Friday, July 5, 2013

Lol (Lack of Leadership)

If you try to boil down to one big malice plaguing the country today, it is clear lack of strong leadership from politics to industry to sport to art, you name it.

The recent cases in point which brought to focus the ever deplete leadership pool in society is the reinstatement of NR Narayanamoorthy and the recall of resignation of LK Advani. Without getting into the politics behind both these reinstatements, one is to understand that both these ships had come to the stage where even if they would not sink, it would be too difficult to set sail and reach safe shores without these leaders who created a legacy for these organisations through thought and action in their heyday.

Let’s take the corporate case to start with, for politics is a broader canvas with multiple cause-effect relationships occurring simultaneously, is more a number game; ‘ceteris paribus’ lays quietly buried in text books.. Here is the company an IT bellwether, which brought India on the global IT map, taking full advantage of the open economy of the 90s, which gave a new meaning to the term offshore, which always meant only oil rigs before!

From reaching numerical milestones in top and bottom lines, spreading wings to number of countries and covering the globe and having established a name for itself for 20 years in corporate India, the balance seems to have shaken with a good share of the promoters moving on in their lives; today is a stage where the current lieutenants of the company are unable to break the shackles and the company is pushed to the outer end of the top 5 IT majors in the country.

But the case of lack of leadership is not an isolated one, it is more widespread than an isolated one. Are we as a nation creating leaders? What makes this community a dear one? Take leaders in the last 150 years in every possible field – the definition of a leader, “a person having passion towards a goal who can take people’s support in the path towards achieving that goal with unrequited respect and acceptance”. If one tries to enumerate the leaders the country has seen, we have a dozen who fought for freedom. Post independence it becomes more difficult to sift leaders from the also rans. That is why a LK Advani or a Narayana moorthy are sought after so much and are taking the role of phoenix in their domain of work, a Kapil Dev or MS Dhoni are revered for their leadership ability and are celebrated beyond their dues to a demi-god status. Post independence politics unfortunately has not produced leaders of great stature primarily due to the changing logic and behaviour pattern of vote banks. The population as far as election goes has always been left with choosing the lesser of the evils. Corporate India has seen few turnaround kings in the Ambanis and Tatas and few others. But again it is noteworthy that the recent generations of these captains of industry had not built the empires but only developed on the platforms that their predecessors created, no less a task but definitely cant be credited for their estates.

While the multi-party democracy in India has led to the mushrooming of hundreds of political parties, each with a leader or two, it has hardly developed leaders who will stand true to its definition, whose passion is National or even regional wellbeing without vested interests. So what was the contribution of democracy in creation of leaders is compensated by the way it operates. Both at the centre and at the State it has predominantly been 2 parties that fight the elections, all the fringes get added as iron filings to a magnet. So in effect Indian democracy boils down to 2 party democracy like in the UK. The lack of leadership is going to affect our National politics when the country goes to poll in 2014, with Congress yet to identify a PM candidate, MMS has been true to the fact that good economists, like economics do not make good politics. The recent events in the BJP is again due to the dearth of strong leadership.

Who will form the Government at the centre and how much good governance and balanced National view one can expect from the coalition that would be formed at the centre. The parties over the years have matured to the fact that if alliances are opportunistic, they need to be formed after the election result. There is no point in locking your options before the knowing the results in the name of ideology.

Then, is it in the DNA that India lacks leaders, is it something India alone suffers from or is a global endemic from the US to far-east. The latter looks to be the case. The last 10 years do not have much to boast about in world politics or economics nor in sustainability front as well.

One can go back to the age old argument of whether leaders are born or made. It is any one’s guess that they are made, but the dynasty effect in politics and Indian industry makes us think otherwise. It is pertinent to note that these heir-apparent have the benefit of both worlds, being born as and having a conducive atmosphere to become leaders.

65 years hence, with the Nation moving on its retirement age, the first generation in almost every facet of public life be it good or bad at leadership has matured and have lasted their times, it is the apparent lack of leadership continuum or grooming of successors that seems to be the crux of the problem in the major spheres of the country – Politics and Industry. This calls for a leadership culture that needs to get imbibed, identification and grooming of leadership talent that is the need of the hour, whether this can be brought about through education, say at Universities that teach the game or through working with the leaders and being coached by them from close quarters. The answer has to be both.

Have we exhausted our energies in our quest for the mass production of engineers, clerks and managers (read MBAs) and lost sight of nurturing genuine leaders or the entrepreneurial culture to have a vision and to take people along with one’s faith, conviction and strength? There seems to be a connect between entrepreneurship and leadership for the simple reason of of having a dream and converting it into reality by doing all it takes to see his vision implemented by making it a shared ideology of the group. In comparison the developed nations, for the above simple reason seems to have more leaders than say, a country like ours. To pit against the likes of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and the Fords and GMs, Boeings, Yahoos and Googles, GEs, Samsungs and Sonys for the amount of wealth that they created and the extent to which these companies changed the way we live, entrepreneurship definitely contributed to leadership. If we take India, there is hardly a path-breaking ‘changing the way we live’ industrialist who has walked this space.

So is the solution to leaders lie in entreprenurship? More yes than no, I opine..

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