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March 28, 2014

Psychological Capital as the key to dealing with Change

We are living in interesting times - times when the world is rapidly pacing and times when we are surrounded by lots of ambiguity. What is the key to succeed in such times? A voice inside us would say, "Build upon your capital". Wow! That sounds like an answer, a key word. Let us try and decipher its meaning. Okay - that seems a little difficult actually, doesn't it? This term "capital" has so many connotations attached to it even in this one context. The most prominent one seems the 'financial' connotation. It makes a lot of sense too. Now I would ask you to think twice and tell me if this is "the one" that explains the construct and is the answer to lead in strange times like ours. If this were the right answer, why would some of the huge organizations fail in the long run? Then another inner voice in us would very softly say that the most appropriate connotation would be 'human' or 'social' capital. Wow, sounds great yet again! But then, why would some individuals flourish and some perish? Why do some social events leave us with an intense sense of failure? Result? Still not very satisfactory - our effort of finding the right answer has not been very satisfactory.

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Building Next Generation Leaders: Role of a Leader

 

Leaders have played a very important role in building social as well as business organizations throughout our history. They are role models for us and we often develop our leadership styles by observing, listening and reading about them.

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Role of a Leader in Building Culture of Innovation

 

Goal of an organization in the initial phase of its formation is to survive in a competitive open market. Founders of the organization work very hard to reach out to their possible customers in the initial phase. Smart teams capitalize on their initial success and work hard to expand their customer base and as customer base start expanding organization starts growing. More people starts joining the organization, new departments are established and efforts are made to bring stability and sustenance. Stability and sustenance once achieved results into the exercise of expansion and brand building. At each stage of organizational growth new ideas are required to move from one stage to another. Organizations which are able to create a culture of innovation as a result, are able to generate new ideas and are more likely to move smoothly from one stage to another. However, we have plenty of examples where organizations are stuck at different stages because of lack of new ideas.

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Authentic Leadership and its relevance in the Infosys Context

Authentic leadership is believed by many Positive Psychologists to be a very distinguishing and yet critical style of leadership for establishing future organizations that are equipped with an enthused, happy, productive, committed and successful workforce. Leadership today is not about having followers but it is more about creating or developing leaders for tomorrow. We need to first understand who is an authentic leader. Authentic leaders is one who is very high on self-awareness, believes in values, is genuine and true both, to oneself and to followers. These are leaders who not only identify the strengths of their followers, but also build upon those strengths for the good of the followers as well as the organization. These are leaders who give the autonomy and ownership to the followers and when successful shower the credit on them. Such leaders would always focus on the achievements strengths and positive aspects of followers and not dwell on their flaws alone.

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The leader as coach-- a need of the day

 

Only one half of the hardest working employees are likely to stay in their current organizations, according to the CEB Corporate Leadership Council's Q1 2014 HR Quarterly News and Trends Report, reporting on the global trend in talent retention and engagement. In another survey done in 2012 by Deloitte and Human Capital Leadership Institute among senior executives from 212 organizations across industries in seven Asian countries, including India and China, 83% identified talent retention as their greatest challenge. While career growth seemed to be among the key reasons for an employee leaving or wanting to leave, individual development and the manager's ability to develop their direct reports seemed to be another area of concern. The CEB Quarterly report found only 26% of the managers were effective in formally developing their direct reports.

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Change Leadership vs. Change Management

"Change is the only constant in life". This is statement is probably most true in today's organizational context. With so many parameters and factors outside the control of individuals and management, change is but natural. However, what most organizations fail to understand is that there is a difference between change management and change leadership.

Although a number of leadership and management books have talked about this difference and the common mistake that organizations make in not recognizing this difference and understanding the potential threat to organizations as a failure to recognize this difference, an even greater problem exists in the context of HR, performance management and leadership development. Do we (the individuals responsible for selecting, retaining and developing the most critical resources of the organization - its human capital) understand this difference?

