Wednesday, June 19, 2024

A true leader inspires change


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By Edelbert Kharsyntiew

There are by far as many definitions of who a true leader is as there are books on the subject. And there are many more on print. Some are convinced that leadership qualities are genetically confined only to certain families or clans, while others assume that it has to do with the anatomy or vocal chords. The most naive category of all believe that leadership has to do with the ability to speak English. Pondering over the fate of Jingkieng Motphran, one recalls the alleged speech by a MLA of yesteryears in the Assembly who allegedly said “you go to billage(village), reebar (river) no bridge. Come to Motphran, bridge, no reebar”. He had the right vision of a bridge and where it rightly belongs. As this river-less bridge is being brought down, he is proven right.  Whatever confusion about true leadership, everyone agrees that true leadership is nothing but vision of the future and influence towards that vision which inevitably involves change. Gone are the days of predictability when the simple goal for businesses and leaders was stability. Jones, Aguirre and Calderone had this to say “Market transparency, labour mobility, global capital flows, and instantaneous communications have blown that comfortable scenario to smithereens. In most industries – and in almost all companies, from giants on down – heightened global competition has concentrated management’s collective mind on something that, in the past, it happily avoided: change”. Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter said successful companies  develop “a culture that just keeps moving all the time.”
And change is inevitable. One king ordered his wise men to invent a wise saying  which will be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him with the words “And this too shall pass away”. Abraham Lincoln once said “If only we know about the future, we can plan perfectly”. We don’t know, because things keep changing. Henry Ford of General Motors refused to change. He said “I don’t mind any colour as long as it is black”. His top engineers left the company, and the automobile industry was not the same ever since. Another Swiss watch company refused to go digital and paid dearly for their mistake. In the late 80s it was considered it sinful to own a personal computer. Imagine the world without computers today! Today’s rule is ‘either you adapt to change, or you fail’, there is no in between. Try to contain change, and you are fighting a losing battle, because change is inbuilt in the very order of things. We owe to Aristotle many concepts that we are using today. He was trying to understand ‘first principles and causes’ of life or reality. From his favourite biological standpoint, all things move forward or change towards an end. This end or ‘entelechy’ is inherent in every living thing. A tree is the entelechy or ‘end’ of a seed. A seed therefore has the potentiality to change to actuality – a tree. The question of priority of actuality over potentiality comes in here. For example, if a boy is potentially a man, then prior to the boy there was an actual man. All this led Aristotle to the concept of an Unmoved Mover, a Being who is perfect actuality, the end of all changes, without any more potentiality. It was not a theistic idea, but only his philosophical attempt to explain the ‘eternal principle of motion’.
So how do we reconcile between need for stability and the reality of change? Investors are crying for stability while the market constantly changes. Staff and managers thrive on predictability, and change gives them blood pressure, whereas a leader at the battle front clearly sees the need to adapt and change course. At crisis times, the leader has to adopt autocratic measures, and when the organization he is leading fails to comply, it brings defeat to all. This dialectic of stability and change is a constant dynamic in a leadership continuum. After decades of research and analysis, management and leadership experts favour a tilt towards change. While a manager is more concerned about stability, administration, efficiency, objectives, short -term view, transaction and management of people, the leader is more concerned about change, innovation, effectiveness, vision, long-term view, transformation and leading of people. While the manager avoids risks, the leader has to take risks and while the former avoids conflicts, the leader uses them, and grows by them. Lifeless or maintenance-mode organizations allow the management to ride roughshod over a leader, whereas goal-oriented teams need a clear vision and a strong leadership that embodies that vision. In the face of change, a manager will not do. He simply cannot manage change and the whole group slips into the twilight zone of wannabes, be it business, politics or religion. Presently the whole country is going through a phase of change, and true democracy is being restored. Indigenous groups, entrepreneurs, women and the poor are being empowered. Leaders who seize the moment and climb down to lift up these segments will succeed, while those with a top-down attitude will fade away.
Secondly, a true leader achieves his goal. He sees it, and he goes towards it. As  simple as that! The fact is that many are mistakenly led into thinking they are leaders when they are not. It was John Maxwell, a brilliant leadership teacher who said “He who thinketh he leadeth, but hath no one following him, is only taking a walk”. Taking the present KHADC imbroglio as a case in point, these wonderful  MDCs need to be reminded once again of the simple point of who they are, and whose aspirations they represent. It reflects on the sad state of affairs with Meghalaya as a whole. These so called ‘peoples’ representatives’ or MLAs are lured into a stupor of falsified idea that once elected, they represent the High Commission’s interests to the multitudes rather than the other way around. Is the KHADC an end in itself or only a means to an end? The end is to serve the ‘jaidbynriew’ Khasi. The Garos and Jaintias have their own Councils. Serving the interests  of the ‘jaidbynriew’ is legal and constitutional. Beating up the Council’s enforcement officers is a serious crime, and what is surprising is that many, including Shillong Times did not condemn the incident. The famed Peter F. Drucker pointed out that “organization is not an end in itself, but a means to the end of business performance and business results. Organizational structure is an indispensable means; and the wrong structure will seriously impair business performance and may even destroy it. Organization structure must be designed so as to make possible for the attainment of the objectives of the business for five, ten, fifteen years hence”.  Scott and Mitchell make it even more clear.  They said “Organization structure is a means to a given end. It is a method of reducing the variability in behaviour of those who work for the organization. It is a method of regulating behaviour in order to achieve  a common purpose in a coordinated manner”.
In light of this principle, the goings on in KHADC appear strange, where the leader is sought to be put away because he ‘achieves’ the perceived goals (obviously never written or conceived by the earlier ECs but which are easily understood by the people). In KHADC, the leader is highly motivated, but a few disgruntled staff complained that they are overlooked. The question that arises is whether an organization exists primarily for itself, its staff, or the electorate. Its time for clear thinking, and tough action. Rid the House of its party system, if it becomes a problem.  If goals are to be achieved, all must contribute.


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