Article (June-2020)


Dealing with masked leadership

Anil Malik

Designation : -   Management Consultant HR & IR Strategies

Organization : -  AM HR Solutions, Indore


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Corporate world is full of diverse act and deeds. Leadership behaviour and the approach towards the leading team make the difference .People at the apex level occupy the leadership position by way of their own intellectual attributes or some time by way of legacy.

After four days of the lockdown, the order of the government  directing the employers not to reduce the wages or terminate the employment of workers was for protecting the basic needs of workers  was a real bitter pill for the PMC Corporation chairman which he could not swallow instantly. There was adverse reaction of CMD of PMC corporations also, but he himself did not come forward and shared his thoughts with the CEO Prasad who was in second in command in the organisation.

Mr. Prasad was well aware about the legal aspects of the issues and its implications. But despite of that he asked Head HR to take legal expert's opinion on the issue. The senior and well experienced HR Head  Mukund shared his views with legal implications based on his vast experience but he was not taken seriously.

The CMD was also well aware about the situation, and consequences of not following the order of the government, even then he ignored the expert advice shared by CEO and further directed him to implement his ideas of reducing salaries and wages.

The situation was really awkward and unprecedented. The pressure was on HR head Mukund, who was in dilemma and anticipating about the reactions and effect of such actions to business heads and employees down the line. He was looking for ways to keep morale of employees intact and positive.

This is one such example of leadership which surrendered under pressure. People are recruited and designated but not empowered. It was really sad for HR Head Mukund when he was told by CEO that the decision has come from CMD and he is free to talk directly to CMD. As expected employees from all the ranks started asking Mukund about such harsh decision, as there were many who were doing work from home during lockdown. Even the information was well circulated in social media and fingers being pointed towards Mukund HR head. He was speechless and found himself in deep trouble.

In the corporate world such decisions are often seen during stressed situation and unfavourable circumstances. They know laws, they know repercussions, they know pressure on HR Head and business head even then they take suchhasty/ strong decision with a hope to expect something miracle from down the line.

Actually this is a knee jerk reaction to a problem which could have long term ramifications if not dealt sensitively. In such testing times the true value of the leadership is at stake and people look up for more compassionate and sensitivity than a harsh approach when it's a matter of lives and livelihoods both.

In another way probably CMD could have called a meeting of all vertical heads including HR Head and jointly with CEO had shared his thoughts describing the situation with full transparency and could have sought support from employees. But instead of doing this he has simply directed the CEO to deal further.

Unfortunately CEO also handled the situation without applying much thought and acted as directed  .He could have talked first with HR Head and strategize the entire move and HR head  Mukund could have been given time to spread the message in his own way. He has not given even chance to HR Head to act.

In today's time I believe this is not the right behaviour of Leadership at CEO level. He could also form a committee of senior verticals heads and ask them to discuss down the line and give suggestions in next two three days for amicable salary reduction for next six months for cost balancing. Probably committee could have submitted more rational suggestions of cost saving without impacting moral of the employees. The involvement of employees in taking decision always helps in its smooth implementation. The role of CEO is not only to direct or send communication through mail to employees, rather he should act as a mentor, guide and at every level should be seen as a leader with ownership.

In such a critical situation where leadership at apex level has their own constraints and limitations, sometime the role of HR Head become very important .Here ,though Mukund was advised to keep quite in the matter as the decision has come from the desk of CMD, he could have come forward even at the cost of his own job. Though it is against the hierarchal norms to break the chain of command, people should care the ultimate interest of organisation.

Mukund Being Head HR should have taken appointment with CMD and advise him for the damage control by directly talking to employees and seeking their support. Many times such softer moves help a lot in defusing the situation. At least professionally he should enjoy the satisfaction that he played his role genuinely and represented the concerns of employees. The firm and fair approach of HR head always save the glory of position.