My thoughts on Thought Leadership: Leading to Make Difference
T. V. Rao
Prepared for "Business Manager" Magazine
Four Types of Leaders.
To me a leader is one who leads. To lead means to think ahead, to talk ahead or to act ahead of others. All leadership forms imply to be ahead. “To be ahead” is a relative term. Anyone who is doing any of the three without knowing someone else has already thought or spoke or acted is still a leader. Leadership is a matter of the mind. It is a belief in the mind of the leader as well as in the mind of the perceiver. If I think ahead and am not aware that someone else has thought similarly somewhere not knowing the same, I am still a thought leader. For example the conceptualisation of the “Integrated Human Resources Development” as an integrated system, the department that facilitates as a HRD Department, and the function as Human Resources Function was thought ahead of many across the world by Udai Pareek and I had the good fortune of being a part of this thinking in mid seventies. This has happened as we were writing our consulting report sitting in Hotel Taj, Mumbai and presented the next day at L&T. Till to day this thought stands as a lead thought. Dave Ulrich and his contributions and contributions of many other from across the world came at least two decades later. Some people have acknowledged this in India and most still think Dave Ulrich is the only thought leader in this.
Thought Leadership in India
People in the US, Canada and UK did not read and still don’t read much of Indian books. India did not have recently a mechanism of acknowledging the top 20 or 50 or 100 thinkers or leaders and even when it has most leaders go unnoticed. It does not mean all thought leadership comes from the west. A lot of it is there in our country and it is not always acknowledged unless it becomes a cult and gets exported to the west. India is filled with thought leaders but most of them remain private and are not acknowledged. Similarly, I heard long long ago Dr. P. P. Gupta profess, “Preach even if you don’t Practice”. I was intrigued by this and once both Dr. Udai Pareek and I asked Dr Gupta about this strange statement. He said that Professor” Most people in India have nothing to preach. If you have to preach you should first learn about something you want to preach. When you learn something to preach, half my battle is won. The when you begin to preach others, even if you don’t believe in what you are preaching, you will slowly begin to internalise and believe and belief is the first step to practice. Even if for some reason you don’t believe after repeated preaching, someone in audience who listen to you will ask “are you practicing what you preach”. At least then you will practice. That is why I am suggesting most of our country men to preach even if they don’t yet practice”. Years latter this theory of Leadership came from Noel Tichy of Michigan University who guided Jack Welch and team to success. Like Dr P P Gupta and Udai Pareek there are many thought leaders in India? We just don’t recognise them adequately. In recent times Dr. Anil Khandelwal is another whom I admire for his thought leadership. In HRD there are a few thought leaders whom we should respect and acknowledge.
Managers to Leaders;
In have written in my book “Managers who Make a Difference (IIMA Books) about four types of Managers: Doers, Achievers, Visionaries and Missionaries. It is the third and the fourth type who get qualified as leaders. It is possible to move from one type to another and also fall from one type to another. However normally upward movement is possible through development and downward movement may occur only in phases. While the first type of people serve the society in one particular way by ensuring excellence and productivity, it is the third and fourth categories that make a difference to a large number of others.
As mentioned above leaders can also be classified as: “Thought” leaders, “Talk” leaders and “Act” leaders or walk leaders. Good leaders take upon themselves the task of building leadership competencies across their organizations. In doing so they empower the juniors. They lead from the front some times and other times they may push from behind. We rarely acknowledge leaders who push from behind as they are less visible. It is important to recognise them for future.
India as a country has thrown up many leaders in various fields since independence. An examination of most of them indicates that they are visionaries and integrative thinkers.
Impediments to leadership
Divisiveness is the Biggest Impediment to Growth. The main Job of a leader is to continuously integrate the team and keep them together. For this the Leader himself or herself need to be several steps ahead of the team. Divisive leaders cannot lead any organization to success. Our country is facing the divisive tendencies enormously and any leader will have an uphill task to integrate. We need to produce a lot of integrating personalities at all levels.
Our leaders in some areas and particularly politics suffer from divisive mindset. In their short term orientation they promote divisiveness. When leaders substitute their vision with narrower goals or short term benefits, they become self centred and they resort to all tactics to win. India gives tremendous opportunity for these leaders to play these tactics. India by its complexity is very susceptible to division by groups and this gives rise to people to exploit by bringing differences in religion, caste, language, etc. Those who have narrower interests either in an organization or in the country can exploit these differences or kill development. It happen in organizations and it happens at state and country levels. The solution is a long drawn battle of social change. The root of divisiveness is the caste system and it helps many people to survive. It may take several decades to get out of this. The Gen Y is a big hope for all of us. But Gen X may not give them a chance.