Leadership: In Small Daily Interactions

While a lot has been written on leadership skills and several models developed. Most of them deal with high level characteristics like – having a vision and to be able to predict the future, innovation to disrupt and redefine markets etc. What about the direct level of daily chores and interactions?

Do leaders do small things, like conduct a meeting, differently? Are they better managers? I am sure that we all agree that you can become a leader only if people around you start to associate with you as a leader. They are willing to follow the path set-out by you, of their own free desire and not because of any compulsion.

Drawing from my personal experiences, I am attempting to highlight a few of these personality traits, which when practiced over a period of time, should make you stand out and let others take cognisance of your leadership position:

  • Be consistent:If you change your stand often, people perceive you as a weak person, who is probably guided by vested interest. A leader has to be very consistent in his stand, even under the most adverse circumstances. Unfortunately, most of us resort to tap dancing when faced with adversity and end up contradicting ourselves. People are very quick to catch this, and then your image as a leader may get compromised.
  • Keep office gossip at an arm’s length:Leadership is all about leading a group of people to follow a path towards a destination. Office gossip is like going around in circles of politics and personal lives. They don’t overlap. When you indulge in office gossip, people feel that you are just one amongst them and don’t see you stand out as a leader.
  • Don’t just delegate everything, do something yourself also: If you are one of those managers who delegates all actions within the team, people actually see you as someone with no skin in the game. If things fail, it will always be someone’s fault. If you want to lead by example, keep the toughest action item for yourself to execute upon and deliver results. Hold yourself, and only yourself, accountable to get that action item done and if you fail or things get delayed, be consistent, and admit lapses. If you really want to make a huge impact, select something to do with the culture of the organization, i.e. how people interact and work together. If you can bring a positive cultural change in the people, change their habits, you emerge as a true leader.
  • When you can’t keep a commitment, be transparent:All of us make commitments and many times circumstances change and we can’t keep them. Leaders are no different. While in general, people spin a story, give some lame excuse, or blatantly deny making the commitment in the first place; a leader knows that nothing of this works in the short or long run. A leader must understand that people are smart and it will take them no time to see through the denial of reality. A leader must also believe that people like honesty and are forgiving in the long run (who doesn’t lapse once in a while?). So they act in a transparent manner, openly admitting their inability to keep the commitment due to changed circumstances. They may lose some goodwill currency in the short run, but they come out much more dependable in the long run.

These are some of the most important traits which I have seen good leaders follow in their regular day-to-day life, be it in a group meeting or over a casual water-cooler chat. These habits helped them to win my respect and align with their goals and vision. I also believe that these habits are not so difficult to inculcate, provided one has a longer vision of one’s career and keeps reminding oneself on a regular basis.

The passionate theoretical physicist part of me says that organizations are like light beams diffracting through the narrow apertures of hierarchy and interfering with each other to produce light and dark non-productive spots. A leader comes along to bring high monochromaticity of a common goal, directionality and coherence, thereby producing a laser which cuts across the daunting markets.