“A good leader leads the people from above them. A great leader leads the people from within them” – M. D. Arnold. This wonderful quote often perturbs me. It brings up in me the quintessential question, “Are true leaders born”? , or are they created. Being in a public sector for more than 20 years has given me the opportunity to work with myriad people and some of them I consider to be wonderful leaders. Well others just happens to be in leadership positions but totally bereft of any qualities that quantifies or rather describes a true leader. They are just happenstances or misnomers in the organizational hierarchy. So what makes a true leader? Does your designation always exude the fragrance of true leadership? I have my own reservations in that. I have worked with great individuals who were irrelevant in the organizational hierarchy but still displayed wonderful leadership traits. Leadership is the sum total of one’s behavior. It is never a position and never a particular characteristic of our behavior. A true leader helps the people around him/her to discover more about themselves and realize their true potential. A true leader enlivens the leaders in others. Ronald Reagan really nailed it when he said that “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does greatest things. He is the one who gets the people to do the greatest things”
There is a disturbing phenomenon that is happening in almost all industries and that is the rise of a breed of new generation leaders who are ruthless, un-empathetic and utterly selfish. Their sole motive is to propitiate their relevance and importance in the organizational setup. They are least bothered about the welfare of the people working for them or the organization for which they are working. Have you come across such “so called leaders” in your work arena? Well it’s very difficult to miss them as they are conspicuous by their own egotistic deeds. Whom should we blame for such deviant characters holding positions of importance in organizations? Or does the current idea of “effective” management needs such ruthless people to run the organizations? It’s bemusing and at the same time disheartening to see the essence of true human resources management slowing losing its relevance. It paints a scary picture of an impending future wherein machines will have more value than humans. This is where true leaders can make a difference and can change the organizational perspective for good.
Decidedly the organizational framework plays a huge role in the identification and development of select individuals as leaders. There should be some criteria to sieve and filter people to get the ones with the right attitude for the leadership job. Many organizations have now started recruiting individuals with right attitude and developing a skill in them rather than the other way round. They have started realizing how difficult it is to inculcate a positive attitude in the people.
Once the recruitment is over the performance appraisal system should reflect the character traits, which are deemed fit for effective leaders, to enable proper identification of individuals who display such characteristics. It should be ensured that only individuals with the right mind set and people management skills should step into leadership cadre. If this is not taken care then we will have people with no empathy or compassion heading very significant verticals in organizations, something that needs to be cogitated on. True leaders can be made provided we get the basic tenets of identifying the right people for the right job correctly and once that is done then developing the requisite skill in them is not a tough job. It is just a matter of time.
The future is bright provided we have people to hand hold us, inspire us, educate us and develop us to tread uncharted waters without fear, to take decisions without hassles and work passionately towards individual as well as organizational excellence and progress. I bow to such individuals who have instilled in me that sense of responsibility primarily towards myself and my organization, in realizing my true potential and in disseminating the knowledge to others to help them in their journey towards personal excellence. I would like to conclude with these wise words from Douglas MacArthur that “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of the others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent”.