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An old joke goes that a farmer, a surgeon and a leader were arguing about the world’s oldest profession (certainly not what the world otherwise believes!). The farmer insisted it was Farming… after all did God not give Adam all the animals and plants to tend as he gave him birth? The surgeon claimed it was Surgery, as God created Eve out of Adam’s rib, so naturally, surgery was the oldest profession! The leader wisely said, “You guys are foolish. Even all holy books acknowledge that God created order out of chaos. It is therefore obvious that Leadership is the oldest profession!”
Great leadership has a quantum leap impact on organizational performance, particularly in chaotic moments like the ones we are facing. Such turbid and tumultuous moments are true testing times for leadership.
My corporate and consulting experiences have taught me that adversity exposes some ‘snakes in suits and demons in Armanis’, who otherwise in happy times, proclaim bold leadership capabilities. Such times reveal the true character of leadership and most self-proclaimed corporate demi ‘Gods’, in real moments of crisis, sadly end up exposing their feet of clay!
Only ‘Authentic, Bold, Latitudinous and Exemplary’ (ABLE) leadership thrives through the times of chaos. Possibly that is why it is called ABLE leadership!
All of us play a leadership role in one way or another… whether working for an MNC or the BMC! This piece, therefore, is for you – the leader, who performs the role of leadership anywhere!
Volatility and chaos aren’t, by definition, bad or good. They are just realities. Volatilities and chaos are not necessarily synonyms for strife, hardship or discontent – as we have somehow been made to believe. It may be true for some, but for others, such times could possibly be synonyms for breakthroughs, discoveries and optimism. Such times bring about fundamental changes, for better or worse. Just because we are unable to discern and predict the exact nature of change, does not mean that it spells disaster. It simply means that we have to alter our strategy to prepare for whatever the world may bring next. Flexible, agile and swift movement to the new state is the panacea.
ABLE leadership, in such chaotic moments, is about anticipating, rushing to think, reaching out, building enduring bonds with customers and stake holders (particularly employees) and getting comfortable with ‘leading at the edge of chaos’, as Emmett Murphy says.
Parsi leaders (and I have experienced some of them), are bold and ABLE. They are attuned to thrive through moments of adversities. I therefore encourage each one of you to get up and use this opportunity and be an ABLE leader, wherever you work and in whatever role you perform.
Let me share with you what ABLE leaders actually do so that you have a navigation map to perform your leadership role well!
- Hand-hold Your Followers: who in the immediate impact period (read dark ages of adversity) , may be feeling startled, shocked and paralysed. Showing compassion and helping them manage their impact-induced anxiety is the most important role that you, as a leader, need to play.
- Listen Well And Suitably Communicate: with people to alleviate their anxieties. Reorient them to the new reality and help them move away from the cataclysmic feelings of alienation that they may experience. Communication on an ongoing basis is critical. A one-time message is not good enough to counter continuous anxiety. Ongoing communication from you will build employee-connectivity and that is most crucial.
- Involve People Meaningfully: As an ABLE leader, involve people through various groups, in meaningful ‘Design Thinking’ challenges. Corporations now need to rework the going-forward designs for all critical elements of their value chain in the post-adversity period. The entire business landscape will need remodelling. Engaging people meaningfully and not in mindless free ‘Zoominars’ will lead to motivation and meaningful people engagement, when they are in a state of confusion and anxiety.
- Join Hands With Other Senior Leaders: As an ABLE leader, you would be expected to work with other senior leaders to create an enabling eco-system that will help build new skills and competencies that will be required to succeed in the new environment.
- Flash Your Drive: ABLE leaders drive processes to make people bond and ‘recommit’ themselves to the new purpose and new destinations of the future. You should drive to do that. Show your resilience, show your passion. This is the opportunity you were waiting to show your worth.
Conclusively, look at the ‘whole doughnut’, not at the ‘hole of the doughnut’! ABLE leadership that drives on the edge of chaos, will emerge as the winner in the new, post-crisis horizon.
Being useful in the moment of crisis is indeed the real spirit of Ushta Te!. And in that journey, may you succeed!