Article (November-2020)


Looking for a new day!

Dr. Ganesh Shermon

Designation : -   Managing Partner

Organization : -  RiverForest Foundation, Canada


10249 Total View        

What kind of specific traits and mindsets are required to lead businesses during the crisis?

GS Businesses, may desire, hope or even pray, but seldom get time to adapt themselves to a rapidly changing eco system landscape. Thus, in the existing scenario, the impact of fear manifested in culture, smart talent, leadership as they inevitably engage with disruptions through pandemic cannot be overemphasized. Organizations need leadership disrupted which can make sense amidst this ambiguity, find patterns in the chaos and take charge to meet the desired end state of performance and value realization. Business leaders, on the other hand, also need to address not only these challenges to skilfully manoeuvre their respective organizations to the next level but would need to be wary of the fact that in this battle for supremacy they are also on a headless chicken run against their competition. The days of marathons are over for many companies and business models; it is all about frequent bursts of 100 meters' dash only. And every leader wishes they could be an Usain Bolt. Increasingly there is a new generation of corporate life, which have become more dependent on the machine and its application. Their orientation to work life has become computer-centric, sometimes meaningless, cynical and self-defeating. Their orientation has been to move on and on into cyberspace, move into the knowledge-based business and hope to keep their psychic space intact. The scientific analysis of leadership traits started off by concentrating on leaders themselves.  The vital question that this theoretical approach attempted to answer was what characteristics or traits make a person a leader?  The earliest trait theories, which can be traced back to the ancient, Greek and Romans, concluded a person is born, not made.  The "great man" theory of leadership said that a person is born either with or without the necessary traits for leadership.  Famous figures in history- for example, Napoleon - were said to have had the "natural" leadership abilities to rise out of any situation and become great leaders. Eventually, universality, the "great man" theory gave way to a more realistic trait approach to leadership disrupted.  Under the influence of the behaviourist school of psychological thought, authors accepted the fact that leadership traits are not completely inborn but can also be acquired through learning and experience. Attention turned to the search for universal traits possessed by leaders.  The results of this voluminous study effort were generally very disappointing.  Only intelligence (original thinking) ably supported by resilience seemed to hold up with any degree of consistency.  When these findings are combined with those of studies on physical traits (fitness, health, habits, relationships) the conclusion seems to be that leaders are bigger and brighter than those being led, but not too much so. When the trait approach is applied to organizational leadership, the result is even cloudier.  One of the biggest problems is that all managers think they know what the qualities of a successful leader are.  Obviously, almost any adjective can be used to describe a successful leader.  Recognizing these semantic limitations and realizing that there is no cause-and-effect relationship between observed traits and successful crisis leadership, there is some evidence to suggest that empathy or interpersonal sensitivity, adapting to uncertainty and self-confidence are desirable leadership traits.

What resources and leadership differentiating actions fuel the change process in such abnormal environments?

GS In the early 20th century one prevailing orthodoxy held that organizations cannot operate democratically because, especially during crisis, organizations need firm leaders and obedient subordinates (Bell, 1950; Michaels, 1959). Leadership was seen a stable characteristic of individual people: either one had leadership traits, or one did not. During the 1920's and 1930's this orthodoxy was challenged in many ways: Weber (1947) portrayed leadership as a kind of an activity that bureaucracies depersonalize and that followers might judge illegitimate. The person in the role of leader who fulfils expectations and achieves group goals provides rewards for others that are reciprocated in the form of status, esteem, and heightened influence.  Because leadership embodies a two-way influence relationship, recipients of influence assertions may respond by asserting influence in return. The very sustenance of the relationship depends upon some yielding to influence on both sides.

It is critical to understand whether socially sensitive intellectual leaders possess and share certain characteristics in the context of a pandemic crisis?

