(This article is edited extract from author’s just released book Leadership, Fame and Self-actualization)
While we keep ranting organisation’s success very much depends on its leader, the dependence of the leader on the organisation, has perhaps never come up as an issue for discussion. The fact is that leader needs organisation for fulfilling his personal agenda and for his self-realization, just as much as organisation needs leader for achieving its objectives. Understanding the nature of inter-face between the leader and the organisation is essential, both for developing the leaders at the top, and for enhancing effectiveness of the organisation.
Let me first put forth my concept of leadership here. I conceive of Leadership as a power drive or a primary deep-rooted urge which expresses itself in taking up the responsibilities of changing the direction of series of events or developments, and delivering results. Power is a need in a person to influence or mold the environment, i.e., the people and situations in one’s orbit. It is a strong drive to get things done, and achieve distant goals which enamor and attract leader. The actions he initiates therefore are not random or directionless. Their direction and destination is determined by his ultimate goal or ‘vision’.
Inter-face: organisation and its leader: It is often believed that organisation being more enduring entity with multitude members, the leader is for the organisation, and not other way round. However in realty, the organisation is abstract and inert, and does not have its own driving force except for that supplied by the leader (and his people). The leader therefore makes use of the organisation to give outlet to his own urges, aspirations, or personal agenda. The organisation becomes a medium, or a canvas on which he projects his own strivings and urges, through the decisions, actions and the policies he deploys, though he often remains unaware of this fact. Without access to organisation, the energies and urges of the leader will get so frustrated with no outlet that he will never act as a leader. But this does not mean that he could do anything with the organisation to gratify his personal urges or even give it a totally different direction in variance with the established one. Every established organisation has certain norms, traditions, and values which give it an identity of its own. In another sense, leader embodies or personifies them. While therefore leader impinges on the organisation his own agenda of personal enhancement – in most cases without being conscious, the other expectation of his role demands him to defend, conform, and in fact symbolize what his organisation stands for, by adhering to its norms and traditions. The resolution of the two opposing forces is determined by how loose or undefined are the norms and traditions of the organisation, and how strong are the power urges of the leader. Building on these concepts of the ‘dynamics of leadership’, I have in my just released book “ Leadership, Fame and Self-actualization” (from where I have extracted this article) explained how his actions, strategies or policies, irrespective of their claimed and camouflaged objectives, are shaped as the by-product and compromise between his ‘inner’ driving forces and the demands of the ‘external’ reality.
A resourceful leader shapes his strategies, policies, and actions in a manner that give vent to his strivings and yet advances the goals of the organisation. Most leaders unfold their personal agenda in disguise, gradually and unknowingly: very rarely are they conscious of the influence of their inner strivings. But then there comes a leader at times, with much stronger power drive, who asserts himself and changes its very course or direction (often giving it also a new vision), and every one says that a strong or powerful leader has arrived. Whether it turns out to be good or bad for the organisation,would depend upon his other capabilities and his ultimate performance. Suffice it to say that leader needs the organisation as a platform to enact the real life drama that has the objective of gratifying the deep rooted needs, bolster his ego and self-image. The energy and inspiration is in a leader, but organisation provides him outlet, which often results in a mutual benefit.
The fact that leader’s strivings and efforts to gratify his deep driving needs (not knowingly, and to the extent permitted by the ‘external’ realities) becomes the performance of the organisation, has many implications. A penetrating insight into his ‘inner world’ is necessary for (a) understanding why he makes certain changes in business, in culture and mode of managing people; for (b) enhancing leadership effectiveness of top management and also (c) indispensable at the time of inducting a new CEO or Group CEO in the organisation. This needs a special approach which permits the peep into his psychic functioning along with foresight into how it would impinge on the functioning of organisation (see here).
Also, any coaching or counseling to a leader cannot be much fruitful without understanding what organisation means to a particular leader. The evidence of what I have presented here is tenaciously rooted into the widely accepted and proven psychodynamic theories, and have also surfaced in my coaching or counseling CEOs / promoters for enhancing their leadership effectiveness as well as holistic self-realization, which my book explains, go together.
Harish Shivdasani operates shivdasani’s LENS, leadership and strategy coaching to corporate leadership and entrepreneurs.