Among many lessons that 2020 has brought ti us, one important one is about the fragility of leadership even as establishing the point why it is so scared and important! It is between these spaces the seeds of the next pandemic can be found and this one relates to the leadership pandemic and how well we are able to steer through this one will largely decide- as individuals or societies whether we progress or regress and whatever we choose to do- how fast or slow will that onset be! Join me here as we take a quick look through this concept and see what this is all about and what is that we can do about it- of we can do something about it!
Needless to say there is a whole lot of art and science to leadership, but what is equally important is the fact that neither can leadership be enacted in vacuum and nor can leadership be made available on demand! The whole of 2020 has seen the world over inter-personal engagement dynamics change- some of these may be welcome and few others may have been not that so welcoming but irrespective whichever one you have witnessed or have been part of there certainly would have been one certain casualty of all this disruption and that would have been the Leadership aspect!
Leadership was and never will be about recorded video logs of company CEOs, PR generated perfected newsletters and “From the CEO’s desk” communication”, simply because no one really gives a damn to any of that and none of that really matters! What alone matters to every soul on the team is the simple pointed question-what is my role in this changing space and how long am I needed here and for what! This is yet a very smaller instance around just the communication disasters that leaders worldwide have engaged with their colleagues and team members over the last few months! There are far more graver ramifications which perhaps have already been unleashed and the results of these will be needless to say more impactful, visible and played out in the open- through failing products, services, and organisations in the days and months that follow us in 2021! The primary reason for all that to set in, is not only the failure of the existing leadership mechanisms within organisations, but also because there are more than required number of organisations which stand out as brilliant examples of colossal organisational incompetence especially related to the critical space of Leadership and this in turn sets off a chain reaction- driving the firm and the people therein into a never ending death spiral of fading and failing leadership across levels- one level at a time!
What the pandemic has done is, that it has effectively stripped away the whole corporate world of all the necessary and unnecessary camouflage in one go! Needless to say, like a chameleon who has lost it’s colors, every element in that corporate set up lies exposed like a striking contrast to the chosen background- which makes it all the easier for the the other chameleons (read competitions) and the enticed viewers (read clients/ customers) all the more aware and clear of what really lies beneath the hood and thereby taking away all that built your charm, energy and warmth that would have ever been there in that ongoing engagement! Not only that even within the set ups of the myriad departments and organisational hierarchies, it has been now then ever before (thanks to the pandemic) that reality has set in and for once people know- who really works hard, smart or not at all and all those time-sheets have been begun to offer productive data which is far more meaningful now then ever it was earlier! In all this churn, there are casualties, many simply because they happened to be at the right place at the wrong time and few whose luck had eventually ran out- again the Pandemic to the rescue! Either ways what has now eventually evolved is a scenario where there are a few leaders left at the top, few people at the bottom and a middle level surge- where everyone seems to be herded together- with very few among them having the competence, knack or the finesse to lead that flock as the time moves ahead! But you may ask why should this happen? Well let me explain with a simple example!
For all those of you, who have spent some time being alert in the corporate world- a few things would have been absolutely clear- there are groups, group-isms, favorites and teams that work and teams that don’t work, leaders who work and who don’t so on and so forth! Before the pandemic hit, each organisation no matter how large or small it was, had the space within to navigate and allow a certain permissible and width of non-performances simply because it would be too costly, difficult and tenacious to monitor and track that- the effort wold have been more costly than the result of that observation! Hence earlier when colleagues said they had “Lunch meeting” you were never sure how much of that was Lunch and how much of that was a meeting! You never knew how much of meeting time was really required and how much was taken up! Before the pandemic you always needed the large conference room – full of people with additional chairs drawn in and tea and coffee raining all over the conference tables within the maze of wires and cables- only for everyone to come out of that conference room- agreeing on one thing that had to meet again! It is in instances like these that pandemic had eventually ended up being a blessing in disguise!
As soon as organisations, got their act together and established process and policies for the new world standard of the “WFH” (Work from Home) they began to realise and see their folly! Vendor expenses started to go down- no more travel, no more endless headache of tea/coffee, canteens, food orders so on and so forth, worrying about the light’s been left on, that AC left on – noting of all that at all! Furthermore if that was not enough, now you had a perfect chance to track and trim performance to the minute! No tea breaks, smoke breaks, no saying , “I was there”, “I was in a meeting”, all those long meaningless and conclusion-less meetings suddenly started to get productive under 30 minutes- simply because now you had to write the agenda in the subject line with the expected outcomes by the end of the meet (God alone knows why people had to wait for a pandemic to just get this bit done!)! Another fallout of this, unwitting expose of performance and competence/incompetence needless to say would be the head rolls, doing away with people and processes that do not matter anymore simply because there is nothing forthcoming from those areas in the Now or in the times ahead! This is the space from where the real onset of the Leadership pandemic starts!
