Leadership Ahoy! Calling Out the Contemporary Leadership Perspective 0

Kenneth Wheeler
Kenneth is an HR - L&D professional with 16 plus years of rich learning experience spread across different Industries, Technology, E-commerce, Telecom, Airlines, and Hospitality. Awarded as 101 Top HR Minds (India) 2019 and a certified NLP Coach, he is a well-rounded expert in Envisioning, Strategizing, Leading and Managing a robust gamut of HR and L&D framework, contributing to both MNC (Wipro) and Start-up ecosystem (Ola & LogiNext). Adept with a hands-on approach, he has grown passionate about achieving business results through people by imbibing and adopting a collaborative work methodology. A key contributor in winning the BM Munjal award for LogiNext for 2 consecutive years for achieving business excellence through L&D program, Kenneth is currently the VP Human Resources (L&D) at LogiNext Solutions. His obsession includes exploring multiple ways to build a flexible and agile Learning Infrastructure, governed by the use of new-age cutting technology (AR & VR, AI, ML, Bots). Thus, nurturing a culture of future fit employees by building a well-crafted Blended Learning approach in the form of gamification, mobile learning, experiential learning, design thinking, Storytelling and contributing directly to companies bottom-line result.

In the VUCA world, the definition of leadership is evolving rapidly. Every leader has a perception of the ‘right’ kind of leadership and it is easy to get influenced or swayed. However, one must identify their unique perspective of leadership that resonates with them. Kenneth W Wheeler shares his stance on modern-day leadership and how to stay aligned with self’s meaning of leading, in this ever-changing world.

One golden advice on leadership that I was fortunate to receive early on in my professional journey came from my first reporting manager, Mr. Tarun Bajaj when I received my first career promotion in 2004. He said, “Kenneth, with this promotion you embark on your leadership journey. Remember to always take pride in creating a success story for others. Count your success by the measure of how many promotions you directly impact for your team members. Each promotion should be like a star on your shoulder. Ensure the count of stars increases with every passing year!”

This thought made a deep influence on how I have understood and lived leadership over the past sixteen plus years of my professional journey:

  • Invest in creating more leaders
  • Craft others’ success stories as a means of what you do for your team
  • Be genuinely interested in your team’s growth, elevation and overall well being

The above three elements eventually also helped form my perspective on leadership.

Per me, leadership should be the ability to uplift others in every aspect of their being, not just one time or sometimes but every time. I ensure that every individual interaction I have with my team, peers and management I leave them feeling just a bit happier, excited, smiling and motivated than what they felt before I approached them.

That is exactly what leadership is – a perspective to what each leader equates as his/her own approach towards leadership as the depth of the topic is vast and beyond. Just hitting the word leadership on Google throws up about 4,83,00,00,000 results in 0.58 seconds. Hence, it is very important to not be swayed or over-influenced with so much content that is out there on leadership, but one must identify their unique perspective of leadership that resonates with them.

The Business World’s ‘Perspectives’ are Shifting – Where Would ‘Leadership’ Stand?

Leadership in the recent past, as well as in the future to come, has been structured and impacted by certain key paradigm shifts:

  • Businesses across the globe have become more volatile and dynamic – VUCA term is a common analogy we use today
  • Employee and customer behaviour is changing drastically
  • The fast-paced shift in technology brings in an element of ‘unknown’ future
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In this environment, for leadership perspective to make an impact one must look at the following broad buckets of behavioural adoption and execution –

1. Leadership Must Be an Influence from the Inside Out

Leadership

Leadership is all about influence. One cannot lead if he/she cannot influence. The best part is that you do not even need a title to influence others. I carry a complete conviction that leadership influence begins from the inside first. It
begins by defining

  • What leadership means to you?
  • What behavioural elements of leadership excites and motivates you?
  • What perspective forms your leadership success mantra? Only when this is crystal clear and compelling can leadership be a source of influence on the outside. Therefore, begin and work on an inside out approach!

Leadership is the ability to craft, support, empower and motivate their people to give their very best and improve an individual’s capacity to perform beyond their imagination. If you are not pushing your people out of their comfort zone, you are missing a huge attribute of leadership.

2. Drive Others to be the Best Version of Themselves

“If your Actions Inspire Others to do Dream more, Learn more, Do more & Become more – you are a Leader”
– John Quincy Adams

Leadership is the ability to craft, support, empower and motivate their people to give their very best and improve an individual’s capacity to perform beyond their imagination. Take Steve Jobs as an example. He was undoubtedly difficult to work with; however, he was a masterful motivator who drove his employees to do the best work of their careers, often beyond what they believed they could do.

If you are not pushing your people out of their comfort zone, you are missing a huge attribute of leadership. One key factor that works best is the virtue of empowerment, where leadership strongly empowers its team to carry a spirit of intrapreneurship driven by complete ownership, passion, and self-motivation – it works wonders.

3. Build Empathy and Vulnerability

Empathy must be leaderships best friend. The whole mindset of how we operate under the leadership banner can drastically change for the good if empathy comes at the forefront of how we walk the walk and talk the talk. Imagine the impact of your reporting manager walked by your desk, placed a cup of coffee and said to you “I just thought you needed a cup, the project has been stressful” or the CEO realizing the pressure of delivery says to his team member “I understand that the last few days have been tough, I recommend you take a work from home tomorrow, be light on your task execution and rejuvenate yourself a bit”. The emotional bank balance that leadership can build with
such a simple act of empathy is rich in reward and establishes genuine respect and a long-term partnership.

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Vulnerability: Any leader who feels the need to be right all the time is making a serious mistake. On the contrary, the best leaders want to be challenged and proved wrong by others, because that ensures that the best ideas will surface to the front. Effective leaders believe that the best ideas can originate from anywhere and anyone, regardless of role or position.

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” – Winston Churchill

To encourage people to challenge leadership, ask open-ended questions like:

  • If you had to do this differently, what would you do?
  • What else do you suggest can be done in this situation?
  • I need a different opinion here what can you suggest?

4. Create Psychological Safety

Leadership (1)

This to me in today’s fast-tracked and uncertain environment forms the backbone of leadership belief system. Psychological safety is a shared belief that the team feels safe in taking interpersonal risks. It is an environment that leadership can create where everyone is able to employ one’s self of what they want to do and what they want to say without fear of negative consequences, impact on their employment status or career progression.

Leadership must contribute and propagate a work atmosphere where team members feel comfortable in being accepted and respected. When you succeed in creating psychological safety, the creativity and risk-taking ability rise and with them rises the reward and ROI.

5. Cast a Spell and Orchestration

Leadership is all about mesmerizing and captivating the employees with your vision for the company, the global impact and your mission of giving back to society. Picking the right talent is one thing but to be able to engulf them with your vision is another ball game altogether. The leadership element here is to create a symphony and work on the principle of orchestration. The essence of victory and disappoint of failure must be felt by all as a single unit and only effective leadership can make that happen in the best collaborative way possible.

Now here’s the cherry on the cake… to bring it all together

The quotation by John Maxwell summarizes the sentiment attached to my leadership perspective when he says that “Everything rises and falls with Leadership – Everything!”

The parting question to ask ourselves is: How do we wish to be remembered as a leader? and What leadership legacy do we want to leave behind? In case you are wondering the count of stars, I have managed to embed on my shoulders, it is 32 and counting…

Happy Leading!

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