Are you an enlightened leader?

We all have come across different types of leaders and CEOs in our lives. Some stay alive in our minds than others. SEnlightenome have touched our lives powerfully. Some had a high impact on what we are today and some interestingly told us what a leader/CEO should not be.

For the purpose of this article, I shall take CEOs of the organization as leaders connoted here who shape or disintegrate the leadership talents in their organizations. However the principles where my thought had gone into applies to all those who are in leadership roles.

There are many around us claiming themselves as CEO or Managing Director or Chairman or Founder etc. But how many of them are really enlightened? What makes an enlightened CEO different from the ordinary one?

An enlightened CEO shapes the talents in his organization by recognizing and nurturing them for a brighter future organization. An ordinary CEO spends his time blaming his leadership team for business situations or in trying to see who didn’t perform well or in finding someone as a scapegoat for a failed business situation. In an environment, where a CEO is in search of victims of incidents, the organization could turn out to be a bunch of underutilized talents working in isolation.

An ordinary CEO capitalizes his time in creating and building operational and financial strategies for a perceived success. He expends time in seeing possibilities of cutting corners to save that extra penny. He looks at business from a perspective of money and in many cases, money drives the leadership culture. He focuses more on how to make bottom lines healthier. He uses people and feels that people are paid to deliver what he or company wants irrespective of what they are capable of or what future potential they have. An ordinary CEO lacks foresight into identifying talents that would help achieve these healthy bottom lines consistently otherwise. That’s where the thin line between an ordinary CEO and enlightened CEO lies.

In an organization led by ordinary CEO, meritocracy is flung off the window. Performance appraisals become a routine HR exercise and when it comes to remuneration increase or rewards, it becomes a decision based on who happened to score more on being a “Yes man”. The leaders who contributed silently or sincerely or those who called a spade a spade goes to the bottom line of the annual remuneration increment list.

An enlightened CEO, on the other hand, values meritocracy over mediocrity. One should never forget the fact that differentiation breeds meritocracy and the sameness or failure to notice differentiation breeds mediocrity in an organization. Most organization falls into the latter type. CEOs of some organizations tend to easily recognize those who achieve or exceed budgeted financial results of their respective business and fails to even look at the fact that the talents need to be recognized and rewarded based on leader’s behaviors, values and potential not just the business results. Financial results are important, but for a sustained growth and also to take the Organization forward, the creation of talented leaders is of prime importance as far as a CEO is concerned. This even applies to any leaders at any function as the success of any function in an organization depends on how the leaders shape the talents in his team and how he nurtures them to take higher roles and how he drives them to learn skills.

An enlightened CEO usually spends 75% of their time in identifying and cultivating the talents in their organization which would direct the future of the company to growth. Meritocracy is often mistaken by ordinary CEOs as moments where a quick result or a quick incidental impression brought in by some of the business’s leadership team is seen and recognized as the best for the Organization. Most often CEOs fail to observe consistent character, manifestation of genuine values and the visibility of real DNA of leaders that would bring an everlasting success to the organization.

The biggest mistake that an ordinary CEO does is to derecognize current leaders of the organization over a newly joined leader. If a CEO fails to fairly treat his leaders based on talents, values, and character and gets swayed by a sweet talker in his leadership team, he is bound to create a chaotic social system in his team and organization. Enlightenment is a farfetched state of mind for such CEOs. I have come across CEOs reward those business leaders who achieve financial results by a personal paycheque or a handsome cash envelope discretely with an aim of getting more and such CEOs are nothing but below ordinary CEOs who have no focus or passion for bringing meritocracy of talents in the organization by executing a broader and fair assessment of identification of talents and potential.

An enlightened CEO devotes qualitative time in observing, challenging and developing talents thus shaping the social system in the organization to one of meritocracy where differentiation of talents exists. Such CEOs are committed to talent development as they understand and believe that it is a crucial benchmark in business success than just mere financial or operational success.

It is not easy for a CEO to identify the developmental needs of their leadership team and then express it to them to accept and make them feel the need to work on as against appreciating the strengths of their leaders. If it’s easy to tell someone about their strengths, it is very edgy to tell someone what they need to change.

It takes courage for a CEO to be explicit in expressing or addressing the development needs of his leadership team and he needs to be adroit in encouraging his leaders to accept his assessment and take the challenges. This is a tough skill that an enlightened CEO will have in him which ordinary CEOs shy away from.

It is difficult to get the culture where leadership team feel welcome to being corrected and guided by a top leader. This culture creation is an easy task as far as an enlightened CEO is concerned as he sets the place for such free flow of communication. An environment of trust and openness is what an enlightened CEO would create for building talents. CEOs can only develop talents if they get to know about them well and such information is like a black box, especially when it comes to leadership talents. One need to delve inside this and scrutinize the elements inside the leadership talents to bring out the potential for further development.

If the atmosphere in an organization is built of honesty and openness, free flow of communication with no reluctance occur. Many CEOs fail in building this trust in their leaders. A typical example that come to my mind is that a CEO asking a senior leader over phone on whether a line manager in the organization is aware of a crucial matter that he has heard that the senior leader is aware of, hiding the fact that it is told to him by the line manager sitting in front of him. This kind of acts build mistrust in the top leadership and the leadership team would not reveal much of their information to such leaders, resulting in the CEO failing to gather information on talents for shaping them for the good of the organization. Another example where CEOs build mistrust is when he questions a senior leader while some junior team members are in his office and the interrogation is on speaker phone without revealing the fact that the conversation is put on speaker phone and there are other team members around in CEOs office. Such organizations are very common and such CEOs as well.

Ordinary CEOs are mediocre by themselves and has insecurity issues that prevent them from facing talented leaders and thus opt to allow the power of position take over their actions.

Ordinary CEOs do not walk the talk. They focus more on the outside world that bring fame to them and neglects the inside where leadership talents feel wanted and noticed. Ordinary CEOs know little of their leadership talents and in an organization like this “Yes Man” principle wins CEO’s heart and the Organization gets led mostly by such “Yes Man” followers of CEO.

In such a place, trust is a dream and maybe not even a dream. In an environment like no trust and openness, CEO will not be able to get all information about leadership talents, leave alone nurturing it. Candor gets the truth out. Leaders of the organization or even the team members of the organization or departments can talk openly only if they trust the system to respect honesty and confidentiality. And only when a CEO gets all information of their talents, there is room for talent development. And only when talents are developed, the organization develops.

An enlightened CEO knows this and works strenuously to ensure that trust and candor is a strongly stated value in the organization which he walks with. An enlightened CEO ensures that the value of trust and candor is emphasized in all his dialogues, meetings, addresses and any other communication forums or in the daily transactional matters as he understands that getting all his leaders of the team together on board is crucial for his organization.

Ordinary CEOs do not inspire leadership team or for that matter anyone and one need to start assessing themselves and work on it for them to be seen as enlightened CEOs.

Talents follow enlightened leaders and would stick with them for enlightening themselves whereas talents avoid and move away from ordinary  leaders.


Binu Prasad

Image courtesy: google


Published by inspire bee

Blogger, Thinker, Coach , Consultant

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