of leaders as an elite group, singularly capable of determining what is good and what is not does not seem to fit the belief of the human capital era which seeks to reinforce that everyone has peak performance potential and is capable of realizing the same under appropriate and nurturing circumstances.

Leaders or Managers: Yet another absurdity of understanding revolves around raging debates as to whether organizations need leaders or managers. In discussing so, one tends to put leaders on a high pedestal and look down upon managers. John Gardener, one of most revered and referenced gurus on the subject of leadership has the following to say: "many writers on leadership distinguish between leaders and managers. In the process, leaders generally end up looking like a cross between Napoleon and the piped-piper, and managers like unimaginative clods! I am beginning to believe this is not true."

Leadership fundamentals: If we agree with the foregoing perspective about leaders and leadership, then the focus must shift to certain leadership fundamentals. A suggested list of these fundamentals is briefly presented below:
Those aspiring to be leaders must continuously increase their self-awareness. This includes reflecting and asking a few important questions such as advised by Leadership Guru, Warren Bennis of Marshall School of Business: (a) Do I really want to lead? And am I willing to make the sacrifices leaders must make? Prof Bennis is of the view that “there is really no difference between being an effective leader and becoming a fully integrated person.”

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