Monday, October 29, 2007

Giving an “A”

Omar Khan in his book “Timeless Leadership” refers to many interesting leadership traits of which the writer decided to pick and practice a unique feature. It is called giving an “A”. He refers to the famous Boston Philharmonic orchestra conductor and renowned speaker, Benjamin Zander.

Zander gave all his students an A on the first day of the class, and told them that their job together was to learn how to maintain it. They no longer had to gain it, it was now only theirs to loose. The students became radiant with possibility”

When the writer took over a small size organization as it’s manager operations reporting directly to the CEO, he was entrusted with a group five individuals. The writer used the method of giving an A and the team responded amazingly well with above par performance by their normal standards. The writer also came to the conclusion that by giving an A, you create sense of camaraderie among the staffers and give them greater hope towards achieving something larger. It could be concluded that leaders belief could convert in to a powerful force which ignites physical and emotional trust within each subordinate.

The writer carries positive experience of transforming a person who has been considered under performers by using the method of “giving an A”. The subordinate not only started being efficient in what he was suppose to do but also attained a liking towards taking of out of scope projects and he is now poised to be promoted as an executive after working as a non executive for over 05 years.

There have been plenty of instances where the writer has been on the receiving end of "receiving an A" from his bosses. It creates more commitment to the task as you would find it much more difficult to loose what you already have!

After all we all know that getting there is difficult, but maintaining your level at the top is much much more difficult.

So try out next time around by "giving an A" to a colleague, subordinate,a waitress, a super market helper or anyone whom you want to get something done.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

EmergentLeadership during the time of Crisis

Our discussion topic today at the MBA class was Transformational leadership and it was based on a paper presented by our lecturer at an international conference.

Theme was based on first hand involvement of the institute and the lecturer during the famous and closer to the heart December 2004 Tsunami.

Accordingly there were four types of leadership identified during the course of the presentation.

1. Transformational leaders

2. Transactional leaders

3. Emergent leaders

4. Appointed leaders

During the Tsunami and it's aftermath all four types of leaders were surfaced.

The story begins with the Tsunami itself which was never heard of in this part of the world prior to 26-12-2004. (The writers own account of the first hand experience with the Tsunami could be read in a future article to written with photographs for the 3rd year anniversary of the Tsunami)

When the wall of water swept away the coastal belt of the island nation people were clearly dumbfound. Srilankans by nature are people who are use to emergencies with the two decade long ethnic war and continuous fighting. But this was disaster of unimaginable magnitude! Research was based upon the immediate aftermath of the Tsunami.

Emergent Leaders

This refers to leaders who are surfaced out of no where who assume leadership role during a time of crisis. Generally they are low key, unknown prior to the crisis. Specific examples include those who saved many lives during the Tsunami at times risking their own lives while many of us running towards safety. Further it included people who were unknown before who assumed duties at camp sites taking leadership roles and getting things organized, directing people etc. Interestingly most of these people have not taken part in most of the common village activities let alone leadership positions!

Somethings in them ignited and they started assuming these roles and on most occasions they were very good in their new found roles!

Interestingly during the time of crisis you find the traditional structures going disarray and appointed leaders such as Government Agents etc becoming dysfunctional. Their systems go hey wire and they cannot perform. According to the research this is because the traditional system works perfectly through systems, procedures which are properly documented. Crisis situations trows all that over the window and the appointed leadership structure find it difficult to work in a chaotic scenario!

That is when the emergent leadership qualities surface of various individuals.

Interestingly the research also found out that these emergent leaders either take a back seat or disappears altogether when things staring to settle down or system comes back where traditional leaders assuming leadership. This was a unique observation!

Another classic example was quoted by the lecturer where he explained a scenario where a beggar who was assuming the role of a traffic warden and directing traffic during 1996 central bank bomb blast in Sri Lanka when all the others were running for their lives!

I suppose sports is a great example in this regard and cricket more specifically There have been countless number of times when a side is not doing well where a lower order batsman(a cricketer who's there to BOWL) comes to the crease and plays an innings of his life to win the match for his team from the jaws of defeat! Then you expect the same or similar performance with the bat from the same guy and continuously fails!

More about Transformational