Tuesday, January 31, 2006


The following asked question on leadership is a summary of an interview with the South American magazine "Humas". Thanks of Robert Bernardo Programme Specialist at UNDP Regional office, Thailand to share these thoughts on leadership with Asian young leader's group that I am member of it.

What is the shape of the "perfect" leader and does he or she exist?
To paraphrase W. Somerset Maugham, "There are three rules for creating good leaders. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." There is no perfect leader that is why good leaders are always trying to improve themselves through self-study, training, education, mentor-ship, making mistakes and then learning from them, etc. Since there are no perfect leaders, it is hard to build a good leadership model, that is why there are hundreds of them. But, we can be sure of a few things that good leaders posses: A vision of the future (where are we going), the ability to encourage followers to jump into that experience (work through the many changes that are required to achieve that vision), a love of self-improvement for themselves and their followers. This love makes them good coaches and mentors, the ability to encourage followers to jump into that experience (work through the many changes that are required to achieve that vision), empowering their followers to get things done (delegation).

Does a leader need to be motivated? How can leaders maintain themselves to stay motivated?
Motivation comes in two forms: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivators come from the outside. Intrinsic motivators come from within. Good leaders set and achieve goals that allow them to get a healthy balance of both motivators.

Does every manager need to be a leader?
All good managers are leaders to various degrees. They need to carry out their leaders’ visions by creating their own visions that support the larger vision, and then getting their workers to accomplish the vision. For example, Howard Schultz, of Starbucks Coffee Company, had a vision of 2000 stores by the year 2000. This vision became one of the driving forces behind the company’s success.

Did Howard Schultz build those 2000 stores himself?

No way! Schultz’s vision was achieved by managers and supervisors throughout the organization who had smaller scale visions that directly supported his 2000 by 2000 vision. They got these visions accomplished by delegating the means and authority to their subordinates. These managers and supervisors also supported their employees by giving them the means and opportunity to grow by coaching and mentoring; and providing training, development, and education opportunities.

What is the relationship between leaders and followers?
I see leaders as change agents who guide their followers onto new heights, while along the way, they develop and grow their followers. A leader’s two driving goals should be make the organization a success and that if the leader should leave, then she has enough trained and developed people to fulfill her shoes.

Is there any trend that could be called "the new leader"?

As we have gotten a better understanding of human behaviors over the last hundred years or so, leaders have moved along the "leadership continuum" by going from Douglas McGreagor’s Theory X to Theory Y. We are still a long way to Theory Y, but we have tipped the scale to its favor. Some authors say leaders must divide their time in three parts: one for handling finances, another for quality, and a third for relationships. What do you think about?
Leaders have two "leadership continuum" scales that they must follow. Earlier, I talked about the people scale, and how we have been moving from Douglas McGreagor’s Theory X to Theory Y. This continuum can be seen as the vertical axis (concern for people) in Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid. The other axis is the "concern for task" and it is plotted along the horizontal axis. By focusing on the far end of the scales or continuums and developing goals to achieve the 9s, a leader can create her visions. And then by developing great people (people scale) and giving them the means to accomplish your vision (task scale), you have ensured that the necessary ingredients are there for organization success.

What’s the worst fault a leader can have?
A failure to see the benefits of diversity. This creates "like-people" throughout the organizations and leads to one-way thinking. If you do not have a diverse team, then you cannot come up with the creative brainstorming solutions to stay competitive. Also, you alienate your customers and consumers who can be quite diverse.


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