Thursday, February 10, 2011

On Leadership

I recently watched an excellent episode of Fareed Zakaria GPS on the topic 'What makes a good leader' that was sitting on my DVR since months. He had some of the biggest leaders in business and politics (Lou Gerstner, Tony Blair, Admiral Mike Mullen and others) talk about their take on Leadership.

I thought I would summarize what were the biggest tasks that a Leader should accomplish:
  1. Set up a clear long-term vision and guidelines for the company.
  2. Make sure that the execution follows this long term vision / guidelines. People are free to do whatever they want as long as it helps the company reach its vision. 
  3. Be a good listener, you will need all the data you can gather to come up with a good vision
  4. True leaders will show their strength during a downturn, its easy for anyone to do well when the company has a strong momentum for growth.
Even though these points can easily be found in any leadership/101 class, its amazing how many companies and products fail at the basic task of having a clear vision and eventually loose their significance.

I have had first hand experience with all the above points, and can't agree more with all of them. The last point was particularly interesting that you can identify a true leader only during a downturn. If you hire someone when your company has a lot of momentum and is growing well, you don't need a lot of leadership skills to run it (too much leadership might actually disrupt the growth). True leaders can really be identified clearly during a downturn.

Finally, a great quote by Eisenhower: "Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it".

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