A modern leader must learn to accept constructive criticism from subordinates. Those who do not do so, are doomed to fail. Education and awareness of subordinates, coupled with individual aspirations deprive modern leaders of blind following. An autocratic leader is often like a Banyan tree, where nothing grows underneath it. Autocratic leaders are often anti-thesis of consultation and difference of opinion. They are rigid and inflexible in their thoughts and actions.
by Col Rajinder Kushwaha (Retd)
Alvin Toffler, author of ‘Future Shock, Power Shift and Third Wave’, postulates in ‘Third Wave’ that failure of modern leadership was not because of the lack of qualities and attributes amongst modern leaders but the breakdown of the very institutes on which their power depends. Breakdown of joint family systems and rising aspirations of individuals have affected the family values and ethos exhorting members to follow the ‘Family Elder’ blindly.
It was the foundation of ‘Brand Name’ theory of leadership which has still not run out of favour. They may have some attributes but not all to be effective leaders. Their brand catapulted them to leadership positions. It gave rise to dynasties and monarchy. Certain class of people were considered ‘born to l.
e the time when, ‘Situation-Model’ advocated emergence of a leader in a group in a given situation. Thus it advocated different set of values in a person to emerge as a leader in varying fields. To put it precisely, it implied that leaders of variable fields needed different traits such as corporate world, military organisations or political scenarios. In fact, political situations do give rise to ‘situational leaders’. Military dictators in Pakistan or elsewhere or even in democracies such as the rise of Donald Trump or Narendra Modi would fit these situational but autocratic leaders.
Modern leadership has its different set of ethos and values. Legal authority (as in the army or government service) might make one an overbearing boss but not a true leader of men. Authority only leads to autocracy. But such a leader is resented and forgotten as soon as his authority goes. They are neither respected nor revered but only obeyed. Saddam Hussain, Muammar Gaddafi and Hitler are some of their types. Secrecy and centralized control is their USP.
As opposite of authority and autocracy, Dave Sideman in his book ‘How’ describes that “Transparency and openness is the backbone of modern leadership”. In the age of social media explosion, secrecy cannot be maintained. Also, individualization of families and communities has given a fillip to personal aspirations. This demands that a leader must be transparent and truthful. He must keep his followers informed through his acts and conduct. This is what a creative leader should be like – what Nelson Mandela of South Africa was.
The essence of the above two statements is that a modern leader ought to be creative and adjusting than being rigid and inflexible like an autocrat. While creative leaders are progressive and growth oriented; the autocratic leaders are stalemated votary of status quo. This is applicable to all spheres of human activities, whether it was politics, military or corporate world.
The role of a creative leader is not to have all the ideas; it’s to create a culture where everyone can have ideas and feel that they’re valued. Leadership, in modern times, is not bossing around over your men but consultation with them and coordinating them. Give them task and resources and let them perform but never micromanage your subordinates. Thus, good leaders not only guide their men to attain an objective but create a congenial atmosphere to produce their own worthy replacements. Real leaders do not stick to the job forever. They create alternatives for self.
In short, a modern leader must learn to accept constructive criticism from subordinates. Those who do not do so, are doomed to fail. Education and awareness of subordinates, coupled with individual aspirations deprive modern leaders of blind following. No more easy options of ‘family type bindings’ are available. A leader would have to establish his supremacy over men through personal competence, transparency and fairness. Legal authority is no more left unquestioned today.
An autocratic leader is often like a Banyan tree, where nothing grows underneath it. To put it more succinctly, an autocratic leader leaves a big vacuum after he goes. Moghul King Aurangzeb left a trail of incompetence after his death. Invariably there is always a leadership crisis after an autocratic leader disappears. Autocratic leaders are often anti-thesis of consultation and difference of opinion. They are rigid and inflexible in their thoughts and actions. Thus, after initial push, growth and development of an organisation suffers.
One of the causes of breakup of Soviet Union was the extreme autocracy practiced by its leadership. Lenin through Stalin, Khrushchev, Kosygin, Brezhnev and Andropov were all autocratic leaders. And when Glasnost and Perestroika were launched by Gorbachev, Soviet Union fell apart.
To conclude, whether it is political scene, military or corporate world, need of modern times is to have creative leaders. Narayanan Murthy of ‘Infosys’ is a shining example of creative leadership in corporate world. If it is not done, succession battles begin even in family businesses whether it is Birlas, Tatas or even Ambani’s. Military is no exception. The goodness of a Commanding Officer ( CO) of a unit can only be gauged from the fact as to how many subordinates he made capable to replace him in due course of time.
If a unit has to import Commanding Officers from outside, it is the failure of the last few COs whose personal interests dominated the unit interests. Therefore, be it military or any other field, a leader in modern times will be judged by the quality of his successors. An autocratic leader may win a battle or two but it is the creative leader who wins the war. In sum, this is the difference between the two.
Col Rajinder Kushwaha is an ex-NDA, commissioned into the 3 Bihar Regiment in June 1971 and was the Commanding Officer of same unit in insurgency environs in Assam in 1990-93. Has vast experience in CI Ops from North East to Punjab and J&K. A prolific writer-cum-critic on defence and security matters, he has authored the book, ‘Kashmir: A Different Perspective’. His second book on Assam in scheduled for release in December 2017. Held prestigious appointments in the army including as an instructor at a premier army institute, Col GS, Col Adm of an Infantry Division and Col “Q” works at a Command HQ. He can be contacted on e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org