That Leadership is something that has fascinated, intrigued, inspired, and, at times has even disillusioned mankind from time immemorial, has an inherent contradiction. Perhaps one of the most clichéd, over-discussed, extensively analysed concepts ever, it never fails to arouse interest or evoke a plethora of emotions and opinions, cutting across disciplines, that very few ideas in the world can. The phenomenon of leadership seems deceptively simple, and yet, generations have directed their time, energies and efforts in decoding this mysterious concept. Probably ‘the leader’, the strong human element that remains the bedrock of leadership till today- makes it all the more challenging and unpredictable. It seems virtually impossible to bring out a ‘Leadership Manual’ that decodes the different facets of leadership- sort of a standard reference module for leaders and aspiring leaders.
The Leader’s power
The power of leadership is in the fact that it has the capacity to galvanise entire nations, civilizations, societies, organisations and institutions like no other. Of course, the fallout can either be astoundingly wonderful (E.g. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King) or tragically devastating (E.g. Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin). Similarly, organisations the world over have had their share of momentous successes and failures with leadership. While Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos on the global front, and, Jamshedji Tata, J. R. D. Tata, G. D. Birla, Dhirubhai Ambani on the Indian front are but a few illustrious leaders who have successfully changed the course of corporate history through their vision and mission.
How has leadership evolved over the times? Do the once widely accepted leadership theories hold good today? What are the critical factors that have played a significant part in leadership successes? What does it take to cross the chasm that makes a good leader great? These were just some of the questions in our mind that prodded us at ‘Leadership Demystified’, to delve deeper into the ocean of leadership. And, what better than following the personal leadership journeys of some prominent global leaders across industries! Leadership Demystified took shape about a year ago as a humble initiative on LinkedIn. True to our name we wanted to demystify the beliefs and prejudices around leadership, and, we launched this initiative by bringing in podcasts of 30 eminent business personalities to the LinkedIn community. The beauty and the USP of this initiative lay in the fact that it catered to a wide range of audience- corporate as well as community leaders, aspiring leaders, entrepreneurs, educationists, coaches and even students.
The speakers too hailed from various corners of the world, across industries in the corporate realm or as entrepreneurs, as well as globally revered coaches. What united them was their zealous mission of creating a positive difference and taking their enterprise to the next level. Some prominent questions that we addressed to all these luminaries were:
1. Is leadership innate or can it be cultivated?
2. Do age, experience, education and gender impact the ability to lead?
3. What is more important for a leader- technical skills or soft skills?
4. Do leadership styles differ across organisations?
5. Did the leaders have a clear sense of purpose to start with or did it evolve with experience and time?
While it would be premature to derive definitive conclusions from our small yet rich repository of 30 leaders, we did identify some interesting leadership insights that emerged from their responses.
Leaders can be made: There was a resounding acceptance to the fact that leadership could be cultivated within the right environment and leaders are not necessarily born.
Growth mindset is the key: While age, education, and experience may support the evolution of a leader, they are not critically causal factors in leadership. What is important is the ability and humility to continuously learn, unlearn and relearn.
Empathy is a critical skill: While technical or hard skills would be significant at the start of a leader’s journey, it is the soft skills- empathy and a collaborative approach that creates great leaders.
Versatility wins: Most leaders believed in contextualizing their leadership styles to stay relevant to organisational needs. Adaptability, agility and flexibility came out as winning traits for leaders.
While every podcast was a treasure trove of insights, we could also identify certain salient trends within certain homogenous groups through our podcasts.
Global coaching gurus emphasized much more on self-reflection and self‑awareness as hallmarks of successful leaders. While they had a pronounced spiritual and philosophical bent of mind, they offered valuable practical takeaways.
Corporate leaders reposed much more faith in experiential learning, while inner awareness was highlighted by a few, almost all confessed to have been shaped significantly by the environment around them.
Entrepreneurs were characterised by- self-belief, dedication to their vision, tenacity, an appetite for risk as well as an ability to seek opportunities. While experiences did influence them, the call to take the entrepreneurial plunge came from within. Envisioning purpose and selling this to others, came across as the key strength of a successful entrepreneur.
Women entrepreneurs are extremely resilient, they tend to push themselves very hard, take on challenges that cross their path and were generally quite hard on themselves too. Eventually they turn out as more supportive and empathetic leaders who value flexibility and a work-life balance.
Millennials have a strong sense of purpose to start with, have a more collaborative rather than an authoritative approach, are socially sensitized, and don’t shy away from bold decisions and criticism. They are multi-faceted, do not identify their life with work alone, and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Unfortunately, they are often misunderstood by the older guard.
Our partners have strengthened us
Needless to say, ‘Leadership Demystified has had a truly momentous and in many ways a path-breaking journey so far. Our foundation was laid in in February 2018, and the calibre of our speakers and quality content brought the well-respected Human Capital on board as our valued media partner. October 2018 saw another valuable addition, where Womenlines, an e-magazine, supported our 'women entrepreneurs' segment. Around the same time, we were joined by SHEROES- the famous women's community platform as our community partner further strengthening this initiative! As we complete the Season 1 of our Podcasts, we feel as enthusiastic as ever, raring to continue our journey, eager to bring forth many more hitherto unseen and unknown facets of leadership. And as the saying goes- ‘The Journey Has Just Begun.’
Curators: Puja Talesara and Ixchel.life
Leadership Demystified Editorial Team: Dr. Vandita Dar, Subi Nanthivarman, Puja Talesara
Community Partner- SHEROES, to know more download the app https://shrs.me/c3GU27N2oR
Women Entrepreneurs Segment supported by- www.womenlines.com
‘Be the CEO of Your Life’- a Webinar facilitated by John Mattone- erstwhile Coach of late Steve Jobs, brought to you by Leadership Demystified Webinars with Human Capital, scheduled on 14th December at 9.30 AM EST (8 PM IST) for just 38 USD! For further details and registration please contact Human Capital.
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