Now that there are a handful of “resourceful leaders” having done away with “the ones’ not needed” and with middle layers of the organisation being told decisively that they hold the key to the future (not sure whose- theirs or the organisations) and not many junior level positions being retained or replenished (so that the mid level takes upon the incompetence of the higher ups and makes up for the loss of productivity due to the lack of resources at the lower levels!) the game is all set to usher in failing and fatalistic Leadership Incompetence! Why! Well, simply because organisations, as we speak right now are replete with doers’ they may be great no doubt but if you don’t have the visionaries who behold the vision of the future to lead and the support of the enthusiastic and curios generations that er to follow, every attempt to try and do something different or do the same thing better will fail- always and each time! This is how the leadership pandemic will manifest and play out as severe and un-treatable incompetence- simply because the real leaders are no longer steering the ship and with amateurs at the wheels who think it is easy to swim by reading a book, well the outcomes are almost always predictable and far way from the desired ones’ that an organisation would ever want to have!
This mindless rejig of organisations, by doing away with people and process without applying detailed thought and process and furthermore trying to expect the mid level to rise to the occasion ( at the same expense/cost and provide an output of the higher level!) and deliver what the seniors couldn’t with ever diminishing support from below and around, well it’s anyone’s’ guess what we are setting ourselves up for and what kind of leaders will emerge- if they ever do from these scary shadows of corporate dumbness! You may still want to present you case citing, why should thins be a problem- if there able people at the mid-level then why shouldn’t they rise and deliver! Well, I am sure there are and there will be- the problem is not about they being able to deliver- the problem will arise in the space of “how the deliver” well you can bake a cake as long as you learn how bake one, but to come up with the finest of them, you need to know the intricacies of the process and those magic moments where things begin to happen for taking that bread from the ordinary league to the premium league and this is what is missing at the mid – level- simply because the earlier masters would have forgotten to handover that secret key- either intentionally or unintentionally and without that no matter how many time you bake- your cake will yet remain ordinary! The story of Leadership pandemic is the story of rise of incompetence to further complicate things simply because the original masters are no longer on the scene!
If you look around you, you would have by now experienced some fall in the level and professionalism in the services that you seek, may be that engagement centre, the communication tonality, it could be the lacking warmth or simply renewed alignments on the agreed way of engagement- whichever way you are able to perceive what you do- the fact is that all of this is emerging out of the ever increasing leadership deficit, which is doing nothing but accelerating the onset of the leadership pandemic! If you thought this was limited only to the corporate world, think again! Just take a moment to pause and reflect on what can and will happen when this leadership pandemic sets in powerful offices which lead nations and societies! That is when the real ramifications will be felt and hit hard and fast and needless to say they will not be even an ounce pleasing to anyone for that matter! You would end up societies and nations having dumb rules and even dumber ways to manage that ever increasing dumbness within and around! Want proof?- I am sure, wherever you live, you would have heard about night curfews to manage the virus! There are many such subtle examples of dumb decisions coming up from powerful offices, for only one reason- the leaders (who are supposedly advising) are the ones’ who are part of the leadership pandemic and even as they are failing fast, they are preparing a whole new nightmare of even dumber people coming into succeed! So what’s the way ahead, can anything be done!
If you ask me, the only way to fix a systemic problem is either to set up a completely new system sans the garbage of the old ones’ or start rectifying existing systems at multiple fracture points and repairing them in tandem and ensuring that the right people are always at the right places ( no matter what their price tag) for quality has a prices and unless that is paid, rest assured all of us are on a one way ticket to a hellish dumb future! perhaps the only saving grace about Leadership is that it has a core intrinsic value- something that can’t be wiped off or taken away and if you are a leader in the real essence of that word then the chances are that you would be among the few people standing between complete chaos and method to the madness scenarios that we collectively look forward to face in the future!
I leave you with these thoughts for now, urging you to stay ever vigilant and practice what you can by being the Leader that you can be for yourself and the others around you so that we are able to stall the onset of the forthcoming leadership pandemic at an individual and a collective levels alike! Feel like you have already experienced instances of failing leadership- have heart- if you have noticed it and have been able to discern it- chances are you have the way around or over it to stall and overpower it!
Ciao for now, will be back soon with another one, until then stay vigilant about this leadership pandemic!