Leader or Manager

The corporate world today wants everyone to be a leader. We are scared to call a manager a manager, why we are scared to call a newbie a newbie – everyone is on his way to becoming a leader or already there and then there are degrees of leadership – emerging, established, senior, seasoned and so on.

In my opinion, leadership is a trait you are born with just as customer service. You can train someone to hold the tray in a certain way and serve from the left or right, but you can never train a person to bend down and flick away the bread crumbs unnoticed, or get a Barista to look at a customer and realise that he or she cant speak the language and be empathetic. The same way, you can never train to be Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or from our beloved cricketing world, a Clive Lloyd or even a M S Dhoni. How can you train a person to be Alexander the Great or even Jack Welch ? Think of training someone to be Oprah Winfrey or Mahatma Gandhi or Subhas Chandra Bose…. You can train all these people in some of the leadership skills but that little extra that they bring, will never be brought by training. You can ape Steve Jobs all you want, the way he walked, talked, slept and snored – but you still won’t be able to turn around an Apple (not even the fruit, leave alone the company).

Most of the CEO’s today are glorified super managers, a handful are true leaders and that’s the challenge in the corporate world. We spend all our time trying to talk everyone, including the doorman into becoming a leader and forget that not everyone can and needs to be a leader. No one needs to take offence if he or she is called a great manager or a great colleague and not an emerging great leader. Many “leadership” teams are a motley crowd of bad managers who stayed long enough in an organization (because they wouldn’t be hired elsewhere), spoke big words, looked into the horizon in deep thought, praised the next leader, called each other great leaders and got lucky !! No am not cynical at all – I am wondering about what we miss in the corporate world of today, we miss inspiration and true leadership. The kind that wants to make a difference, that wants to leave a legacy behind, that truly cherishes the gift of leadership and knows the responsibility that comes with it.

Titles never made a leader, traits and tread make you a leader. We need to spend time training managers and not run after creating leaders. When we do stumble upon a leader, we need to train the “leadership” team to step aside and provide support. Ok, asking for too much… Can we atleast get out of the way and spend time getting “C” and “D” managers to atleast become “B” managers – doable and much needed to get work done and keep the bus running.

The work place will be a lot better if we have good and great managers and an occasional leader. There, I called out the elephant in several board rooms and probably miffed a bus load of leaders !!!!

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