So much is published, taught, and spoken about ‘leadership’ – but where are the leaders we need in these times? Ask any corporate or institution, in any sector, and they will admit that ‘leadership’ is the scarcest resource.
Changes in ‘leadership,’ in politics, business, academia, societal institutions, forums, etc, generally are a great cause for concern. Why?
The answers may lie in the dramatic changes that have arisen in what is ‘demanded of a leader’? Earlier, seniority, ability to command obedience, social status, and the like, determined the width and depth of the leadership pool. Today, leaders are expected to be free of these shackles as innovation and inclusion become the drivers. Being status-unconscious, having a grasp on technology and humane and sustainability-oriented policies, as also the ability to move from forecast to foresight, from brawn to brain, and above all, an innate, unfettered, agility – are all pre-requisites for a successful leader.
Organization structures have altered and evolved from monolithic to distributed, particularly in large businesses that are global. Partnering, to create sustained value is now the norm. Hence, ‘relationship management’ has to be developed to a fine art. Team building, succession planning, knowledge management are now intangible assets, valued much more than a plant, machinery, and process expertise.
The market cap of the world’s most successful corporations is dominated by intangible assets (over 75/80%). The HR Budgets of large corporations and other institutions have swelled rapidly, as expenses on Learning and Development mount year-on-year. Exceptional talent is ‘ring-fenced’ – in attempts to curb job-hopping – at astronomical costs. An entire battery of consultants – better known as Head-hunters -has sprung up in the search for exceptional leaders.
Finally, it is becoming increasingly clear that the values and character that we imbibe from our parents are invaluable. Especially, the attitudes of men towards women in the working world. Gender balance, the recognition, and the promotion of women and men equally are now proven beyond doubt as significant factors in national economic growth and development.
To sum up, therefore, a leader today must: