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Tuesday, July 2, 2013



The statement that a ‘good leader varies his/her style between authoritarian to participative (autocratic to democratic, if you like) depending on the task, the changing situation s/he encounters and changing group that s/he has to lead’ sums up rather briefly, the way an effective leader has to function. However, no effective leader ever consciously adopts a style—it comes, and indeed it must come, naturally from within. Style invariably is the reflection of the substance. It is the expression of the man and the strength and balance of his “Universal Inner Structure of Effective Leaders”. Rusi Modi while discussing leadership repeatedly emphasises “above all be yourself”.

Conceptually the changes in style which spread between the two extremes is well depicted in the model evolved by R. Tannenbaum and W. Smidt shown in Figure-1. It should be seen only as an illustration depicting the range of options available.

Figure 1 : Leadership Styles


In practical terms any change in style is merely an intuitive variation in the mix of personal example, persuasion and compulsion. Personal example is the most potent factor in the technique to inspire people to do what they are expected to do. If a leader can work 12 to 14 hours a day then the message gets across. Personal example in punctuality, integrity, honesty, frugality, courage, persistence, initiative unselfish love of people, or whatever is infectious with the Indian people. They try and live up to the standards of a leader. TO DO YOURSELF what you expect your people to do is the secret of leading people.

There are people and there are times when persuasion is necessary to motivate people to do what has to be done. When they understand the circumstances, people do rise to the occasion and go through the most irksome tasks. The long-term persuasion lies in the organizational culture (esprit de corps) in which people take pride in doing anything to uphold the honour and good name of the organization.

Compulsion by the way of punishing the few indolent, lazy or resentful individuals who do not perform their share of work is also necessary to maintain discipline. Also, to let people know unambiguously that the leader is fair and just, but not tolerant of the incompetent, the crooked and mischievous. There is an innate tendency among Indians to kill or retard an organization with kindness. Inability to take appropriate action is rationalised by arguments like pressures from the top, fear of litigation, trade union agitation and so on. To a degree it is also due to a lack of moral courage.

Leadership in Indian Context 

More and more organizations in the country are reflecting the diversity of Indian people. Executives and workers in organizations often hail from different parts of the country, speak different languages, have different customs and traditions, profess different religions and have different ethnic origin. For a leader to be able to handle such groups of people, s/he must be able to rise above his/her own narrow regional, religious, linguistic and ethnic origin, and project, by convictions and actions, a true all-India personality to be able to command, respect and loyalty of his team. There are two essential requirements for succeeding in this goal.  

First, a leader should have a good grasp and pride in the long history and cultural ethos of India. Second, a leader should have rudimentary knowledge of all religions of India and s/he should genuinely respect all faiths.

Attributes of successful leader – Here are some attributes of successful leaders. 

  1. Ambition
  2. Willingness to work hard
  3. Enthusiasm
  4. Enterprise
  5. Capacity to speak lucidly
  6. Astuteness
  7. Single-mindedness
  8. Ability to ‘stick to it’
  9. Willing to take risks
  10. Capacity for lucid writing
  11. Leadership
  12. Imagination
  13. Ability to take decisions
  14. Ability to spot opportunities
  15. Ability to administer efficiently
  16. Analytical ability
  17. Willingness to work long hours
  18. Ability to meet unpleasant situation
  19. Curiosity
  20. Understanding of others
  21. Open-mindedness
  22. Skill with numbers
  23. Ability to adopt quickly to change
  24. Capacity for abstract thought
  25. Integrity 

Developing appropriate leadership is one of the most important elements in the implementation of a strategy. This is important because leaders are key organic elements who help an organization cope with changes. Appropriate leadership is necessary, though not a sufficient condition, for mobilising people, and for developing effective structure and systems for the success of strategy. Failure of leadership may lead to difficulties in achieving goal congruence, communication breakdown, ambiguity with regard to roles of sub-units, and difficulty in obtaining commitment to a plan, e.g., staff conflicts and lack of strategic thinking. Leadership is the key factor for developing and maintaining the right culture and climate. 

Figure -2 : Dimensions of Leadership Styles 

There are several aspects of leadership styles and skills, some of them are more appropriate to the context/content of a strategy, while others are desirable attributes in general for the success of an organization. Leadership styles are manifested through the orientations, Khandwalla has identified five orientations (dimensions of style) namely, the risk taking (willingness to make high risk, high return decisions), optimisation (degree of commitment to the use of planning, and management science techniques in decision making by technically qualified people vis-a-vis seat-or-the pant decisions), flexibility (degree of looseness and flexibility in organization structuring), participation (of those other than the ones holding key positions) and coercion (use of fear and domination) (see Figure-2).

For superior performance on key organization goals he proposes that if : 

  1. the orientation of top management is risk taking, then it should be at least moderately organic and coercive in proportion to internal resistance to change.
  2. the orientation is risk aversive, then it should be moderately mechanistic and non-coercive.
  3. the orientation is of highly optimisation type, then it should be strongly participative.
  4. the orientation is highly seat-or-the-pant and non-technocratic, then it should be at least moderately risk taking and non-participative. 

Different leadership styles have “good fit” with different environments. Since the strategy determines the product/market scope, and also the environment in which the organization is going to operate in future, it has a bearing on leadership style. Khandwalla has further categorised leadership styles into seven types to relate them to environment, each reflecting different mix of the five orientations, as shown in the table -1.

Table 1: Seven Styles of Top Management

Like leadership, there are several dimensions of environment also, namely, the degree of turbulence/volatility (high degree of changeability/unpredictability), hostility (hostile environment are highly risky and overwhelming), heterogeneity (diversity of markets/consumers), restrictiveness (economic, social, legal and political constraints) and the degree of technological sophistication. The leadership styles which are more appropriate to different types of environment are shown in Table 1.

Table 2: Environment-Style Fit

It should be noted that while the above discussion gives a good idea of orientations and the styles of leadership to respond effectively to the environmental demands, it does not cover the leadership skills required for “revitalisation” or “transformation” of the “organization”. The above discussion gives the attributes of a manager who is a “transactional” leader, and not a “transformational” leader. The task of a “transformation” or “revitalisation” leader is to take the organization to a dominant position. This involves managing change or transition. It has three distinctive phases. 

  1. Recognising the need for revitalisation
  2. Creating a new vision
  3. Institutionalising change. 

The leadership task in the first phase requires the ability to sense the need for change (often there is a low threshold to catch trigger events in the environment). The second phase requires communication skills to create a vision for future that excites people to move, and also the interpersonal skills and creativity to mobilise commitment of at least at critical mass in the organization. To perform the task in the third phase of the transformation process the leader should have the ability to understand and manage powerful conflicting forces in people. The negative emotions and threats to power and authority have to be transformed into positive emotions and reconciliation. New ways of working, new styles, new culture, and new norms have to be developed. The shock of change has to be reduced.

The challenges of leadership in implementation are grave as leadership is the most scarce resource. Organizations cope with it in several ways, by changing the current leadership and by developing appropriate leadership styles. The change of current leadership may not be easy to achieve even though it might be inevitable for effecting “transformation” in the situation. The existing leadership might have been cast in a particular mold which may be inappropriate to the demands of the organization. The “casting” effect can be overcome if changes are introduced gradually in the leadership styles and skills, to avoid accumulated lags or mismatches between existing leadership styles/skills and company’s changed requirements. This would require a blueprint to indicate the kinds of styles and skills, and the number of persons of different styles and skills required in future, current talent available and a plan of recruitment and grooming. The task of human resources development is thus very closely related and determined by strategy of the organization.


Personality development August 2, 2013 at 12:10 PM  

Great post...looks like you have done a good research on the human behavior and personality.

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