Looking into the mirror, one fine morning, rubbing the pepper-n-salt stubble and sucking in the sagging tummy, he ponders,
‘Well, what all do I need to do this week – Renew the insurance, maybe, increase the amount now, go for the 40+ executive health check up, get my Botox shots, maybe some collagen fills, and what else…..hmmmm, oh yes, get a leadership role… yes that would be all.’
Becoming a leader of people is considered as logical a function of ageing as, say, the irreversible as the chemical process of digestion. Entering a corporate (Cephalic phase of Digestion) HAS TO culminate in the final phase, which is, errrr…..Egestion, to use a scientific word to keep the conversation sanitized.
There is merit in saying that age and experience brings with it maturity. This cannot be denied. But, over time it plateaus. It’s easier for a 30 year old leader to lead 20~ olds. But, what about 35 commanding 30~ year olds? Or a 40 year old leader commanding 35~ year olds?
It keeps getting tougher. But the system often fails to recognize the fact that building leadership skills, as the person grows older, has 2 complications:-
1. Finding his ‘differentiator’ over the ‘led’ gets tougher.
2. Lack of Leadership basics get more glaring and unacceptable to the led.
Leadership hopefuls, also fail to realize that leading older, and more mature folks is a tougher than when they were leading a younger team. They keep peddling old wares, and try the ‘nice guy’ route to keep the team pacified. Not realizing, that those things have become hygiene: people want to see something else.
As a 25 year old, I yearned for a boss who would just be kind to me, be polite, and appreciate my work. Now, I want more. I want her to be inspirational, strategic, networked, action-oriented, intellectual, and so much more. All this, while being polite and sweet!
To look at it from another angle, why blame the bosses? The system itself does not guide them enough – with carrot and stick!
Here are some mistakes organizations have been making:
1. Let older people waft into leadership positions – It’s just the done thing!
2. Feel deeply obliged towards providing leadership development – Using a variety of tools, some quite premium and expensive, like Executive coaching. They don’t, on the contrary, feel that kind of obligation towards the ‘led’ by instituting tough measures to assess and screen for leadership capability!
3. Miss instituting good measures for leadership capability assessment. The few measures like e-sat are looked at with wariness, assessment centers have not shaped up to get the goodies they promised to, a decade back.
4. Glorify people leadership positions and fail to create the same brand for specialist positions. If you are a 40 year old professional with 18 years of total experience and your boss is a 32 year old with 12 years of experience, you should maybe take an over doze of Botox and die! This is just not acceptable!
Creating leaders is not about sponsoring Executive Learning programs at fancy destinations. It’s about creating a system that keeps defining, re-defining and rewarding the right leadership skills.
Tough, isn’t it, in demand-ridden market….but, we can start, can we?