Kotter gives a really good explanation of the difference between change management and change leadership. "When organizations have high competencies in management and leadership, they're able to meet challenges today as well as tomorrow. However, most organizations are usually lacking one or the other. When management exists without leadership, the company is often unable to change. And when leadership exists without management, the company is only as strong as its charismatic leader. Most of the time, organizations are overstaffed with managers, but lack enough leadership to help them deal with constant change." Essentially, change leadership is all about propelling and sustaining change that will likely affect the masses, whereas change management is all about making sure the change happens as quickly and efficiently as possible with little or no disruption to the work/task at hand.

Given this difference, it is important to consider this even when assessing individuals and building and executing interventions for them. More often than not, the line between change leadership and change management is blurred. Organizations expect an individual to do both (especially at the senior most levels) - initiate and propel change as well as manage it in a manner that is non-disruptive. This further adds to the dilemma as to what it is that we ought to be measuring the individual on. It is easy to think of the two as being interchangeable and use the same mix-bag of scales, methods and measurement models to capture the individual's rating on a particular index. However, there is valuable information that is missed as a result of doing this.

Additionally, it may also be important to consider the need of the hour. Does the organization require someone to shake things up and drive it towards a new horizon or have the wheels been set in motion already and what the organization needs is someone to keep up the momentum and make sure the vehicle doesn't go off track. By using the same assessments to measure both change leadership as well as change management, we lose out on identifying management skills or the lack of leadership skills that may exist in the individual. Hence, development may not be well suited to what the individual actually requires. In this sense, it is important to draw clear distinctions between change leadership and change management in a specific organization's context and measure each separately.

References

Kotter, J. (retrieved online on March 28th, 2014). http://www.kotterinternational.com/our-principles/change-leadership

February 26, 2014

STRENGTHENING THE MENTORING MINDSET

 

"I am not a teacher, but an awakener."  - Robert Frost

(Source: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/mentoring)

Formal and informal mentoring has found many supporters over the years. I was recently approached by a client team to revamp a self-mentoring solution that I had designed for them four years ago. It was inevitable that the discussion veered towards the issue of why did we and others we knew; decide to continue or end some of their mentoring relationships? What could possibly strengthen the mentoring mindset?

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December 30, 2013

A big salute to the leaders

I was privileged to be part of the panel that evaluated nominations for our excellence awards in the category of "Social consciousness and Sustainability". Firstly, it's wonderful that we as a company step back, recognize, and celebrate excellence across all facets of our enterprise. Secondly, I have been floored, humbled, and extremely moved by all the nominations. To think and act beyond the self is truly commendable. This blog is dedicated to all the Infoscions who take up activities that has an impact on society at large. All of them are leaders and winners without a doubt. Lastly, I think as a panel we were compassionate critics in the pursuit of excellence. Read on to know more about the nominations and the process

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December 10, 2013

Deep sea exploration, fly fishing and Leadership

A few months back, I was having a conversation with my college mate. Among the many topics, we spoke about the increasing role, demand and lack of leadership skills. We then stumbled upon this theory of deep sea exploration, fly fishing and the analogy to leadership. If it's not evident, then don't worry - the parallels are not apparent. However once I elaborate, they become clearer hopefully and you find it as interesting as we did talking about it ...

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October 24, 2013

Collective Mind

Group Mind

 

Groups of individuals working together on the same project (or task) are a new reality in organizational life for more than a few decades now. The wide spread practice of organizing work around teams of individuals with interdependent roles, instead of individual work,   reflects an implicit belief that teams working together can perform better. In simpler words the underlying wisdom seems to be the belief that - 'A team is more than the sum of individuals'. But this belief needs a qualified assessment before applying in practice. It has been observed by multiple scholars that a group of highly intelligent individual behaviors can result in worst outcomes at group level and dumb individual behaviors can result in highly intelligence outcomes at collective level (as seen in insect colonies, birds flocking together). Though the vast literature in group dynamics has clearly uncovered a lot of inefficiencies surrounding the team work but there is an asymmetric distribution of opinions, in practice, in favor of the positive potential of a team of individuals. Well there is also huge literature supporting the merits of team work and the idea that 'whole is more than the sum of parts'. In this blog I intend to present a more balanced picture of team work.  My objective is to impress my audience into re-evaluation if they hold a one sided view of merits of teamwork and thus managing their teams to better effects. 

