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Leadership   | 4 Min Read

Leadership Evolution: Mistaking Authority from Leaders

Written By Nishant Muralidharan

Before we get into the concept of Leadership, it’s important to understand leadership by means of its definition. No, not some dictionary definition, but the emotion that entails core leadership values. What is it that makes some people more charismatic, idealistic, visionary, so much so that they inherently and subconsciously draw people into becoming loyal soldiers?

Let me run you by two scenarios:

  1. In the military, we give medals to people willing to sacrifice themselves, so others may gain.
  2. In business, we give bonuses to those willing to sacrifice others, so they may gain.

It looks like we’ve got it backwards.

“I had the privilege of meeting these heroes, men in the military. And I asked them, how is it possible for you to run into danger to rescue your own? What gives you the courage? Why do you it? And they all said the same thing, because they would’ve done it for me.”

  • Simon Sinek. Author, Motivational Speaker & Marketing Consultant

If we go back 50,000 years to the Palaeolithic Era, danger surrounded us – the early days of the homo sapiens. The weather, carnivorous animals, disease, every little thing simply aimed to reduce our lifespans, and so we evolved. We evolved to become social animals, to believe in the emotions of trust and cooperation.

It’s the same today. There are things around us, beyond our control that attempt to frustrate us at the very least – be it the difficulties of the economy, or a new technology that renders your business model obsolete. Let’s not forget business competitors in this scenario also.

Given these conditions, it becomes imperative to control the only environment that you can. What’s inside your organization.

Cases to Consider

Every now and then, it’s a lot easier to explain by case than via mere stories. Keep reading, and you’ll know what it means to reach into the throne room of leadership.

Next Jump. Change the World by Changing Workplace Culture

Charlie Kim, CEO & Founder of e-commerce company Next Jump, often compared familial relationships to organizational culture.

“If you ever faced tough times in your family, would you consider laying off one of your children? We would never do it. And yet, why do we consider laying off people inside our organization?”

  • Charlie Kim, CEO & Founder of Next Jump

Next Jump, under his leadership, implements a policy of lifetime employment. If the company employs you, it’s impossible to get fired for performance issues. In fact, if you have issues, the leaders on board are more likely to coach you; right the course, just as a parent would with a child with bad grades.

Barry-Wehmiller Companies Inc. Bob Chapman’s Truly Human Leadership

Bob Chapman, Chairman & CEO of Barry-Wehmiller – a global supplier of manufacturing technology and services – was hit hard during the recession of 2008. In fact, they lost 30% of their orders overnight. Not an easy statistic for a large manufacturing company.

They could no longer afford their labour pool, and were instead pushed into a corner to save $10 million. And as with many companies today, the board got together in this situation to discuss possibilities around layoffs.

But Bob refused.

It stemmed from a rather simple ideology; Bob believed in heart counts, not head counts. And it’s never easy to arbitrarily reduce heart counts.

Given the situation, the board came up with a furlough program. It constituted that:

  1. Every employee takes 4 weeks of unpaid vacation,
  2. They could take it anytime they wanted, and
  3. It wasn’t required for them to take it consecutively.

“It is better that we all suffer a little, than any one of us suffer a lot alone.”

  • Bob Chapman, Chairman & CEO of Barry-Wehmiller

Morale went up. And instead of saving $10 million, they saved $20 million. Great leaders would sooner sacrifice the numbers to save the people.

Leadership is a choice. Not a rank.

Some say that people at the highest levels of an organization are more akin to authorities than leaders. We do what they say because they have authority over us, but we would not follow them. It’s also likely to find people at the very bottom of the organization, who are in actuality leaders.

Simon Sinek makes the observation that they’re leaders because they’ve chosen to look after the people to the right of them, and the left of them. To always make the first step, head into the unknown, so that others may possess a safe path to follow.

At the end of the day, true leaders idolize the very definition of charisma. They urge without words for those who follow to shed their sweat, tears, and blood. And when it boils down to the matter of merely asking, “Why do you do it?”  You’ll hear no more than one answer. Because they would’ve done it for us.

And isn’t that the organization we all want to work for?

Nurturing Leaders In-House

An objective assessment of important leadership traits and cognitive abilities differentiate leaders from the non-leaders. Research has indicated commonalities in core personality traits across different leaders, much of which significantly contribute to his or her success.

This train of thought is based on the premise that effective leadership is an outcome of an integrated set of cognitive abilities and dispositional tendencies. For example, Derue & Colleagues {2011} reported individuals high in conscientiousness, extraversion, and agreeableness as more suited to leadership positions.

In case you were wondering, the three traits stem from a subset of five that make the Big Five Personality Traits. Psychometricians – Mettl’s in-house team included – often build the foundation of their assessments on the Big Five. And it makes sense, with several empirical studies that seem to validate the effects of Big Five’s Personality Dimensions on leadership across multiple groups.

Why Look Out for Potential Leaders? A Walk in For Assessment Technology

Watch the quiet ones when it comes to business, because future leaders aren’t easy to spot. While the confident, extroverted staff do appear more suited to leadership, research claims some of the best leaders to stem from quieter roots – methodically calm with a relentless grip on challenging situations.

Miss them, and they work through the organization virtually unnoticed. Well, until they switch over to a competitor, moving on to become an all-conquering visionary. No business would want that. It’s what makes the ability to spot and nurture future leaders a vital HR skill.

And while most people assume L&D to start with training and end with ROI, the truth of the matter lies in people identification for programs also.

If you take Mettl as an example, our assessment battery identifies core leadership strengths. It’s later used to develop breakthrough L&D programs by mapping the diagnostic, formative and summative assessments to four functions critical to leadership effectiveness in an organization.

Apart from the critical competencies, our team of experts identify relevant competencies pertaining to different leadership styles also. It helps orient the program basis: 

  1. Suitability of leadership style basis organizational culture & requirement
  2. Employee Identification based on inherent leadership qualities
  3. Content Generation & Modification from frequent program progress measurement

As a HR professional in the realm of L&D, even with the knowledge behind what it takes to effectively run a leadership program, including competency knowhow, it becomes a rather difficult undertaking without the right tools in hand.

On several consultative interactions with clients, Mettl is noted to offer a specific sequence of assessments best suited to Leadership L&D. Some of them include:

  1. Mettl Personality Profiler (MPP)

An innovative, evidence-based personality assessment that measures critical, work-relevant personality traits. It’s designed to predict behavioural competencies that lead to organizational outcomes; established from the Big Five model of personality. The semantic differential approach also makes it resistant to socially desirable answers.

  1. Cognitive Ability Test

Research identifies cognitive and reasoning abilities as the most effective predictors of job performance. At Mettl, this stretches into two segments.

 

Critical Thinking Abstract Reasoning
Defined as the ability to identify & analyse problems, seek and evaluate information to reach derivative conclusions. A non-verbal assessment tool designed to measure an individual’s ability to perceive and think, make meaning out of ambiguity.

 

Both facets help identify an individual’s potential for success in areas where a high level of clear and accurate thinking, problem identification, and holistic situation assessment is essential to job success.

At the same time, these assessments are merely what the battery looks like outside program specific content assessments. A lot to explore here in both prior literature from Mettl and what’s to come.

Topics: Leadership

Originally published May 14 2018,updated June 21 2018

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