Saturday, 13 October 2012

Obstacles faced by true Leaders

Why do we have very few true leaders , who can excite or inspire us? While there is a crying need for leaders in India and the world in all spheres of life  , why is the necessity not mothering true leaders?The question has actually two parts:
1)If such leaders exist , why are they  reluctant to lead or serve?
2)If as a nation we are not producing such leaders , what are the possible reasons?

I propose to take up only the first question at present .I will deal with the second question in another blogpost.Warren Bennis  dealt with this question in his 1989 book , "Why Leaders can't Lead . . The Unconscious Conspiracy Continues"(Warren Bennis , Inc.University of South California:169 pages).In fact , in this book , there is a  whole chapter 7 on this issue(entitled;"Where Have All the Leaders Gone?".He has given a number of examples in this book from the USA, some of them quite provocative.For example, in the chapter 13,"Pornography of Leadership" Warren Bennis says:"Nor does it (Smallness) solve anything when a leader pretends closeness to or a direct relationsahip with the people, as when Jimmy Carter wore Jeans and cardigan sweaters in the White HouseThe "simple" life as seen on a technotronic quadraphonic TV tube-is soft porn for the intellectual , falsely soothing and just as corrupt as the hard kind."However many of his insights are sharp and universal and apply to leadership issues in general, all over the world  .The book is different from normal leadership books and I recommend you to read it .
                  The main obstacles needed to be surmounted by true leaders are many , but I will shortlist some of the more important ones .
1)Leadership positions compel leaders to live in an unreal world .This world is away from the real problems of the people and is made up of media , advertising , technology , fashion , luxury and shopping malls.They  often meet and get advice from people who themselves live in an unreal world .In the process they begin to avoid reality and avoid facing facts.Their daily life is vague , dreamy and semi-conscious, and out of touch with reality .(I recall the story "The Bishop" by Anton Chekhov).
2.The Leaders become too focused on Bottomline and staying in power and increasing their power base.Money and Power become the main ends of leaders .They transition from selflessness to self-centeredness to selfishness.They become materialistic, greedy and ambitious  to the core.This quest for acquiring and retaining power  makes them centralized and controlling  everything , and they fail to delegate power and authority to others.
3.One major obstacle before leaders is entrenched bureaucracy, with a commitment to status quo.Because of increasing departmentation , subdivision and segmentation of work, bureaucracy performs segmented acts which  are amoral and done without guilt and responsibility .The leaders find it easy to use bureaucracy  for immoral acts .As Warren Bennis says:"Bureaucracies are beautiful mechanisms for evasion of responsibility and guilt."
                     A leader can cross this bureaucratic hurdle if he or she is on guard .This can be done by avoiding the temptation of appointing and surrounding themselves with"doppelgangers"(ghostly doubles).Leaders tend to choose assistants who  resemble them"not only in ideas and attitudes but in height , stature and dress".However comforting loyalty and congenialty  are, leaders should choose assistants from diverse viewpoints and background, as far as possible .A group of yesmen and yes women creates doppelganger effect , and in open invitation to anarchy.In my experience of three decades in  many key bureaucratic positions , I have witnessed the permanent  down fall of many  promising leaders.
4) Sociological trend towards individualism is also an obstacle in the path of leaders .People have their own personal vision and and are not willing or interested in  shared vision of the organization .They are unwilling to cooperate in teams, unwilling to make sacrifices for the common goals .They live in their own cocoons.This poses serious obstacle in the path of leaders.
5)A similar development is that people are increasingly becoming cynical and  do not dream any longer .It is extremely difficult to inspire and lead people who are without a dream for the organization or the country.
6)Pressures from competing constituencies make the task of leader difficult and full of obstacles .
7)Fear of failure is an important obstacle for a leader.They have a fear of being disappointed in case they fail .This creates self doubt and lack of confidence. and lack of faith in one's abilities.They indulge in destructive self-criticism .
8)Some leaders develop a "Know it all" attitude.They respond poorly to constructive criticism .
9)Leaders have a tendency to become hypocrites.They fail to abide by their own professed rules and standards.
10)Loneliness and socialization :Leaders have a great difficulty in choosing who to socialize with .Often , they have less time and interaction with  their family , resulting in loneliness .
           As a result of above obstacles , leaders who can take the nation to the heights of progress , justice and happiness, remain reluctant candidates for assuming the burdens and responsibilities of leadership .(I  need to study, discuss and reflect hard  to be able to suggest solutions at present but  i hope to do so soon ).