Hindsight 2020 – On Leadership & Choices

A short story & observations

In the late 1990s, I was fortunate to be a part of startup that revived an old area and grew in leaps and bounds – customers, countries we served, and other financial metrics (Revenue/ Growth/ Profits).

As a young consultant, I couldn’t have asked for a better work or work-place..

We were growing rapidly, and the company leadership thought it best to bring someone from the “outside” who would guide and manage us- and in turn make a better, higher performing team. We were a group of high cognitive energy bunch and company ‘elders’ observed that entropy (disorder) was setting in.

The choice appeared good on the surface. KC (made-up name) brought a different experience-set having worked at large, well-known consulting companies. However…

To cut a long story short, it didn’t work out. Soon the new leader started sapping the energy of this bunch. Out of a plethora of objective reasons why he failed, following stand out –

  1. Insecure – Since KC didn’t have enough knowledge of the ‘space’ we were in, he tried to ‘wing it’ initially with nominal success. But, as he (soon) started losing the respect of the team, he started resorting to toxic techniques (predetermined poor personnel Reviews, etc.) and faulting those who expressed their displeasure with his “leadership” and the lack of commitment to learning the domain where we served.
    Luckily, the organization still had a Startup’ mindset and it soon dawned on the top leadership that a poor choice has been made. He was given a generous number of choices to prove his team wrong, which he failed repeatedly.

  2. Divisive – One of the really clever tactics that this leader utilized was creating schisms in the team. He would pander to some, ignore others, and to the remaining he would become quietly and not so quietly, offensive – passing remarks to undermine them, or some other underhand techniques. This may have helped him win a few ‘converts’ and even last longer than he needed to.

Thanks to the growing ‘unrest’ among the rank and file, and a top level leadership that processed all the “data” (failings) and acted with dispatch, he was relieved of his role as leader of the team soon, after ample opportunities were given to him.

As America heads to the polls today (November 3rd, 2020), here’s an observation from this experience –

the highest form of leadership starts with ‘self-leadership’.

As citizens of a free society, we have a very big stake in how we act – namely Vote, and hold our leaders accountable. Lowering our expectations will take us down the road of self-destruction fast.

There is a couplet from a fifteenth century poet-sage from India which offers timely and timeless advice for leaders. Roughly translated, it says something to this effect –

When Associates, Caregivers and Guru, Speak sweet, from a place of Fear

Know -For your Kingdom, your humanity, your body, speedy destruction is Near

– Tulsidas

Be Well and Go Vote today!

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