Leadership is not rocket science!

imageMan started off as an individual. When Hazrat Adam descended to this earth with Mother Huwa, they were left to search for each other for long before they became one and along came the human race. Till very late in our human existence, we lived as individuals, mainly driven by the whims of kings, queens, nobles, lords and ladies.

Somewhere around the late 18th century, history was turned on its head. The Industrial Revolution changed us humans. Suddenly ‘mass’ was the way to go. We have all heard how an individual used to make a single pin in a day, but once a team was set up for mass production, overnight this individual made 48 pins. Such was the power of this vision and its success. Everything, literally everything was now designed this way. Warehouses, movement of goods, markets, schools, cinemas, colleges, sports events and rallies. They replicated the industrial floor.

At the same time separate events were propelling things towards individuality. The French Revolution in 1789 brought individual rights to the fore. Also the American Revolution created the dream of individual success. People could rise from the bottom to the top. Individuality was now a huge driver. Consumer and human needs (call it greed if you wish) was/(is) a powerful compeller.

This today has become the modern day conundrum. Man’s penchant for mass developed systems and output (our capitalistic efficiency drives this) versus our other inner drive for individuality. Our human is born unique. Unique DNA, unique retina, unique fingerprint, unique voice note. So why, oh why do we expect this human to function like a regular mass number, standard deviation one? It does not work like that. People have to want to do something on their own, for themselves, for inner satisfaction. People are not numbers.

Todays working society faces this big challenge. The individual has to take his/her individuality and somehow find a legitimate means to fit in, into this mass vision. Similarly, mass organisations have to find a means of marrying their needs to these individuals needs. As far as I can see, there is only one way to resolve this conundrum. Create a team.

Why create a team. Because once a team is created, then any objective can be achieved. Nowadays they call it Employee Engagement. To get the employee or contributor interested in what they are doing. If they become interested individually, they will eventually form a team. Its a sense of belonging, which then drives team dynamics. It’s your family and one fights for one’s family.

My personal belief is that there is also great spirituality involved in this. It’s not possible to prove this. But anecdotal events at least tend to suggest this spirituality. The Spartan 300, Greeks at Marathon, Ikrimah at Yarmuk, Muhammad Fateh at Constantinople, the creation of Pakistan, the World Cup 1992 and so many more. These are all events which appeal to me, but all humans have their own personal spiritual team story. When teams form, we just go on a roll, challenges which seem back to wall, are overcome and results are astonishing, considering the individuals involved. Where did these heroes come from? Not this decrepit unassuming human. How did he/she become a super hero?

So through all my life, I have looked for the story which catches ones imagination. If you find that story and it appeals to people and inspires them, then belief happens. When belief happens then passion is created, and this leads to ownership, teamwork and hard-work. You do not need to do anything, the people themselves will take care of the end goal (the Vision). They will achieve the dream you have made them see and believe. Its the very essence of leadership and its actually simple. No rocket science at all.

An Edifice built on Trust

imageRecently a senior CEO remarked to me about how out of control Engro Foods seemed in its early days and outsiders had no idea what was cooking. This was a general perception, outside of EFL, and was borne out of a lack of knowledge about the philosophy.

Hence, I write this piece.

Management is a fine balance between giving passion and initiative enough freedom and at the same time exercising some control, so that things do not go off the rail. It is a fine art and not a science. You have to know your team well and the game well also…that is a starting point. And it takes courage to stay hands off or on the opposite end, interfere to put things right. There is a time for either end and during the course of a project, you will end up doing both. But predominantly, you tilt towards staying hands off and allowing trust and ownership to inculcate.
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In the meantime managing is..

Ensuring flow of knowledge up and down the system
Ensuring flow of authority down the system
Ensuring flow of communication up and down the system
Ensuring flow of finances/resources down the system.

If you do the above properly, then the project should work successfully. When it does not, then it means that sincerity was missing somewhere in the system. Outside the above four dynamics, it is all humans who rule and drive the show. This is the biggest controller at the back. If your employees are driven and have ownership, then they will be sincere and work for the project goal. When all else is excluded and the project goal is owned, then team dynamics happen and when team dynamics happen, we just propel ourselves towards the goal.

It is absolutely fascinating, how fate almost conspires to cause success to happen, when teams work selflessly. I suspect that there is a lot of spirituality which is playing at the back. But unfortunately, there is no way to prove this, except to simply say “it happens”. I have seen this time and again during my own life and heard it from others. Think back simply to the World Cup 1992 and you will understand.

So, EFL was all about this. One created a home with a vision, and got a bunch of people to believe in it. Soon EFL mattered to them more than anything else. Hence they formed a very large family, and fought tooth and nail to achieve success. To enable them to achieve this success, they were given some freedom, and told that they were trusted. This edifice built on trust and ownership, ballooned into a massive company. Such a simple philosophy, but calling for a lot of belief.

* picture taken from dreamstime.com

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