Leadership 101

Where do leaders come from? Pretty good question as most people in Pakistan seem to think that leadership is a quality you are either born with or not. I suppose this is so because as a largely un educated nation we seem to look towards genetics and divine intervention to define many a trait or a quality in an individual and thus naturally perceive anything superior as god gifted. The truth is though that very few people in this world are born with the ability to truly lead, whilst most hone whatever abilities they have, along with the situation they are in and with the experiences they have gained to emerge as leaders.

The sad reality of leadership is that the people leading management in this country or any country except for a few niche sectors are usually a generation or two behind the crop they are leading. Thus not only is the generation gap present like a chasm between the two but the older lot have to relate to what the newer ones are going through,  and try to see life through their eyes in order to make decisions which are  relevant to the future of their enterprise. How many of us have heard of the environment in a certain company being cool and not formal at all vis a vi how boring my workplace is. In fact many a career starter these days is ready to take a pay cut in order to work in a more flexible environment. Same goes for a lot of mid career switchers as well and hence I think its time we had a grand re think of management strategies in Pakistan. These were some of my thoughts as I strode into the 16th MAP convention recently held in Karachi with the tag line “Re think management” I found it to be chock full of people from different corporates, a little surprising as most conferences I usually end up with have but a few sleepy people this early in the morning. Perhaps attendance was mandatory but it certainly looked like people were participating, as the first interactive sessions of the day started.

I waited around post tea break to hear Dr Zeelaf the chairperson of the executive management board at EBM speak for two reasons, first that as a woman to rise through the ranks and attain the position she is in she would have to be exceptional in this nation. Secondly I had heard she is a very very good persons manager and thus wanted to pickup some tips from her in her talk. I was not disappointed at all as she spoke eloquently about clarity and the confidence that leaders needed to instil in the people working with them to lead with example rather then to expect people to just come up with brain storms on their own. I found the following stance of hers specially noteworthy and thus regurgitate it verbatim

Sustainability is about demonstrating social responsibility by balancing business results with concern for the greater good. Although much attention is being paid to how companies deal with environmental issues, social responsibility extends beyond just this one area. Focusing on sustainability means looking beyond short-term results to consider the longer-term implications of decisions as they relate not just to the environment, but also to health, safety, and other such areas of concern. It means taking actions that go beyond regulations to build controls into the business environment—embedding social responsibility into business processes and procedures and taking responsibility for the impact decisions might have on the workforce. Sustainability will be a major differentiator for a leader’s success in the future. Ultimately, it may contribute to the long-term survival of an organisation and serve to reshape the business climate.

Everyone speaks about CSR and how to do it and what their companies are doing for the community around them but is that spirit embedded in the companies mission statement? Has it been made part of the corporate decision making process? What are the implications of making such a thought process part of the fabric of your organisation and how it can really change things for all of us for a better tomorrow are all things I took away from this conference. I hope many such endeavours are organised in the days to come along with startups and launchpads in our country so that we can learn the art of doing business and the art of managing it successfully parallel to one another.