“Before you become a leader, success is about growing yourself,
and when you become a leader, success is about growing others.”
Says the management guru Jack Welch who points out that there is no more exhilarating and exciting an agenda for leaders than to take along people towards growth and achievement.
The journey towards people development and empowerment is not without challenges. Leaders must imbibe a mindset shift from just a focus on process-and-profit to a people-first orientation. They need to ask themselves the moot questions- “How many people have you made better because you have been better and touched them?” There are two imminent leadership challenges in the context of the modern organization.
Retaining people: In today’s dynamic talent landscape, opportunities abound for high performers. As a leader, how do you then ensure that yours is “The Place to Be”?
Attracting new people: Today’s job seeker is highly informed and aware. With portals like LinkedIn and Glassdoor making organizations transparent, a new generation of the workforce is learning more about a brand than ever before. They value “truth” and “trust,” which is not very different from previous generations. The hiring philosophy must relate to new talent and leaders must position their organizations as a differentiator to be able to identify, hire and onboard talent. They must connect with the desired talent, and must be “visible.” This can be done through “great places to work” surveys, managing their online presence and stock impressions.
The essentials tenets of great leadership
The first step to becoming a great leader is to lead oneself in the right direction. Imbibe the following elements, and embark on the right path.
- Learn to love others: Welch takes pride in being curious by nature, he loves to see people grow and learn. “I got my pile of money pretty early; I enjoy watching other people’s piles grow,” he says.
- Create the right environment: Leaders must create an atmosphere where people hate when it’s Saturdays because they want to get more work done.
- Celebrate own success and relish other’s success: Celebrating is one of the most underrated management tools. Leaders must identify ways to celebrate, recognize, and take care of their people.
- Do what you control: Leaders must focus on creating a work ethic where people are empowered and feel in control. As opposed to feeling distracted by what is beyond their control.
- Cultivate a growth mindset: Imbibe the value of growth, treat growth like the true elixir, without which people can make little progress.
- Grab the generosity gene: Generosity is a human magnet. A standard question Welch asks external candidates for senior positions, is “How many people did you promote last year?” Some of best decisions makers create business results by extending acknowledgment where due.
- Cultivate candour: Transparency, i.e., opening up about how the business works is a must for doing business. Candour creates speed, the elixir for winning. Candour leads to a healthier and simplified organization. Let people know everything, be a company with no secrets.
- Win every day: Winning changes the spirit. When you win, you can give back; you can control your personal destiny, flexibility goes up. As a winner, you can bring other winners.
- Make work fun: If you don’t make work fun, you are spending most of your time plugged away.
- Stimulate excitement: Allow people to fail fast, to take chances, to learn from mistakes. This open and accepting environment will stimulate excitement. This also means creating a supportive culture, where everyone has each other’s back.
- Reward and recognize, two-fold: Rewards must be two-fold, i.e., one in the wallet (monetary reward) and one in the soul (recognition). Leaders must learn to acknowledge and spread success stories to fuel positivity.
How HR can cultivate leadership
Creating great leaders involves the active participation of various stakeholders- participant, coach, trainer, process implementers, etc. One such stakeholder is HR, who in Welch’s opinion has always been the No. 1 function in the organizational context. He refers to HR’s role as “the pastor and the parent,” as follows:
a. Pastor: In the “pastor” role, HR keeps secrets, allows people to share and express, guides people and helps build their confidence. As a result, people would come to them and trust them as their own.
b. Parent: In the “parent” role, HR is the watch-dog, scrutinizing people and reprimanding them. The beauty is that HR does this quietly, but emphatically, akin to a parent-child relationship, for the greater good of the child.
HR is a catalyst in the process of creating winners. If we think of the organization as a sport, winners are the people who are backed by the best teams on the field, helping them operate as a team. That is the role played by HR in the leadership development process. This role arises from ingrained trust and belief, with the people.Leadership is not a complicated thing, as is construed by most organizations. It is basic human nature. Business is a game, and games are supposed to be fun. When the propensity to win, candour and growth form the foundation, leadership success is bound to follow.