Article: Where have all the good leaders disappeared?

C-Suite

Where have all the good leaders disappeared?

Confidence in leadership roles has plummeted to an all-time low in economies and corporations
Where have all the good leaders disappeared?
 

Economies of America and Europe have steadily maintained low leadership confidence post the economic crisis

 

Confidence in leadership roles has plummeted to an all-time low in economies and corporations

“Former President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf placed under house arrest in his farmhouse,” read the headlines in this morning’s newspapers. After Musharraf’s bail plea for allegations of treason was rejected yesterday, he made a quick exit from the court premises and fled. Though he was supposed to be taken into custody, he left the court escorted by government-employed bodyguards.

What surprised international administrative thinkers and political analysts was how the former leader was allowed to pull off the act in the premises of the apex court of Pakistan in the presence of hundreds of citizens, media persons and police officers. The media was abuzz with reports on how easy it is for an influential leader to bend the rules and get away with anything.

Vijay Mallya, the chairman of the UB group, drew a lot of ire after Kingfisher Airlines failed to pay its dues to employees, airport operators, banks etc. It failed to pay salaries to its employees for more than six months that ultimately led the airline to stop operations. The debt-ridden airline has been grounded since October 2012, and the staff continues to wage a battle against their erstwhile employer.

Mallya, who had developed a reputation over the years as the most flamboyant businessman of India, continued to flaunt his opulent lifestyle that did very little to show his commitment to resolve the crisis. Amid reports of personal debt, suicide attempts and unemployment crisis that KF employees were facing, it was reported that the senior leaders and the CEO received pay hikes to the tune of 120 per cent during the crisis.

On the day Kingfisher airlines staff staged a nationwide protest across multiple cities, Mallya’s son, Siddharth, is reported to have tweeted from London, “Shooting for the #Kingfisher calendar girl is tough job. Time to hit the #pub.” Many remarked that, through these inconsiderate shows of indifference, Mallya had turned a blind eye to the crisis.

The not-for-profit network of global executives spanning across 120 countries, YPO, released the findings of a global survey they conducted in October 2012. The results stated that in the YPO leadership confidence index across the globe had dropped to an all-time low. While the economies of America and Europe have steadily maintained low leadership confidence post the 2008-09 economic crisis, Asian economies has also steadily showed steady decline in leadership confidence since the last year.

Taking ownership of mistakes

Corporate India is seeing a crisis in terms of leadership. Corporate Leadership Council’s annual global leadership survey across the last three years has consistently shown that Asian economies, including India, are seeing a leadership crisis where experienced leaders are leaving organisations and there are very few to replace them.

Many visionary leaders who have built or managed some of the largest corporations in India have given way for the next in line. The likes of Ratan Tata, Narayan Murthy, and R.P. Goenka no longer adorn magazine covers and have been replaced by the likes of Cyrus Mistry and KV Kamath. The political landscape in India is also seeing a change of guard, and analysts believe that it will take some more time for this next line to build credibility and trust. Good leaders who build up trust are the ones who have the courage and capabilities to take ownership of their mistakes and demonstrate intent to rectify them.

Bill George, a management author and professor at Harvard Business School, writes in his book, 7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis, “Authentic leaders own their mistakes, acknowledge their faults and always put the interests of their organisations ahead of self-interests.”

Author and popular blogger Mike King articulates five things that will make a good leader stand out whenever s/he errs.

The following five traits separate the good leaders from the rest.

1. To become a good leader, learn from your past mistakes.
2. Always leave some room for mistakes to happen.
3. Rather than dwell on past mistakes, look beyond and forward.
4. Have empathy towards the people and entities affected by a mistake. Only then can a leader find a way to devise the right solution.
5. Lastly, and most importantly, have the courage to own up. No one is perfect and people understand that.

The path of the Sachin Pilots, Akhilesh Yadavs, and Cyrus Mistries of India will not likely be smooth but strewn with obstacles. It is through these obstacles that some leaders will shine while others fall behind. I’m hoping that in the next 10 years the country is still not asking the same question, “Where have all the good leaders gone?”

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Topics: C-Suite, Leadership, Culture

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