Leadership: In Search Of The Right Metaphor

Uncertain times call for dynamic leadership. What should be the defining traits of business leaders?

Gagan Adlakha
Organisations need a pipeline of disruption-proof leadership. Do the uncertain times call for predictive leadership or responsive leadership? What is the difference and how to identify the best kind of leaders for your particular organisational needs? 
 Leaders are expected to lead as well as manage change, but what really matters right now or at any point of time is that leadership depends on the context. It depends on what the leader is facing at that point of time. Context is a nuanced term. Within it, two things are important – one is about your origin and the second is your context. These two systems have played a major role in deciding what’s happening in the external world and also inside you, as the leader. At any point of time, these two things may collide and you must keep both aspects in mind, and that’s what has to do with the mindful part of leadership.
But what is it that shapes the context? Let’s look at the West Indies cricket team, which was struggling to make a mark in the 60s, was at the peak in the 80s and is currently struggling to get out of its bad form. They are trying to make a comeback and that’s not easy. Every human system takes this curve. The only difference is that today, with technology coming in, cycles are becoming shorter. 
The different stages of a person’s work-life require different leadership skills. It is important then for people to note which company they are working in or what role they are essaying at that level. What works for a small company may not work for a big company. What works for an Indian company may not for an international company. At different points of your career, you will need to understand where your company is and what your context is, and change yourself based on this assessment. This is the kind of leadership one needs to have. 
When one curve is complete, leaders start on anoth­er curve, and that’s where there is a transformational turmoil in the organisation. Here, the leadership skills required are completely different. The task here is to understand the old curve and also mange the new one. There is complete chaos at this point and that’s where many companies fail. There are old things and there are new things and you have to straddle both at the same time. Most companies are at this point or keep getting into this chaos often. Hence, one of the important tasks for companies is to find people at the top of the pyramid who can manage the chaos.
The situation can be related to any individual and how he treads his career. You know where you are and where you are going next. Are you at the peak of the old curve or about to be at the peak on the new curve? What is your new curve? There is so much happening around. You keep an eye on what’s happening around the company. Do you know what’s happening to us?
But who is responsible for this context and how does this con­text happen? It’s about choices – which curve you want to be on. If you analyse it, you will find that where you are today is an accumulation of the consequences of all the choices that you made in life. You make choices and ultimately choices make you. Where you are, whatever context you are in, is nothing but you and your choices. Nobody is to be blamed; nobody has to take responsibility for it. These traits are like thousands of decisions made in an organisa­tion, where every decision is a choice. Everybody making these choices accumulates into the organisation making its choices. 
Where do these choices come from and how does one make these choices? Its’ very important to understand how the human cycle runs and how the mind makes decisions. We are living in a context and this context gives us stimulus. Demonetisation happened, RERA is coming in, GST has been rolled out – suddenly these things hap­pen and you are expected to make choices. 
An individual is living in a context, which keeps throw­ing up challenges and stimuli. How should one deal with them? You have a response. Even if you ignore the chal­lenge, it is a response. For every action or inaction, there is a conse­quence. So, go and create your context, it’s as simple as that.
We receive stimulus from the context and the con­text urges us to respond and the consequences create context therein. For instance, in your work, suddenly a deadline comes up and it’s extremely important. You have to make a presentation to the boss or the board. Perhaps you may not have trained anybody else because you think you can do it best. So, stimulus is when an important task comes to you, and response is that you will work late at night and finish the task. The conse­quence is that the boss likes it and others do not learn it. So, the next time the task comes up, the boss will say only you can do. But then you are caught in a trap.
There are times when people begin feeling that they are caught in a whirlwind of activities. The second feel­ing is that of a déjà vu. The result is some part of your life starts getting neglected because your responses are based on certain value systems you have. So, for example, if I start spending all my time at work and I don’t have time for my family or my health, then I will have issues. Therefore, only a few parts of my life will flourish but other parts of my life will suffer. That’s also because of the choices that I am making. 
As stimuli keep coming, the option is to have a gap so that a person responds to it differently. That’s what mindfulness is all about, that is, being mindful of the response that I am trying to make and I am trying to give, and a stimulus that is hitting it. The human personality is like an iceberg, which is 10 per cent visible and 90 per cent invisible. Similarly, 90 per cent of our choices are unconscious. What we can see of each other is our behaviour. But our behaviour is affected by choices, 90 per cent of which are invisible like the part of an iceberg submerged in water.
Choices make unconscious into the conscious and invisible into the visible. From the moment I get up till I reach my office, there is a pattern. Everyday is almost the same. 
There are patterns to the way I respond to crises and difficulties. The patterns are unconscious choices and unless we are able to understand what our unconscious choices are and why we are making them, we will continue to get caught in them. Being aware of our conscious (10 per cent) and unconscious (90 per cent) choices is mindfulness. 
About the author:
Gagan Adlakha is a leadership coach and Senior Partner, Vyaktitva

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