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To Become An Effective Leader, Avoid 'Leadership Advice'

13/07/2017 8:31 AM IST | Updated 13/07/2017 8:31 AM IST
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Leadership in the corporate context remains a bit of a mystery. The quest to be an effective leader is a bit like chasing the monk's meditative state — elusive, yet perpetually desirable.

There is no dearth of books trying to nail the leadership paradigm — books that are full of analogies, metaphors, quotations, case studies, and occasionally, science.

For those who prefer the screen over books, there are countless TED talks, podcasts, lectures, and graduation speeches available online, offering enough 'leadership mantras' to last a lifetime. Business leaders who have 'made it', academicians, and 'leadership coaches' — all share snippets of 'leadership wisdom', urging you to step up and seize your destiny.

All the inspirational talk and self-actualisation jargon can actually make acquiring leadership skills look like a forbidding goal that is hard to acquire.

No surprises then, that all the inspirational talk and self-actualisation jargon can actually make acquiring leadership skills look like a forbidding goal that is hard to acquire.

But, what if leadership had a much simpler narrative.

To meditate effectively, one needn't master elaborate body postures. Instead, the trick lies in taking a step back and focusing on your breath — inhale, hold it for a moment, exhale. What if 'leadership' too is a simple concept at its core. So, the next time you sit through a 'leadership conference' wondering why leadership continues to evade you, I suggest you go home and look within. The demons that hamper the leader in us usually exist within ourselves.

I am no coach, mentor, or successful business leader — all I am putting forward is an informed opinion. I do not intend to preach, nor do I profess to know. This write-up is just an extension of a self-assessment exercise through introspection. For, I have come to the conclusion that true leadership is more about self-realisation and self-belief, than any 'competency'.

I have come to the conclusion that true leadership is more about self-realisation and self-belief, than any 'competency'.

Leadership is often touted to spring from a sense of purpose. In my view though, 'leadership' fundamentally seeds itself in deep-rooted integrity — an unflinching honesty that entails remaining true to yourself, your values, and your belief systems, much before you mark yourself against a 'purpose'. As you are put through the 'corporate grind,' this aspect of your own self is likely to be conflicted the most, thereby, holding you back as a 'leader'.

Then, before you assign yourself a 'purpose' as a leader, you have to reach within and gather your reserves of courage and self-confidence. The courage will make you dream, and the self-confidence will make you believe in those dreams. And if ever, there are seemingly insurmountable hurdles in the path of realizing those dreams and you are tempted to abandon them, your integrity must come to your rescue. Shortcuts are always enticing but a focussed leader sees beyond them.

The hallmark of leadership is to posses a vision and make others believe in it so that they invest their effort towards turning it into reality. Leading a procession of people is a delicate affair. Even a slight hint of discord can unleash a stampede. Good leaders are careful never to overstep the bounds of self-confidence and become arrogant. Speaking of self-checks, humility is another one. If you are courageous enough to stick your neck out by announcing a vision to the troops you are in charge of, you ought to have the humility to accept and acknowledge the wisdom of others, when it makes more sense than yours.

Good leaders are careful never to overstep the bounds of self-confidence and become arrogant.

Both self-assuredness and humility are, once again, off-shoots of personal integrity.

The corporate world is full of distractions. Short-term problems can make you drift away from your core, and one day you will find yourself merely mouthing out instructions and reprimands. People management is not leadership.

Bewildered, you will flail about, trying to make your way through the murk, when all that you need to do is step back and take stock. Get back in touch with your inner, moral core and reassure yourself. Then jump back into the arena.

Inhale, hold it in for a moment, and exhale!

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