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Friday, October 09, 2009

Finding leadership potential of your job - Part I ( continued)

First, instead of moving to part II of the blog, i wish to rectify two of my mistakes today which my friend pointed out in the last blog. ( Thanks Bill for pointing the errors)

One, I was using a wrong word, the word 'paradox'. The right word is 'dilemma'. Let me redefine Leadership with this new word.

Leadership is a 'practice' of resolving the dilemma of leading versus managing a system ( which is comprised of organisation plus business) almost always in favour of leading.

My second mistake was about making leadership synonymous to leader-development. Leadership is a practice; while 'leading' and 'managing' are processes. Developing leadership practice in individuals is about leader-development; the typical promise of trainers. Organisations, on the other hand, can also nurture leadership practice in an organisation by using organisational levers, besides developing leaders.

Trainers are both fortunate and unlucky in developing leaders. They are fortunate because their training is focused on individuals, and it is an individual who resolves this dilemma. They are however unlucky because they cannot help an individual resolve this dilemma without understanding the organisational factors that help and hinder this leadership practice in a specific position. When trainers ignore organisational factors while training, individuals are unable to practice leadership in organisational situation. The leadership concepts become empty and do not generate intended result.

Organisations are also fortunate and unlucky in developing leadership ( not leaders). They are fortunate because they can nurture leadership practice by developing 'organisational models' that nurture leadership. Toyota way of manufacturing is an excellent example of nurturing leadership practice even at the lowest rung of employees. One can also call this distributed leadership model. In this model, fairly large number of employees can practice leadership to a sufficient degree. In Toyota, for instance, 'anyone in the assembly line can stop the conveyor of car if something is wrong'.

However such organisational models are in rarity. Most of the organisational models require select few number of individual employees to practice leadership to sustain them. In other words, they need centralised leadership model, a model where select individual positions practicing leadership are critical for organisational sustenance. However, as organisation's primary alignment is not towards individual, organisations do not pursue individual-development as their agenda. They concoct a mixture of management development programs and hope that their senior managers use them appropriately and practice leadership. Unknowingly, organisations therefore fail in producing the intended results.

In the next blog, we shall return to our main proposition - how can individuals learn to engage in leadership practice with or without the active help from organisational levers. If they get assistance from organisational levers, their learning is faster. If they do not get the necessary help, they can still learn the leadership practice at a slower rate and be hopefully ready to deploy it when the right moment comes.

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