“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

John F. Kennedy

The success of an organization depends on its leaders being change agents, thereby building leaders and effectively managing its people and projects. Are we not inspired by leaders who transform businesses, provide growth opportunities for people, impart hope and achieve success for the organization and its employees? These leaders have the charisma and the right traits, and they are usually called the leader material. It is continuous learning, preferably experiential, that helps leaders acquire these leadership traits.

In one of my earlier blogs titled “Who is a real leader“, I had listed down a few value-driven skills as an absolute necessity to be a true leader. I received lots of feedback from my friends and colleagues, who agreed and disagreed with my theory mentioned in the blog. Well, blogs are not research papers; they are experiences and opinions articulated to derive certain conclusions. 

The competency of managing change.

A few years back, I read a book called “The Kite Runner” written by Khalid Hosseini. I recall a conversation from the book where Baba, the father of Amir, the protagonist, reasons out that theft is the only sin in the world. All the other sins’ are a variation or a different form of theft. ‘”When we kill a man, we are stealing life. We are robbing of a wife’s right to a husband. We take his children’s rights to their father. When we lie, we are stealing someone’s right to the truth.” It is purely the author’s opinion, and I thought it was interesting. 

Taking a cue from the ‘theft being the only sin’ example, I asked myself; what could be the single competency required to be a successful leader? After some serious deliberation, I found the answer to that question. It is Change Management. All the other sets of skills overlap and come under the umbrella of change management competency. Leaders must acquire and develop competencies like Communication, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Conflict Management, Creativity, Emotional Intelligence, Marketing Skills, and Decision Making to manage change effectively. The one who masters all these competencies will become an effective leader. 

Change Management set of skills for Leadership
Image: Change Management set of skills for Leadership

Why do leaders fail to manage change?

Most of you will agree that leaders evolve and rise to the occasion of change. Very often, it can test the leaders on various facets that include behaviours and skills. Careful observation and analysis of a leader’s behaviour while going through any organizational transformation will give us more insights into good and bad leadership traits. Some leaders falter, and some flourish during a change. Successful leaders engage in continuous learning and keep motivating and influencing their teams even while facing challenges while driving a change. I have listed down six deadly mistakes leaders commit that makes managing key initiatives and transformations difficult.

The six deadly mistakes leaders commit.

Mistake No 1. Not empowering managers

Leaders should empower their managers to manage teams. If they directly engage with team members to manage tasks and initiatives more often, it can discourage and disable managers. It may also lead to team members disrespecting their managers.  Too many review meetings and cadence calls will suffocate a team and may not help in achieving goals and objectives in a long term.

Sometimes even decisions made by managers on assigning jobs, allocating resources, and performance ratings of their team members are discounted and overlooked by few leaders. This micro-managing can cause a lot of friction in teams and be a cause for attrition among managers.

Mistake No 2. Not willing to communicate with junior employees

Have you seen leaders who interact only with employees at their level and hesitate to speak to people below their hierarchy? 

When junior employees approach these leaders for any interaction, even if related to work, the leader hesitates to speak and often asks for seniors to come over to discuss the same. 

Mistake No 3: Not providing learning opportunities for the team

Change is perpetual in any organization. An organization that goes through these transformations will go through a Change Curve, reflecting the confidence and morale of employees based on adoption. Successful leaders’ take employees on a comfortable ride along the curve quickly. They should be instrumental in initiating learning drives relevant to the change for a smooth transition. The ride along the curve can become bumpy and uncomfortable when leaders do not provide learning opportunities for their teams. Moreover, giving timely feedback, constructive and critical, leads to learning opportunities, thus creating a performance-driven culture in the organization.

“Team members learn from learning leaders.”  

George Koshi

Mistake No 4: Sweeping problems under the carpet

Commonly, team members approach leaders with problems when they find them difficult to resolve, especially when they run large projects or critical transformations in organizations. Leaders who recognize these problems, categorize them as people or process related and take corrective actions will strive, stand out, and be successful. Leaders who do not acknowledge these problems primarily when they are people-related would create a lot of flak among team members. 

Mistake No 5: Nurturing biases

Conscious and unconscious biases in leaders are harmful to the growth of any organization. These unchecked biases can impact recruitment, promotions and even job allocations in a negative way. When leaders initiate and allocate resources for critical projects or key assignments, choosing team members they like based on gender, religion, region, or caste can discourage skilled and high performing employees. 

Mistake No 6: Being aggressive or passive-aggressive

Leaders who are autocratic, arrogant, non-empathetic or rude in their behaviour while managing or interacting with team members can impede the team’s performance. Aggressive leaders don’t respect others but only respect themselves. Even worse are the passive-aggressive leaders who flatter people on the face and speak ill behind their backs. They neither respect themselves nor others. Both these kinds of leaders are detrimental to the organization. When such leaders drive an organizational change, it could result in a disaster.

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A learning leader can influence 

A leader who continuously learns can rightly influence people. Their only objective must be to develop people by providing them with challenging opportunities and making them part of the change. Leaders’ are defined by the decisions they make. These decisions should not hamper growth but influence and positively motivate teams. 

Going through the Change Curve – 4 D’s of Managing Change

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Venkatarama krishnan B · October 24, 2021 at 9:14 pm

Thank you Mr. George for sharing your article on Effective Leadership. Very useful and informative for all upcoming leaders. This article not only indicates key skills but also lists out the mistakes of the leaders which is very precise for ease of implementation. It can be a guide for all effective leaders.

Ramanathan · October 24, 2021 at 9:35 pm

Good one George.spot on. Managing change yes….but it has several sub components and ability to influence and persuade and implement change ..yes.

    George Koshi · October 24, 2021 at 10:10 pm

    Thank you Ram for your feedback. True that.

Bindu GR · October 24, 2021 at 10:01 pm

Well articulated George…
By empowerment in my opinion is not only providing an opportunity for decision making but also mentoring the team to evolve the individuals to have clarity and ownership in their decision making..

gopi · October 24, 2021 at 10:13 pm

Thank you Mr.George – Nice article.4D – Opens the Clarity of Change management !!

    Harish J Shetty · October 27, 2021 at 8:30 pm

    Very useful and informative for all upcoming leaders. It can be a guide for all effective leaders.

Deepa Prabhakaran · October 24, 2021 at 11:07 pm

Good one again George… That kite runner quote is something that has stayed with me also all these years. Leaders are the backbone of any organisation. It is so critical to have a great set of leaders who share a powerful vision. Learning and change management by extension definitely one of the must have skills.

    George Koshi · October 25, 2021 at 5:53 am

    Well said Deepa… Leaders are the backbone of the organization. When they don’t have the right skills it might seem that they are spineless. Thank you for your feedback and comment.

Kirubakaran Candasamy · October 25, 2021 at 2:34 am

Interesting take on leadership and change management. Most of what you discussed is relevant and important in certain situations and perspectives. But I disagree on the title “only skill”. This and a few other go together.

    George Koshi · October 26, 2021 at 11:18 am

    Thank you Kiruba. You are correct, it is not just one skill. That is why I have the image on my blog which shows all the skills that overlap that a leader should acquire and develop. I was looking for a competency that would encompass all these skills and I felt that managing change would be the right one.

K Rajesh · October 25, 2021 at 7:15 am

5 of 6 option strongly applicable. Nice write up. True facts visible in corporate leadership ,surely they wil be dumb to learning from mistakes … Focus on short term high gain in individuality rules

Gokul · October 27, 2021 at 9:04 pm

Very crisp, simple and yet power thoughts, Koshi Sir. Leadership is an art and the skill need to be honed on day to day by unlearning and relearning.

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