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BW Businessworld

Leadership Z.0 - Managing From The Center

Leadership may not necessarily mean managing top down, but in this new age, managing from the center

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Enterprises today face a common challenge: to create effective talent pools that can lead the organization to new levels of success. The skill-pool, available globally for enterprises to build their resource eco-systems, is more or less of the same quality. The top pyramid consists of visionary innovators; the mid-layer comprises of ambitious executors, and the bottom layer comprises of diligent doers. Leadership may not necessarily mean managing top down, but in this new age, managing from the center.

Re-defining the Leadership Ethos – Managing Energies Above and Below

While it is critical for a leader to be seen in the forefront, it is also important for him or her to understand the team dynamics and manage individuals and aspirations in the right manner. That means he or she needs to be part of it.

A leader’s role is therefore changing from the age-old “top down” style to “managing from the center.” Essential qualities for any leader today are to lead by example, create value for the team, and channelize energy and ideas to a common fulcrum. This is possible only when the leader has worked with the team to define a common objective and has then chalked out a strategy to achieve that shared goal. What this translates into, is working with the team and being part of it. Of course, it remains true that a leader doesn’t need to be a subject expert. In fact, he/she perhaps shouldn’t be one but rather focus on surrounding himself with those. Essentially, the leader needs to sit in the center pulling the strings together.

A leader today needs to be an energy manager: managing the energies above, below and around to align together the top performing alphas along with others in the team and bring them to a central focal point of shared vision, goal, and outcome. There is also room for innovation once a common value system has been created, for example, through reverse mentoring where millennials mentor older colleagues to pick up new age tech skills which are high in demand.

Vision in Digital Age

Being a leader in the contemporary digitally agile world is an altogether different concept than what it meant in the past. Organizations today are beset by a number of challenges on the HR front. Teams of diverse backgrounds, often based in remote locations, need to work together. So, leaders have to necessarily manage multi-generational and multi-geographical workforces. It is thus imperative that the contemporary leader needs to have a GRIP on the four critical aspects of teaming – Goals & Mission, Roles, Interpersonal Relationships and Processes.

We are living in times of exploration with so much unknown around us. It is essential that leaders are part of the explorative journeys on which they send their teams. A leader needs to explore the new technical world himself/ herself; if he/she doesn’t ask “What’s new?” and “What’s out there?”, he/she would never learn this from just being told or receiving reports. That’s where leading from the center gets tangible.

Aligning Outliers with Common Goals

Organizations thus have to find a way to glue the different elements together by fostering effective team-centric leadership. It becomes important for high performing sustainable teams to have a common value system for the enterprise. This is even more important for a leader to understand, because irrespective of how good a leader’s vision is, there always will exist outliers with differing views and objectives within an organization.

The only way to streamline and align divergent views to the common goals is for a leader to establish a shared vision and create a value system for the entire team. Once this is done, the roll-over effect of this vision gains a critical mass and drives a momentum that creates coherence with the individuals and situations and enables even the moderate outliers to align to the common goal. Teaming therefore becomes a powerful concept especially with millennials and a true leader will motivate the team by creating a platform for collaboration.

Orchestrating a Successful Symphony

To sum it up, a leader can be likened to the conductor of an orchestra. There will be different instruments of different sizes and shapes. The tune of a harp is as important in a symphony as the note of a violin. Communication and transparency binds it all together, but characteristics that are almost more important are awareness and focus. A blink of an eye slippage can lead to great disharmony in a concert. In an orchestra, they all understand their roles and play to a common tune. Only sitting amongst the musicians makes one hear the different tones and sounds. All the performers regardless of varying levels of skill come together and collectively take a bow for the performance. Organizational leadership is no different and organizational dynamics, too, are no different!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Amit Chadha

The author is President and Member of the Board, L&T Technology Services

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Dr Thomas Loesler

The author is Group Chief Compliance Officer, Allianz Group.

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