Generally experienced issues (or shortcomings) in having the work organized around teams of individuals are following - interpersonal conflict, loss of rationality (group think), loss of accountability (social loafing), cost of coordination, and difficulties of operational management (e.g. identifying and rewarding the high performers) etc. These are real and serious issues associated with team work that have been shown to result in outcomes such as lower productivity, morale and decisions that sometime led to disastrous consequences. Janis (1972) coined the concept of groupthink based upon his observations and analysis of four policy decisions that resulted in fiascoes. These include the decision (1) in 1941 by Admiral Kimmel and his advisors to focus on training rather than on the defense of Pearl Harbor (2) in 1950 by President Truman and his advisors to escalate the Korean War (3) in 1960 by President Kennedy and his advisors to authorize the invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, and (4) a series of decisions by President Johnson and his advisors to escalate the Vietnam War during 1964-1967. Long before Janis (1972) a similar phenomenon of loss of rationality in group behavior was captured by Le Bon's work on 'crowd behavior'. Other well-known historical figures who had emphasized the loss of rationality in a group of individuals include, Plato - who held the opinion that democracy involved rule by irrational mobs (cited by G. W. Allport, 1968). According to Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay--the first two being members of the Constitutional Convention, "Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob" (Publius, 1788/1948, p. 248). Le Bon (1895/1896) formulated the first systematic analysis of crowd behavior in Psychologie des Foules. "Isolated he may be a cultivated individual; in a crowd he is a barbarian--that is, creature acting by instinct" (cited by   Wildschut, Pinter, Vevea, Insko, and Schopler, 2003).

 

In spite of the above we also observe (and hear) of the incredible performances and achievements by groups of individuals working together. We have before us the examples of many groups which regularly perform intelligent feats for example; Aircraft carriers which need a complex set of operations executed by collective mental operations run almost error free otherwise even minor lapse can be disabling and the group can experience catastrophes, but rarely accidents do happen. We've whole lot of examples where a team of individuals have achieved great success from launching a satellite to winning a state election for a party. In IT industry project teams and management team execute tasks (projects) which would be unimaginable to be performed by separate individuals.  

 

So finally to wind up the discussion the basic idea I want to communicate is that groups have a mind of their own which stays in shared understandings arrived at after significant interactions among members and the basic units of this mind include shared/accepted ways of operating. This is somewhat similar to concept of 'culture' and also analogous to an operating system in a computer we can call this a 'Team Operating System'. Whether teamwork is better than independent tasks assigned to indivuduals is determined largely by the qualities of a collective mind. But it is certain that a collective mind can (and does) exists independently of the minds of it's constituent members. And for effective management of teams we need to understand and be able to write, create and manage an appropriate 'Team Operating System' (TOS). A general good TOS would have mechanisms of commanding the general commitment and efforts of it's members towards team goals through optimal satisfaction of their personal needs/desires. Team leadership is not only responsible for creating and managing the right kind of TOS but also to complement it with 'active direction'.       

 

 

References:

Allport, F. (1962). A struturonomic concept of behavior: Individual and collective: 1. Structural theory and the master problem of social psychology. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 64, 1-30

 

Janis, I. L. 1972. Victims of groupthink. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Le Bon, G. 1896. The crowd. London: Unwin. (Original work published 1895)

Weick, K. E. and Roberts, K. H. 1993. Collective Mind in Organizations: Heedful Interrelating on the Flight Decks. Administrative Science Quarterly, 38: 357-381.

 

 

Wildschut, T., Pinter, B., Vevea, J. L., Insko, C. A. and Schopler, J. 2003. Beyond the Group Mind: A Quantitative Review of the Interindividual-Intergroup Discontinuity Effect. Psychological Bulletin.  Vol. 129, No. 5, 698-722