  • They are now more empathetic, graceful, respectful, kind and gentle
  • They seek knowledge intensive content in their work
  • They like to supervise and work with "smart" peers
  • They identify themselves as change agents
  • They have a comfort to be socially visible
  • They are courageous, speak their mind
  • They believe in people
  • They are value-driven
  • They are lifelong learners
  • They have the ability to deal with complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty.
  • They are visionaries.
  • They have a strong technology affiliation
  • They can work in asynchronous situations
  • They offer stability and reassurance
  • They become counsellors, listeners and communicators
  • They are now trauma managers

Post pandemic, how is the organization learning culture expected to evolve and how will it accelerate our way out of crisis?

GS Tiffany Bell says, "In many workplaces, people are still subjected to metrics-based performance reviews as if 2020 were a typical year. Indeed, a performance review my organization received from one of its partners made them look clueless about the impact of current events. They asked questions about and sought to evaluate us on goals we set in better times, in a "normal" year. The drive to go back to business as usual is running roughshod over our collective loss, the grinding uncertainty, the grief. Whether or not business leaders are adequately addressing the repeated blows to employee morale and mental health arising from having family, friends, and co-workers who are laid off, sick, or worse is highly questionable. We've already seen this with the poor treatment of essential workers, many of whom were still required to come to work while Covid-19 swept through their company."Organizations see the need for institutionalizing learning and teaching systems for people to learn, develop and intellectually grow as a responsibility, "self-imposed", on them. While people are doing their jobs and getting things done there is a group of facilitators, coaches and trainers who perform the role of institutionalizing learning in a pandemic, an experience that is a first time to all. They are the leaders of tomorrow. They make eco system adaptation happen naturally without elaborate systemic processes or planned classroom training. Electronic learning methods, long distance teaching modules, state of art knowledge programs, behavioural modification and cultural adaptation modules, unlearning in preparedness for the next set of concepts to absorb all become a laundry list of required facilitator's role. Individuals in turn are demanding corporate commitment and willingness to make employees employable over time. The process of reciprocity is essential in making crisis managers work for others. For the individual's knowledge is their core competency and they would like to share, display and contribute depending on their constant state of up gradation. While it is not being presupposed that this becomes a corporate responsibility a learning culture perhaps is an inescapable responsibility of the corporate management. Organizational learning forums would multiply several folds with members demanding time and opportunity to participate virtually or electronically. As the learning centers proliferate cultural influences just occurs. Corporations view culture management as a competitive weapon to fight unprecedented economic wars. In a scenario where easy finance, adequate raw material, cheap labour and growing market is a real-life scenario, knowledge becomes the true competitive source. In the individual intellect lie the competitive edge and the push factor against competition. When individuals are prodded to perform against intellectual odds, they are likely to be at their best. Good work comes out of the human minds' defiance to doing it the proven way. Firms need to capitalize on this potential of the human mind to take on challenges that a product or a service cannot offer consistently over time.

The CEO enables the organization to treat pandemic as a survival challenge, change, manage people strategies and influence existence of specific cultures.

  • They proliferate success and adaptation coping stories. The leader emphasizes communication culture as an important aspect of organizational building and believes in influencing people to shape cultures.
  • The leader focuses on health, fitness, people practices, virtual activities, remote working climate and its conduciveness to performance.
  • Driven need to motivate and keep people in the right frame of mind to be productive and happy. Focus on creating people-oriented systems that enable a culture that brings individuals, teams and organizations together.
  • Action oriented to demonstrate by action that concern for people enables organizations to perform above expectation.
  • Long Term orientation to delivering value through people development individualized tasks, creating an environment that is self-exhilarating. Obtaining leadership commitment is a key element.
  • The leadership has been of influence or relevant in this context and have demonstrated commitment to a digital cultural change. Some level of leadership commitment, direction and point of view is often apparent, masterful evidence before a cultural analysis begins.
  • It is not uncommon, for example, for community or organizational leaders to sponsor and effecting initial analysis. It is also frequently true that deeper, perhaps more sensitive, levels of leadership commitment, engagement are necessary to move the organizations beyond contemplation or perspectives. Leaders learn as they learn of a Digital culture. Leaders identify drivers that influence their personal and professional disposition towards influencing culture. Leaders determine to what degree they would influence culture.

To read the full article, subscribe now!