Sunday, 8 January 2012

Can we have some more of that sauce please ?

A few days ago, an article in a newspaper article read something like this - “... we need business leaders to mature faster ... since we have a growing economy”. To me, it seemed like the article was sponsored by the distributors of fruit ripening chemicals. :-)

A lot has been said and done about leadership development. Much more will be said and done. What’s the harm if I add my two bits as well ?

Here goes. Every individual has some secret sauce within. Circumstances draw this out for others to taste. When people really like the taste, and wish they had that secret sauce too, they become followers. Come followers, the individual becomes a leader. Required to satisfy every expectation and pass each scrutiny. Every day.

Secret sauce doesn’t need analysis or explanation. People can taste it right away ... when it is served to them. Like they can feel beauty and love ... when these are before them. Therefore, when they look to fill leadership positions at the time of need, organisations easily know whether they have the right candidates or not. They know it when they have made the less than happy choice of a deficient candidate from within or of an unfamiliar candidate from without. Yet they are not fully convinced about leadership development.

Just look at the defence establishment. Presumably, even they do not believe that everyone can be a leader or be made into one. But just look at their record. Not one leader ever recruited from outside. Not one leader who didn’t at least reasonably fit the bill.

They do great service to the cause of leadership development by hiring the way they do. Looking for signs of a secret sauce in the candidate’s past. Examining events and circumstances in the candidate’s past to ascertain if some secret sauce was drawn out and whether there were signs of followership. Generating fresh circumstances during the hiring process to test the candidate against the burden of expectations and the requirements of scrutiny.

Leadership identification and development for them is a never-ending process. The careers of defence personnel are about doing diverse roles in varied circumstances. In a continued manner, the probability of finding the individual’s secret sauce is increased. There are continued chances to obtain and maintain followership, to fulfil expanding expectations and to pass intensifying scrutiny. Not a chance in hell for aspirants to only do jobs they are good at, or find convenient to do. Never a possibility of only flying safely over or under the radar, as they say.

There’s another magic that they know about. That followers get the leaders they deserve. Future leaders have to get followership from a pool that is good to begin with and is constantly developing to get better. They’re not going to like the taste of just any sauce. They’re going to expect and scrutinise like crazy. They’re going to demand more and better tomorrow than they did yesterday. It’s obvious, isn’t it, that leadership development is as much about followership development ?

Secret sauce, followership, capability of fulfilling expectations and passing scrutiny are all quite evident by the time an individual reaches a career level called the ‘selection grade’. Only the best of the best make it to that step. Selection panels do not get swayed much by the possible consequences of rejecting and demotivating others. After the first such selection grade, there are many more selection grades to earn before one can become a leader. Defence establishments are as fussy about promotions as they are about hiring. That’s another big service they do to themselves.

Of course, there are also state-of-the-art defence academies. War games and simulations. Joint exercises with other countries. Reward and recognition for the exemplary. Legends about the special. And so on. That complement.

As much as there are politics, prejudices, exigencies and errors. And so on. That detract.

But again, just look at their record. Not one leader ever recruited from outside. Not one leader who didn’t at least reasonably fit the bill.

And then doubt leadership development. If you must.


  1. Almost every post has germs of a book. Try expanding some of them. nothing too big around 80 pages. .....may be a series.......or a collection

    1. Wow. That's some compliment. Hope to connect with better people and do work in these areas some day. Mini-books ... hmmm