Imagine if Steve Jobs would have only worked on the marketing modalities for the launch of iPhones and left the product development and design to Bob Brochers. Would SpaceX and Tesla be what it is, if Elon Musk would have just strategised about ‘go to market’? Musk especially has spent a considerable amount in coding, product development and PR to help get SpaceX or Tesla reach its epic stature today. Quoting the very famous John C. Maxwell, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
Leadership is not about a title or a designation, it’s about impact, influence and inspiration. My manager and founding member at Audioplus, PradeepAhuja, taught me that there is no job too small; every job needs to be done with passion and commitment.Often I am asked—as a leader, what is your day-to-day job beyond strategising? It’s very difficult to put it down in words—I speak to my people, understand what they think is right and wrong, engage with customers, go for meetings with possible customers—it’s a long list, but surprisingly so, strategy building is not a regular task, or as presumed, not the only task!
What defines a good leader?
Before we take a dig into what a leader does every day, it is critical to understand what makes a good leader. Let’s clear it for once and for all—leadership is for everyone, no title necessary. As long as you have the will to lead and an inclination to help others reach their potential, you are a leader.
Some other key attributes which define a leader:
Availability: If you are a leader who is sitting in the cubicle, confined to your laptop, it’s time you change! A good leader has to be ‘available’—for customers, for employees and most importantly, for his or her own growth. Personal growth is an ongoing journey and a leader has to be open to learning, from anyone and everyone. Every individual needs to be a lifelong learner. Just as established products and brands need updating to stay alive and vibrant, you periodically need to refresh or reinvent yourself in order to continuously grow, make mistakes and learn from the mistakes to develop your skills further.
Ability to lead from the bottom: The role of the leader is to guide people, not command them. In the 21st century, the days of a top-down structure is passé. Nelson Mandela famously equates a great leader with a shepherd who “stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realising that all along they are being directed from behind”.A leader’s job is to support and guide from the bottom—to help lift others, not themselves, up into the spotlight.
Is bold: In the 21st century, new-age companies are disrupting the way people consume content, eat, transport or even talk to others. As a result of this, being bold is imperative.
Being innovative: Given the everyday competition and challenges both internally and externally that a leader faces, he or she has to have an innovation mindset. Imagine a situation when the CEO of a company has to mould himself or herself according to each of the customer meetings scheduled. It is essential for the leader to be able to think innovatively and adapt to every customer’s requirements.
Now that we have set some attributes aside, let’s understand what a true leader does, or is expected to do. According to a new global survey commissioned by American Management Association and conducted by the Human Resource Institute, tomorrow’s top leaders will set the vision and corporate strategy, but also will play a central role in ensuring that strategies are executed properly. They will also be expected to develop talent, foster innovation and model their company values.
To be honest, there is no defining trait of a leader.
A good leader needs to have the ability to convert his vision into reality; move from power point to proof point. It is also important to be able to see reality and not get jumbled in how you want it to be. A true leader needs to be hungry for growth and the required change. S/he should also focus on building a passionate and motivated team.
If you are a good leader, your measurement of success should be enabling brighter outcomes for all stakeholders.
The author is managing director, Barco India