Conceptually Management & leadership are two different sides of the same coin. All executives are managers, in fact all employees may classified as managers for the assigned task & responsibility but in essence only the executives working in top positions are genuinely defined as the, management of the company. Among the top management the Leaders by implication are the people with vision, deep understanding of business, acumen, drive, ability to lead & guide people, risk taking ability etc.
All managers are not leaders but all leaders are managers.
Tens & hundreds of books have been written on leadership, management institutions from ivy leagues to well-known business schools teach leadership. Therefore it’s a much discussed & debated subject. The question is, Do we get leaders from ivy leagues & business schools? or humming books on leadership. The answer is clearly big NO.
In my experience of corporate sector essentially Group CFO 0f Monnet & after watching companies of all sizes & reputations, I dwelt upon this subject & realized that there are basic fundamental characteristics which make genuine leaders or so to say senior corporate managers assigned with leadership roles. These fundamental characteristics may be classified as;
- Academic & Professional Background
- Job Experience
Academic & Professional Background
Basic academic qualifications in a relevant or related subject provide fertility & understanding. It’s futile to write about qualifications as the whole edifice of society is based on education. However the quality of academics does matter, students from top schools & colleges do well relative to their counterparts from average institutions, however the same is never a guarantee for students from top bracket institution for success in corporate ladders & or we cant conclude average success of students from lower rung institutions. In fact many of the successful leaders do not have any Ivy League/top bracket institution tag. Therefore qualification and quality of academic institution does matter but may be a means but not the end of it. Students from average institutions have also achieved wonderful feats in careers and in fact have better hunger and fire to do well in conjunction with other characteristics discussed hereinafter. In the modern economic environment, academic qualifications have assumed far greater importance compared to its relevance in the past. To conclude a desirable academic or professional qualification is a pre-requisite for a successful corporate leader given the challenges of global integrated economy & increased play of technology.
Experience is an essential ingredient for a corporate leader. Practical Experience exposes a potential leader to intricate nuisances of job & corporate working. The quality & content of experience isn’t what job offers you but on inquisitiveness of the person. Experience isn’t also related only to the company of association but the engagement of mind with internal & external environment. You learn less from what you handle but you learn more from what you don’t handle. The quality of experience does vary from company to company. Experience in a company strong in system and process and in a structured & professional working environment is superior, knowledgeable and valuable. Job experience and company are complimentary to each other. A job experience in a less descript company may not offer a desirable experience profile. Job experience is always evaluated and correlated with a company of repute and known professionalism and is rightly so. To a right individual, experience is a curtain between unseen & eagerness to see, main reason about holistic involvement of some compared to their colleagues & friends. Right experience reflects in the performance, ability & delivery. Experience is a pedestal of growth & recognition. Experience is all about life, personal, impersonal, formal, informal. It’s exhaustive but not inclusive. It’s neither a debate nor a discussion, its real & just real EXPERIENCE.
Knowledge is an ocean where all rivers of academic qualification, general reading of books & journals, learning from experience on the job, learning from what has been happening around you in the industry, country & even globally. Knowledge shared by juniors, peers, seniors, colleagues & by experts & knowledge available in print & social media. Knowledge has no definition in my opinion, it’s an unending debate.
However knowledge in the context of corporate leader may be summed up as broader & deeper understanding of the role earned by academic background, experience & clarity & understanding of intricacy of the subject. Knowledge is essential to perform a leadership role, it inspires & motivates the people being led. It generates respect, recognition & following. Knowledgeable person is looked by all for guidance, support & direction and hence become a natural leader eventually. Knowledge is more relevant about profile of role & responsibility rather than generic issues. In a dynamic global environment, knowledge transcends opportunities & challenges. Knowledge for a business leader is a 360 view of core, fundamental issues of operational & strategic matters to create a vision & mission.
Attitude of a person is critical to rise to a leadership position notwithstanding his narratives of qualification, experience & knowledge. I am not a votary of a positive attitude, neither I discern a negative attitude. A positive attitude as generally believed is froth with risk, haste & carefree style and a negative attitude though sometimes powerful is besieged with defensive, extra careful & extreme caution. Therefore, it’s appropriate to have a real attitude, a hybrid of positive & negative attitude. Leadership roles require multiplicity of functions and each function demanding a different skill set & a right attitude. Inverse of a right attitude is obviously a wrong attitude. I have seen careers getting destroyed with a wrong attitude of person with respectable & right mix of qualifications & experience. I have also seen less quailed & less experienced persons doing much better in their careers with the right attitude. A person with right attitude attracts solutions and is looked upon colleagues, seniors & juniors for guidance, support & may eventually become a natural choice for a leadership role. Right attitude is an incredible asset, which channelizes the knowledge and experience into defining roles. It is an index of measurement of leadership traits. It defines virtues and personality of a leader. A corporate manager with no attitude or negative attitude is never a candidate for leadership role.
Last but not the least, desirable approach reminiscent to different situations is critical for an identification & progression into leadership ladder. Approach is a style statement like approaching the work in structured and systematic manner, prioritizing important and less important tasks, art of delegation and deliberation, right planning and timely execution, art of engaging and managing people. Approach to work is an art and quality, which flows from the personal characteristics of a leader rather by virtue of his experience and knowledge. Approach encompasses, right communication skills, communication is all about what & where to talk, communication through body language which is more pervading than talking, interpersonal relations with seniors, juniors & colleagues, impression of being non-negotiable on the matters of delivery. A person with an empathetic attitude, a quality that generates respect & following. Approach flows from the clarity of role, responsibility, empowerment, accountability and management traits of the person. It’s not taught and guided that’s why it’s one of the most critical leadership qualities not found in most of the corporate managers. Lack of approach kills many corporate managers aspiring for leadership roles. I have seen very talented & experienced people messing up their positions by wrong approach either on account of any of the above characteristics or by sheer unstructured or unsystematic way of work.
Senior Managers in leadership roles are weighed by attitude and approach. That has been experience about Senior Managers in Monnet.
The above frame work for a desirable leader is based on my experience in Monnet and after evaluating key people working in leadership roles though informally or through an interactive process in other companies in the same and other industries working in professional capacities. Besides, what I have gathered after reading profiles of some of the great corporate leaders.