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September - 2007 - issue > Cover Feature
Leading by example
Sanjay Rajasekhar
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
We who cut mere stones must always be envisioning cathedrals” goes a popular quote. It may however not be practical to expect all to possess such distilled wisdom, as the quote embodies, right from the first day at their job in order for the glorious cathedrals to eventually benefit from such envisioning. Here steps in the role of leaders, who facilitate such envisioning, encourage involvement, and foster pride and ownership in the minds of capable individuals.

True leaders lead people in what they need to do as opposed to managing them in doing what they are supposed to do. In a job market as alive and vibrant as ours, it takes no trivial effort to hire the best people in the first place, let alone retaining them productively thereafter. Assuming, for a moment, that the best possible folks are onboard, it then takes true talent to recognize, nurture, and retain such talent.

Managers are often reminded of what conventional corporate wisdom cautions - people join companies and leave their managers. Need leaders be really perturbed by this fact? Isn’t more conventional wisdom in the favor of true leaders?

The concept of employee retention is easier explained than practiced. There are numerous management theories regarding retention of people in companies by way of instilling pride, creating ownership, inculcating belongingness, and thus evoking loyalty in them. How exactly are leaders supposed to do all this? It is not that enigmatic either, if the leaders of modern organizations naturally and consistently operate on a solid platform supported by four strong pillars - Ethics, Integrity, Objectivity, and Accountability. Going by the dictionary definitions, here is what these terms mean - Ethics is a system of moral principles and values, integrity is firm adherence to a code of values, objectivity is dealing with facts undistorted by personal feelings, prejudices or interpretations, accountability is the willingness to accept responsibility and be answerable for it.

While it is refreshing to see a new generation that is highly skilled, exuberant, and energetic stand at the threshold of their new corporate careers raring to succeed, it is vital for the leadership of the organization to develop a sense of responsibility to help them by addressing their basic grooming needs such as mentoring on corporate professionalism, orientation in business ethics, training on etiquette, and guidance on mature decision-making. Besides the obvious benefits, a subtle effect of this is the sense of security created in these novices for being taken under the wing with a genuine interest to make them successful corporate citizens. It normally doesn’t take long for such genuine trust to be reciprocated.

It is natural for employees, especially the fresh-grads, to look up to their new leaders in the corporate world and model themselves after them. They are highly impressionable and are subconsciously looking for role models and inspiration. Try and imagine the lasting positive influence when these zealous apprentices observe that their own fearless leader:

* firmly sticks to ethics during adversities,
* takes accountability and openly accepts his mistake (even when there is a choice of sweeping it under the rug),
* stands by her people and supports them when they are questioned for doing something unpopular yet right,
* measures and means his talk and then walks it,
* disagrees with issues rather than people,
* makes resoundingly fair decisions, and
* champions ideas based purely on their merits and parts with any undeserved credit.

Picture the resonance of this in the organization. Visualize an inspired following, examples of which are interspersed all over history. Imagine a smart new generation passionately emulating such leaders. Such is the power of leading by example!

He can be reached at sanjay.rajasekhar@intecbilling.com

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