The internet provides a plethora of sources to gauge a cursory understanding of the term ‘leadership’. A person who is willing to have a theoretical understanding of leadership can easily have access to those sources. Classroom programs also perform a fairly good job of educating people about the various aspects of leadership. The real question that begs an answer is, ‘how does a person exhibit leadership when he/she has been ignorant about the inherent skills and encounters a situation that demands him/her to do so’?
An example at this stage would certainly substantiate our discussion about the topic. I remember watching a television series that started off with a plane crash on a distant unknown island. While many people were killed, there were a handful of survivors who were stranded on the unknown island. Everybody was in pain and despair. Almost every survivor was injured and was begging for help. Between all this commotion and misery, a doctor stood up to the occasion. Despite the fact that he was severely injured, he started helping the ailing survivors after patching his own wounds. The survivors considered him as a saviour, somebody who could guide them, somebody they could rely on for advice and help.
What can we possibly infer from this short narrative apart from its relatively interesting storyline? The narrative clearly sends a striking message regarding the onset of leadership. Leadership is an inbuilt quality. While professional sessions and classes might do their bit of grooming these skills, they can only go thus far. People aspiring to be leaders have to gain the trust and support of the people around them. Leadership is not about walking into a park and proclaiming himself/herself as the leader of a group of people and expecting people to follow his/her footsteps. A person aspiring to be a leader firstly has to live with the people he/she is going to lead, understand their woes and concerns, sustain those pains if needed to do so and get them out of their troubles.
People might be tempted to draw a correlation between altruism and leadership. While there might be some analogies between the two during the initial stages, effective leadership calls for a reasonable amount of balance between the two. A leader has to put his/her efforts to ensure the welfare of his/her followers within the ambit of his/her goals. Unconditional altruism is disastrous for any leader and so is a cold personality. The time period during a person’s leadership would not be devoid of situations where the followers turn out to be complacent, egoistic or casual. A leader should ensure to iron out such situations considering the goals that he/she seeks to achieve.
An effective leader would have to stand up to difficult situations. While some problems or situations could possibly be solved by the book, abstruse problems would demand utmost skills and talents on the part of the leader. An effective leader would have to adeptly tackle such situations despite the complexities involved such as disagreement between the followers, acrid relationships between the leaders and some followers and lastly pessimism amongst the followers regarding the future outcomes. A leader needs to exercise calmness and continue to work towards his/her goals.
To summarise, leadership is not about dominance. Compulsion would seldom lead to effective leadership. Such leaders are bound to encounter situations that would be unfavourable or even menacing. While slaves such as Spartacus went on to become effective leaders and were successful in raising an army of slaves to fight against the mighty Romans, many of the leaders of the modern generation fail to flourish despite all the comforts and luxuries.
Written by Amit Sinha, PGPX Class of 2018, IIM Udaipur.
*Published on behalf of Media & Industry Interaction Cell, IIM Udaipur.