Adding value to leadership continuously: an emerging necessity


G Balasubramaniam
Editor-in-Chief, The Progressive School, New Delhi

Leadership is a dynamic process. It calls for continuous enrichment in order to sustain its status, leave alone any further progress.

With an innate urge to growth, every human being seeks avenues and opportunities to scale up their status and hence the leadership positions and processes are always subject to assault and hence competitive. It is therefore imperative that both leaders in positions and people who seek to acquire such positions are fully aware of one basic requisite to this challenge: Adding value continuously to Leadership.

What are the important focal areas of enrichment?

1. Awareness to change:

As the leadership process is dynamic, it calls for skills for continuous management of change in both the personal and the social profile of the leader. Therefore one has to be aware, sensitive and responsive to changes that happen around. The absence of any one of the above skills will have a totally retrograde impact in the growth profile of the leader. The statement of Lao-Tzu in the book The Art of War – “you are not interested in the war; but the war is interested in you” has to be kept in mind by every leader both for survival and growth. A wall paper which I had occasion to see had the following message: ‘In Africa, every day a deer gets up with a resolve that it has to run faster than the previous day, lest it will be killed by the lion. Every lion gets up with a resolve that it has to run faster than the previous day, lest it will go hungry. It matters not whether you are a lion or deer, you have to get up every day with a resolve to run faster than the previous day.” This powerful message is indeed a message for the leadership too!

2. Knowledge management and processing:

With innumerable instruments to access and process knowledge, professional and otherwise, a leader should acquire skills of knowledge assimilation, processing and management on an on-going basis. The scale and speed of knowledge dynamics has re-engineered the tools and appliances of acquisition and thus the skills of survival in knowledge industries as well as in the universe of operating knowledge either for gain or for joy have to be relevant and contextual. Leaders have not only to be familiar to these changes but have to be consciously and effectively examining the opportunities for empowerment and enrichment in their respective fields. With learning processes becoming informal and accessible, the space-time restrictions for learning have indeed vanished. The understanding about neuro-plasticity of the brain further facilitates learning so long it is biologically active.

3. Empowerment with new skills:

Theoretical knowledge without appropriate skills for utility would make a leader inefficient and ineffective, whichever is the area of business, trade and industry. Leadership requires familiarization with new and appropriate skills, which are current, universal and productive. But mere familiarization keeps one as leader with mediocre competence, unless one has the capacity to lead people to change and impact processes with adequate proficiency. The familiar quote “A leader knows the way, shows the way and goes the way“ is very relevant. With automation of processes becoming a significant technological necessity, looking forward curiously to futuristic skills is inevitable. Further, with the speed of production being double than the speed of consumption, the shelf life of knowledge and associate products is fast declining. Hence acquisition of newer skills on a continuous basis is becoming a survival need.

4. Ability to synthesize new knowledge:

The knowledge society is evolving into its next generation. From simple techniques of assimilation, procession and management of knowledge, the ability to use the existing knowledge to produce new knowledge is an emerging concern. The members of knowledge society have to evolve as “Knowledge technologists” from “Knowledge workers”. Leadership without ability to look up to newer visions of knowledge and newer knowledge architectures will have stressful times to compete with their futuristic competitions. “The early bird“syndrome will redefine the future and the prospective leadership waiting time for synthesis of new knowledge will be very critical, stress prone and challenging, and hence leadership for the next generation would require strong and positive self-management skills.

5. Understanding changing professional psyche:

Management of work-force with an intense urge to grow in careers within the shortest possible time, its limitless need for continuous acknowledgement, reward and appreciation would put leaders in quite difficult situations requiring sensitive conflict-resolving skills and HR skills. Redefining of industrial relations, HR concerns, work-life balances, short-termism in professional and business loyalties would force leadership to examine possibilities of collective leadership rather than monarchic models. Add to this, short term political governance models, ideological conflicts in socio-political approaches to economic leading to non-sustainable decisions, absence of vision and integrity in decision models to satisfy the immediate needs rather than national and global concerns, would position the leadership in problem solving mode to a larger time denying time to address constructive concerns. Leadership of the future requires strong and positive thought profiles.

6. Self-actualization:

It is said that ‘Leaders light their own lamps.’ They do not wait for someone to appreciate and celebrate their achievements. They do not look forward to a pat on the back which would work as a catalyst for their mobility. They are self-actualized and hence people with ‘defeatist attitudes’ don’t survive in effective leadership profiles or do make a mark in a competitive environment. Leaders need to define a path rather than look for pathways on which others have already walked. They make a difference by their innovation and synergetic thinking. Learning while growing should be in their daily agenda. At the same time, the learning should enhance their levels of humility as that would help the followers to reach out to them with comfort and courage.

7. Enhancing the universe of work:

Growth in leadership always happens with the ability of a leader to willingly and consciously enhance their sphere of work and universe of operation. New learning, new skills, new responsibilities, new challenges add value to the quality of leadership. That empowers them with greater competence and as a leader worth working with. Their ability to generate trustworthy second and third lines in the areas where they have already performed and to bring newer visions to the areas which they have adopted are indicators of the dynamics of their leadership. As such a leader who doesn’t grow leaders degenerates to fossilized forms of leadership.

G.Balasubramanian, Editor-in-chief of The Progressive School Magazine is a leading educator in the field of school education, curriculum designer, author, HR trainer and educational administrator. Widely traveled, he has authored several books for schools, educational administrators and is a premier teacher-trainer both across the country and abroad. He has authored – Mindscaping Education, Case Studies in Classrooms, Quality Spectrum – A school’s bandwidth and Safety in Schools – Issues & concerns.