Rajeev Peshawaria made a pertinent point at a lecture at the HR leadership Congress, held in New Delhi in April—that finding your own energy before getting other people to work is the first step to effective leadership. With his book Too Many Bosses, Too Few Leaders, which was released in May, he drives home the point, while highlighting the fact that most of us lead by power of position, and not by tapping into the emotional energy of people.
Currently chief executive officer of the International Centre for Leadership in Finance (ICLIF) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Peshawaria trains, lectures and advises on leadership, focusing in particular on two aspects: how to maximize personal leadership effectiveness and organizational success.
Peshawaria has spent 23 years in the corporate world. He worked as global chief learning officer at Morgan Stanley from 2007-09 and at Coca-Cola Co. from 2006-07. He was a founding member of Goldman Sachs’ popular leadership development programme, Pine Street (2000-05), and a global director of leadership development programmes at American Express in New York before that. In an interview, he spoke about how you can discover the leader in yourself, and what differentiates a leader from a boss. Edited excerpts from the interview:
There are innumerable books on leadership that talk of personality types and the inherent charisma of a leader. How is your book different?
There are books and training seminars that tell you good leadership comes in personality type A or B, that you should lead from the front or lead from the back, that it’s left- or right-brained. There are books that claim to make you 1-minute managers, or give you the three-step formula to great leadership. They suggest copycat role plays that will turn you into Jack Welch overnight. Unfortunately there is no correlation between a certain personality type and effective leadership. Furthermore, the last time I checked the dictionary, copying someone else’s behaviour was an act of followership, not leadership. So I think most of these books and programmes miss the mark.
Too Many Bosses, Too Few Leaders: Free Press, 223 pages, $26 (around Rs 1,200).
The first step of leadership is to articulate a better future. And second, to be able to face resistance at every step. A thousand people will tell you why you will fail. To keep going despite that, more than anything else, a leader needs abundant energy to stay the long course without giving up. Leadership, therefore, is about first finding your own energy, and then finding effective ways to energize others towards shared purpose. My book is about how to find that energy, which comes only when you develop laser-sharp clarity about two things: your purpose and your values. No one can teach you energy, and therefore no one can teach you leadership. Energy (and leadership) must be self-discovered.
How do you motivate your team?
The key to motivating people is to stop trying. You cannot motivate another person because each person is already pre-motivated. Managers put a lot of pressure upon themselves by asking the question: What can I do to motivate my people? They then try all sorts of one-size-fits-all solutions like casual Fridays, Tuesday pizzas and family picnics. Unfortunately, this is the wrong question to ask in the first place. The right question is: How can I find out what someone is already motivated about and how can I match their expectations with the work at hand? You have to get some real information about the people you work with and harness that energy.
While we are on the subject of energy, here’s another point: There are two types of energy—rational and emotional. Rational energy comes from the expectation of gain, or the possibility of avoiding pain. Emotional energy is intrinsic and comes from the heart. Research has shown that emotional energy is four times stronger than rational energy. The best leaders are able to uncover their subordinates’ emotional energy and match the work with their needs.
Discover the leader: You should be very clear about your purpose and your values.
You said that a good work culture seems to be one of the three pillars of sustainable growth. Any tips on how to enhance that?
Culture is what people do when no one is looking. I read somewhere that when the planes hit the World Trade Center on 9/11, the CEO of a technology company in California was on a plane to Tokyo. Several hours after the events, she called her team and asked them to do three things immediately: 1) Account for each employee and make sure no one was hurt; 2) Secure the company’s servers and website; and 3) Start an online charity auction and get help to victims and their families. There was silence for several seconds before someone told the CEO that the first two were already completed and the third was well under way. It was no coincidence that people in the office knew exactly what to do even while the boss was away. This is culture at work. Your competitors can copy your products and your strategy. They can use the same technology and processes as you, but they cannot easily replicate your culture. In this sense, a strong culture is the only competitive advantage left.
LEADERS VS BOSSES
• Find the energy to create a better future
• Are clear about their purpose at all times
• Lead with values
• Know how to manage grief and have learnt from failure
• Forgive and move on
• Willingly recruit co-leaders and share both authority and responsibility
• Successfully move from “I” to “We” and create conditions to maximize collective success
• Cling to the past and cope with the present
• Seldom have a purpose and live a reactive existence
• Command with power of position
• Usually hold some unresolved grief, and haven’t learnt from failure
• Hold grudges, anger and jealousy
• Do not like to share authority
• Stay fixated on “I” and create conditions to maximize personal success