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BW Businessworld

Relook And Decode

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Henry ford's quote, “A man cannot expect to progress without thinking” summarises the gist of the book How Great Leaders Think: The Art of Reframing.

The book mainly focuses on a four-frame model for leaders to think and act in a dynamic, organisational life around structure, people, politics, and culture, where a leader should look at the organisation as a factory: a world based on reason, rationality, goals and formal relationships; as a family: made of individuals with needs, feelings, prejudices and limitations; as a jungle: a place where there conflict is rampant due to conflicting interests and perspectives amidst limited resources; and as a temple: propelled by rituals, ceremonies, stories.

It is in this maze that a leader needs to align structure to goals yet stay considerate of human needs, develop a power base to succeed and also inspire through hope and belief! While this can lead to an array of conflicting perspectives, the art of great leadership manages to showcase a point of view that creates harmony across all parameters.

Authors Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal put forth the idea that good thinking is the starting point of a good leadership. Leaders who understand what's going on around them see what they need to do and achieve the results they want.

I believe that every organisation should be built on the pillars of conviction, respect, integrity and empathy. It is one of my responsibilities that everyone in the organisation lives with these core beliefs while remaining focused on achieving success in a very competitive business environment and functioning as a team. This book made me realise that the four-frame lens can really help leaders like me to be able to create this interesting balance.

An important lesson for leaders is that they should be unbiased in assessing their strengths and weaknesses across the four aspects, recognise blind spots and work on expanding their vision or building a team that brings in a complimenting worldview.

Driving and leading change is another key mandate of a leader, say Boleman and Deal. This section of the book, which covers the need for leaders to fluidly move her/his role as a coach, architect, politician and healer, brings a thought-provoking perspective to this world where change is the only constant. In my experience, I have seen that when you are leading the type of businesses where you are focused on driving transformation for people, business and IT and dealing with technologies that are continuously on an innovation curve, the organisation needs to be what I call “dynamically stable”. Driving ongoing success in the organisation encourages me to continually take up new and versatile roles, often becoming a ‘jack of all trades’ in the process.

The book offers a different view on how the four-frame model be used by leaders on what I think is one of the most challenging and deeper responsibility — which is to build an organisation with an ethical and moral fabric at every level. It is here that the leaders have to become models of excellence, caring, justice and faith, so that they serve a much more enduring and powerful role.

Working in leadership roles in global organisations, I have also observed the need for the leader to be specifically aware of the different cultures she or he is dealing with. This becomes a very interesting variable when you are driving initiatives that have teams operating globally in different continents, different time zones and with different ways of looking at the same issue. Globalisation, in my view, brings in another interesting element to this framework.

I particularly liked the last section of the book, which has an interesting commentary on improving leadership by practising with concrete lessons that readers can put to use in their own leadership journey. Leaders today are expected to deliver on growth, transformation, innovation and talent building in a world where there are many “right” options. This book intuitively helps build a platform for leaders to make better judgments and offers an opportunity to look at situations more holistically.

I believe this is a leadership journey we are on and books like these give an opportunity to take a step back and put some sense to a very volatile yet extremely exciting business world.

The writer is AVP and Country Head, India Subcontinent, Citrix

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 23-03-2015)