By | Sreekanth K Arimanithaya | Global Talent and Enablement Services Leader, EY Global Delivery Services
Adam Smith and Henri Fayol have been a staple in most management classes. They influenced a generation of leaders, including me. While Smith recommended division of labor for higher productivity, Fayol advocated the unity of command where an employee should only receive orders from one supervisor. They were roughly 200 years apart; you see the rapid evolution of work, workplace, and leadership evolved.
Today, we see these principals tested – if not redundant – as organizations become more matrixed. We have lived through Druker’s vision of managers as enablers or catalysts with higher decentralization.
Drucker advocated inter-disciplinary lessons from history, sociology, psychology, philosophy, culture, and religion. Leaders today, driven by Purpose, are influenced by the ecosystem. Your hobbies, passion, and interests outside of work also shape who you are. Sports, performing arts, even parenting all teach you great leadership lessons. In retrospect, my time on the cricket field taught me as much about collaboration, quick decision-making, and accepting loss before you pick yourself up and gear up for the next match as my time in the workplace.
I recently interviewed someone for a leadership role which perhaps skirted this thought, if not answering it entirely. We discussed two very important leadership traits in our long conversation – vision and Purpose. Because they simply define everything else.
So, what are the expectations from our leaders today?
Invest in the 3Cs
· Competency: Build the skills and competency. You may have a natural skill, flair, or even genius. But everyone needs training, practice, and education to hone the craft.
· Capacity: Discipline. Push the limits. You can be a gifted bowler, but you also have to last over long spells. This is why the puritans consider test matches a litmus on skills. It is about strength, stamina, and mental resilience. Be it performing arts, skill, or even at work, what matters is endurance.
· Confidence: You need to be able to back yourself. You need the above points to get to this in an ideal world. Again, it is not about bravado or being an extrovert. Most innovations and disruptions that matter need you to believe in the idea.
The same goes with your teams.
The permission to play: As a leader, coach, or even a captain, your role is to create a supportive ecosystem. This is as important as strategy and mentoring. It means you are the safe space for helping your people realize the best version of themselves.
Improvisation: The adversity quotient, as we call it. What happens when the best-laid plans go awry? You improvise. This is also called leadership agility. For instance, when you are performing on stage, can you change as per the audience’s reaction to engage?
When I meet the next generation of leaders, I ask them about the future and Purpose – because that will define their leadership. The interview came to my mind, amongst all my conversations, as it had something distinct – an acknowledgment of evolution. While I wish I could name the interviewee, I cannot. But, I can share his incredible insight on Purpose. He mentioned that his Purpose evolved throughout his life – from being single to being married to becoming a parent to two wonderful daughters. He spoke about how the women in his life made him consciously contemplate advocating diversity, inclusion, and gender equities.
These are the #peopleledbypurpose. Their ecosystem defines their purpose, the purpose in turn fuels their leadership vision. It evolves rather than changes.
The truth of the matter is that the journey to discovering your Purpose lies in answering the question? ‘Who am I?’.