Why it is essential for bosses to transform into strong leaders
Today’s workforce, and more importantly tomorrow’s, is very unwilling to work under a boss. As economies, roles, technologies and work-values converge, everyone is looking for people to lead them and not boss them.
Simply put, people today need leaders and not bosses!
In my view, the world in general and India (in particular) is in a phase wherein more than competencies (leadership or otherwise), the inspiration, emotional connect and agility of people is shaping the working environment in most organizations. Before suggesting the right tools for transformation, one needs to understand the differences between bosses and leaders. Bosses normally have an impersonal attitude towards people development, whereas the leaders take a very personal and active interest towards achieving people development goals. While bosses are threatened by people who are talented and may outgrow them, leaders play mentors and always nurture these resources. Bosses ‘cope with situations’ and are ‘focused on management of those situations’ vis-à-vis, leaders who ‘embrace and lead the change’ and are more ‘focused on influencing and motivating their teams’.
For me some of the most important tools that HR can use for transforming their people from boss to leader are:
Develop Emotional Intelligence
A critical function of HR is to help people in evaluating and understanding their own strengths and filling the gaps by doing some course correction. People need to have a level of self-awareness and build their emotional intelligence. The same can be done through assessments, interventions, which help change the way they think – from just numbers to insights, from short term profitability to long term people productivity. This helps them expand their perspectives from small to big picture.
Create a culture of Coaching & Mentoring
HR teams need to focus on developing a culture of coaching and mentoring. This helps people overcome gaps in their understanding of various issues that impact them or their teams.
In fact, these days some leaders even go through reverse mentoring. Wherein they are mentored by their team members or subject matter experts. There are organizations today, where millennials are mentoring their senior leaderships in usage of technology. Once this culture is created, it builds trust as well as changes perspectives on managing situations and issues around them.
360 degree Feedback
A 360 degree feedback at regular intervals to take stock about the people who are in leadership positions is a very important HR function for a company to ensure a great work culture. As leaders one needs to know what the relevant views from self, subordinates, supervisors, and relevant stakeholders are. This also helps HR in understanding key Behavioral and Skills gaps and help them focus on overcoming those gaps.
Facilitate Leader-to-Leader development
Pairing senior executives with leaders who are new to their role in an organization helps knowledge transfer, confidence building, and open collaboration, to name a few. Experienced leaders can help others understand the inner workings of the leadership team and provide a unique perspective to up-and-coming leaders in an organization. Leaders with a great positive mind-set should get extensions in organizations, irrespective of superannuation etc., and be appointed mentors and coaches.
Diverse experiences, stretch assignments, and rotational assignments
One of the best ways to develop people for leadership, is through use of stretch assignments. These could entail reassignment to a different geographical location, business unit, or functional department. This coaxes people out of their comfort zones and challenges them to employ new strategies to deal with change. Further new working teams and environments help them understand different views and appreciate diversity.
Communication & Conflict Resolution / Management
One of the most important interventions which HR can facilitate is developing communication skills of their leaders. Today many people who aspire to become leaders lack the communication skills needed for mature and difficult conversations. As Bosses they might be good in meetings and reviews, but they also need to learn how to listen rather than merely hear.
Communication is not necessarily about what we communicate outward, it also means how we assimilate communication from people. This would also mean that as a leader and as HR, one must have the skill to resolve / manage the conflicts at the senior level. Losing sight of this can adversely impact the culture of the organisation.
By the year 2025 millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce and their definition of organization culture is bound to be very different from the previous generations. Therefore a good leader needs to look at things and perspectives from various angles and should be open to changes at all the times.
(The author is President & Head HR, Usha International. Views expressed here are personal.)