In the previous article, we discussed a different way to think about leadership development in India – specifically that a good leader can be very connected without being dependent. Here are some specific strategies you can use to practice this kind of leadership development.
1. Publicly Anoint Leaders
Make a public show of putting a developing leader in a new position. This lets him know you have confidence in him and makes sure everyone else knows it too.
If you don’t do it publicly, your attempts to give responsibility to the new leader will feel more like a power struggle in the office. The new leader knows she has a special position, but feels like everyone else treats her the same as before. It helps everyone to be very clear when new responsibility has been transferred.
During the public show, clearly state to everyone what they should come to the new leader for. Say, “Please don’t come to me for any of these things any more, as Lakshmi will be taking care of it.” People will ignore you and continue to come to you until you refuse them, but you’ve established a precedent to fall back on.
Titles and status mean a lot here. Having responsibility without any status is very difficult for most to deal with. If necessary, you can create new titles for the developing leader so that everyone else (including the person’s family) gets a sense that he is important to the future of the company.
2. Create a Plan of JustGetItDone Assignments
A JustGetItDone assignment is one that a new leader has to complete without any instruction. He is given unlimited authority, a deadline, and a blank cheque. This isn’t about throwing someone in the deep end of the pool and walking away. This is about entrusting a new leader with complete responsibility and then debriefing it with them afterwards. You can schedule these things when you are not in the office, and then spend time reviewing what happened when you return. Chose low-risk assignments first, and then move on to bigger tasks.
3. Focus on Planning
One of the main skills that sets great leaders apart in India who work with multinationals is the ability to plan ahead. Nearly every developing leader I’ve run into struggles to forecast problems and correctly estimate timelines and budgets on his own. Teach the new leader to ask, “What is likely to go wrong?”, and help him put together realistic expectations for projects. Apart from regular working conditions, a great leader considers climatic (e.g. rains in Bombay), religious (e.g. Durga Pooja in Calcutta), and political conditions (e.g. scheduled bank bandhs).
4. Become a Mentor, not a Boss
Leadership development in India is more about being a guru/mentor than a trainer. While a trainer focuses on equipping a certain set of skills, a guru offers principles and is always available to offer sage advice at any time. But no one expects the guru to sit by someone’s desk all day long. A quality leadership mentor provides intimacy and connection along with authority, but from a safe distance. (‘Mentor’ and ‘guru’ are not synonyms, and I’m stretching their meaning a bit to illustrate this point.)
5. Never take back authority once you’ve given it
Nothing could be more devastating for a leader to be publicly given a position and then publicly circumvented. If you delegate tasks to a new leader, never handle those issues directly again without the new leader present. If you do, others will realize that you weren’t serious and will treat the new leader as unnecessary.
6. Travel often
If you are not on-site with your developing leaders, make plans to visit them often. Email-only relationships will quickly deteriorate. Plan for regular video calls and make as many visits as you can. A personal connection encourages a new leader and gives her the confidence to take on her new role.
Leadership development in India can be extremely rewarding, but only if you maintain and value connection with new leaders. These strategies can help you do that as you pass over responsibility to others. What other effective ways have you found to develop local leaders in India?
Image Credit: Kalyan Kanuri on Flickr