Article: Organizations with agile leaders at the helm will continue to thrive: Ruchira Chaudhary

Leadership

Organizations with agile leaders at the helm will continue to thrive: Ruchira Chaudhary

Effective leaders can build the foundations for digital capability by involving everyone in the change and encouraging a growth mindset, says Ruchira Chaudhary, Author, Leadership Coach, and Founder - TrueNorth Consulting.
Organizations with agile leaders at the helm will continue to thrive: Ruchira Chaudhary

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An alumnus of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Ruchira Chaudhary, Author, Leadership Coach, and Founder - TrueNorth Consulting, straddles the corporate and academic worlds – she is a leading executive coach, adjunct faculty at several top tier business schools and runs a boutique consulting firm focused on organizational strategy solutions.

Ruchira’s diverse and eclectic background in mergers & acquisitions, organization effectiveness, and strategy execution, coupled with two decades of experience in emerging markets in Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, helps her grasp challenging people issues. Ruchira is also the author of the book Coaching: The Secret Code to Uncommon Leadership. 

In a recent interview with People Matters, Ruchira talks about the evolving leadership styles for the new digital world of work. 

As an executive coach who straddles the corporate and academic worlds, what has been the most fascinating thing for you that emerged from the crisis from a leadership perspective?

I am truly passionate about amplifying the message of leaders as coaches and enablers - it’s a topic I have written about extensively, teach it at several business schools, and is also the focus of my recently published book Coaching the Secret Code to Uncommon Leadership (Penguin Random House). 

The most fascinating thing for me as an outcome of the pandemic is the realization that you cannot lead through a crisis without enabling your people, and taking them along in the journey. In times of uncertainty, no leader can have all the answers. Good leaders recognize that the best ideas can come from anyone. These leaders empowered their teams and gave their colleagues a platform to voice ideas, opinions, and suggestions. These leaders weathered this relentless storm and navigated choppy waters by collaborating and partnering with their people – by asking them not to tell them what to do.

There are so many different leadership styles and leaders that we see today. But when it comes to leading through a crisis? Do you see a synergy in terms of how they lead? Or there is no rulebook? 

While there is no rulebook as you rightly pointed out, the pandemic has shown us that organizations that have thrived not just survived had agile and nimble leaders at the helm. Leaders showed swiftness in taking decisions (even when they do not know the answers) and moved from analysis to a plan of action.  

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These leaders surrounded themselves with experts whose advice they took into cognizance before making balanced decisions; they empowered others, communicated clearly, and unambiguously separated fact from fiction. Importantly, these leaders consciously created a culture of motivation, not Instruction by Asking, not Telling Others.

To make a success of digital transformation, effective leadership and mature organizational culture are necessary. What is the mindset that leaders require to succeed in a digital world? Anything new that you learned from this crisis?

I believe effective leaders can build the foundations for digital capability by involving everyone in the change and encouraging a growth mindset. As Prof Deborah Ancona at the MIT Sloan School of Management says, “To thrive in this landscape, organizations that have long been siloed and bureaucratic must become nimble and customer-centric, and command-and-control models must give way to distributed leadership.” The Crisis has reiterated that these leaders succeeded by:

  • Ask probing questions 
  • Create psychological safety
  • Build Digitally Focused Organizations 

The continued uncertainty is a test for both organizations and workers. What’s your advice on how to best take care of employees’ changing needs while continuing to solve new business challenges?

Today, more than ever, leaders must discern, adapt to and balance many fronts skillfully: focus on employee well-being yet drive business results; provide clarity despite not knowing enough, and, above all, he needs to project confidence despite knowing harsh business realities. The organizations, and by extension the leaders who have done this right have focused on a few key aspects such as cultivating empathy and building trust. Leaders can support their people in achieving peak performance by trusting them to do their job without constant supervision giving them the time and space in this new WFH reality. Second is Role Modeling. Many say New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Ardern is a master class for leaders on how to handle crises. Empathy seems to naturally flow from her. Lastly, it’s resilience. Leaders need to build higher levels of resilience in themselves and their teams by taking charge of how they think about misfortune, crisis, and adversity. As Sheryl Sandberg says eloquently — Resilience is a muscle you can build. It’s just a matter of knowing how.

There are ample studies that demonstrate a strong correlation between diversity at a leadership level and business results. But not much is changing in the real world. How is this going to unfold/change in the post-pandemic world?

When the pandemic first hit in 2020, millions of women were among the first to lose their jobs because they are overly represented in the service sectors - leading some economists to call the ensuing recession a “she-cession”. 

Research tells us that women are much less likely to ask for promotions, or apply for leadership positions vis-a-vis men despite being equally qualified – what many experts term as the confidence gap between men and women. The pandemic has only exacerbated the problem. Employers need to take cognizance of this alarming reality and make concerted efforts to create an ecosystem where women employees can rejoin the workforce with the right support, infrastructure, and coaching that helps them play to their potential.   

What’s the code for ‘uncommon’ leadership? Can you share some insights from your latest book ‘Coaching: The Secret Code to Uncommon Leadership’?

Coaching: The Secret Code to Uncommon Leadership is a book for people that aspire to become extraordinary or Uncommon Leaders. Uncommon leaders are those that achieve success by helping others grow, who take others along and help them become a better version of themselves. It’s a book about the journey from being a good leader to an extraordinary one, or shall I say a leader to a leader-coach. Coaching is the key - or the code - that unlocks Uncommon Leadership.

Uncommon leaders understand that it’s not just about building an empire, or making millions in revenues but also about the journey and the teams they build along the way. When these leaders relentlessly focus on elevating others, they also elevate themselves, and their organizations. When they shine the light on others, they shine even brighter.

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Topics: Leadership, Strategic HR, #HRTech

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