Ashutosh P Bhupatkar

Ashutosh P Bhupatkar (Ph D) is an Independent Consultant.

The Leadership Tracker

Ashutosh P Bhupatkar

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The Leadership Tracker (‘L Track’) is an instrument of self-reporting which can provide early warning signs of a leader’s possible derailment.  These warning signs would be useful in designing recovery pathways, so that derailment is avoided.  The recovery option is important simply because the cost and consequences of derailment are enormous for the individual, the organisation, and colleagues and members of the concerned family.  Regardless of the chances of success, it becomes necessary to work on the recovery option until it is exhausted.

L Track captures respondent’s perception of the current state of the Leader within.  They have achieved a certain position on the basis of their work and competence.  Maintaining the level of success is a different task than achieving it.  It is at this point that possibilities of derailment arise strongly.  L Track is a check on reality, which will be useful in maintaining and enhancing the person’s record of success.  L Track is, therefore, based on a model of Leadership maintenance, and not that of Leadership success.  This is an important point to note, as it would be wrong to expect L Track to suggest a way of achieving Leadership success.

L Track is based on the person’s sense of realism about the world around, and about self.  The basic premise is that leadership derailment arises when the person starts becoming less effective in the leadership role, and begins to lose influence over the follower group.  L Track further hypothesises that this derailment is the result of impairment of the sense of realism about the world, and about the self.

Facets

These two dimensions are further developed into four facets each, thus, yielding eight factors in all.  These are listed below:

1. Alertness to change

2. Aspirations

3. Collective space

4. Developing others

5. Discerning continuity

6. Groundedness

7. Leveraging Experience

8. Leveraging Expertise

These facets suggest that a leader has to balance competing considerations constantly in order to have a grip on the dynamics within and without.  For instance, the world around us keeps changing, and so, one has to take note of the new in any situation, and move with it.  Thus, the leader needs to be alive to change.  But, at the same time, everything around does not change in its fundamentals.  Technology keeps changing, yet all of us desire fair, informed, and transparent treatment from experts, be it the field of medicine, law or architecture.  The fundamental client – professional relationship does not change.  The leader then needs to discern the forces of continuity, even as she strives to be on top of the changes.

Frequently in corporate circles, we find leaders resting on their oars, as the saying goes, after achieving success.  They have achieved quite a lot and now want to taste the fruit of success.  They want to enjoy and live it up.  It is a sign of their aspirations drying up.  Their hold on the business starts loosening.  You don’t need prescience to see what’s in store for such leaders.  At the same time, leaders who want to overreach need to guard against the tendency to belittle barriers and constraints.  Success gives you strengths, but time does not give concessions.  Successful leaders need to be aware of both their strengths and limitations, especially those that creep in with the passage of time.  Even a batsman like Tendulkar had to reckon with the inevitable slowing down of reflexes, and adjust his game accordingly.

Another challenge that success brings is the apportionment issue: how much of it goes to the sole credit of the leader, and how much to the rest?  Beyond public declaration of it being a collective effort, there are clearly subtle issues of projection of the leader.  Leaders are plagued by a nagging insecurity of not being able to sustain success.  Some start drawing not only attention, but also resources and exclusivity to themselves.  The collective space begins to shrink, and the leader may find himself isolated.  Dr V Kurien’s exit from Amul and IRMA is a case in point.

Warren Buffet’s style of non-interference with his CEO’s has become a kind of legend. Source - www.illinoismirror.com

Warren Buffet’s style of non-interference with his CEO’s has become a kind of legend.

Developing and grooming others to rise in power and responsibility is an ability that helps the leaders sustain their influence by ensuring that the collective space does not shrink.  Warren Buffet’s style of non-interference with his CEO’s has become a kind of legend.

Leaders with a successful track record have to contend with another challenge.  How much of their experience is going to remain valid in the future?  The concrete aspects of their experience will obviously become less and less relevant with passage of time.  But, the lessons learnt at the abstract level are likely to endure and remain useful.  Many CEOs miss out on the important difference between the template and the framework, and want to replicate the model of success from one organisation to the next.  That doesn’t seem to work.  It is not exactly leveraging the past, but rather repeating the past.

The importance of experts in leading complex organisations and changes is only increasing.  The leader finally has to take in the whole situation and decide what she can bet upon.  She needs to develop that insight into her situation, mandate and mission which alone can help make use of the expert advice.  In the absence of that insight, you are almost handing over the reins to the expert, and that can have its own consequences.  Putin, the President of Russia, in his first term was so exasperated with the foreign experts that in one swoop he ordered them out.  His own programmes then restored a measure of stability to the Russian economy.  Leveraging others’ expertise is a crucial ability for the leader, which simply put, means not getting carried away by name and fame.

How does L Track Work

Responses give the following ratings:

Scale

If a leader shows at a particular point of time a High level of Self Awareness but a Low or Medium level of Awareness of the world, it suggests that he or she is missing out on the developments and dynamics of the world around them.  There is a risk that their actions which proved successful in the past, might fail partially or completely in the future.  What they need to do in such situations is clear: they need to engage more broadly and deeply with the world around them.

Similar ratings are arrived at for each of the eight dimensions, highlighting those dimensions that receive Low rating.  These provide the Early Warning signs of possible derailment.  For instance, in case of a leader who scores High or Medium rating on all but two dimensions, viz. Collective Space and Developing Others.  The Low rating on these two dimensions indicates that the Leader probably attributes all success to his leadership and very little to his colleagues’ contributions.  At the same time, he or she does not provide sufficient opportunities to others to take more responsibility and develop further.  If this situation continues, the gap can become a rift, which can lead to desertion or withdrawal by important colleagues.  These could lead to adverse consequences.  It is possible to highlight these warning signs to the manager concerned, so that he or she can take action aimed at recovery.

Dimensions that receive Medium rating can also be considered as areas needing attention for development.  For instance, a Medium rating on Groundedness could indicate that the person needs a realistic self appraisal of own strengths and limitations.

The report can, thus, be used by an Executive/Behavioural Coach or a Mentor as the case may be, to begin an intelligent conversation regarding maintaining leadership success and effectiveness.  A leader is successful when the followers accept to be guided and led by the leader.  He or she is effective when they deliver on the promises, accomplish their mission and move closer to realisation of their cherished vision.  It is possible for a leader to be successful without being effective, and vice versa.  But, such a dichotomy is not sustainable in the future.  In other words, such leaders have a limited shelf life.

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