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Recently I met a faculty member of a reputed Engineering and Technology Institute in the country. This faculty member was recruited from abroad and has been at the Institute for the last two years. He said that he is having a miserable time though he gets good ratings from students and is able to pursue his research activities well.  However he is unhappy because he felt that all his encounters with the Head of the Institution (HOI) ended up with unhappiness, dissatisfaction and sleepless nights. When I went into the details I found the encounters he had with the HOI were on small things dealing with his small needs like house repairs, performance appraisal and technical assistance. What seems to have made a lot of difference is the way his performance feedback was handled though there is no scope for promotion or any incentives allowed in the system.   He said it is not the decisions but the manner of talking and lack of respect shown to his talent and making him feel that he is nothing that made him have sleepless nights. Then he went on to narrate how many other young lecturers who joined the Institute are unhappy as there is no personal touch and they are left in the dark to find their way.  I have some personal knowledge of this HOI and know him as a successful HOI. He is a well accomplished Technology expert himself and is well sought by the Government. When I opened the topic with him, he began by explaining in a defensive way how the younger lecturers whom he recruited with high expectations are constantly making demands on the College rather than solving their own problems. He was so irritated with them I found it difficult to given any further unwanted advice.
Years ago when I was working with David McClelland at Harvard, I carried a lot of TAT stories written by Indian Managers. Their analysis using a psychoanalytic framework developed by McClelland and his team particularly Abigail Stewart (nor at the Psychology Department of the University of Michigan) revealed that Indian Managers exhibited essentially four leadership styles: Benevolent, Critical, Assertive, and Self –dispensing. In later researches we dropped the third style as it was mixed with the second style (or criticality) and renamed the fourth style as Developmental. Benevolent leaders are accomplished leaders who believe that they are the giving end and all the others are at the receiving end. They believe that it is their duty to take care of the needs of others as they are in an advantageous position. They believe that they should treat others like their own children and adopt a paternalistic (or maternalistic) style. To some extent this has streaks of what JBP Sinha called as Nurturant Task leader and maintained that this style works in India. Most business houses like the Birlas, Tatas, Murugappa Group, TVS, DCM and many others are built on this style in early India. The critical leadership style is one where the manager or leader tends to be coercive as he believes more in theory X than theory and believes that unless supervised and directed continuously the employees don’t work. This style resorts to more hoarding of information or restricted communication to others, reprimanding, over talking of achievements. A critical leader has such a negative view of others and talent across he rarely give himself an opportunity to examine the impact of his style. Particularly in managing mistakes and conflicts this style becomes evident where the leader loses his cool and resorts to reprimanding and expressions of anger. The impact is disaster.  Developmental style or self-dispensing style is an empowering style and believes more in long term gains and is a self controlled style.
 Daniel Goleman who closely worked with McClelland wrote on Emotional Intelligence elaborated this style as a most functional style and used his own terms. The essential part of this style is an emotional self control and thoughtful development of others.
Researches by Udai Pareek and me in early seventies with school teachers also have indicated that about a third of the teachers are actually aware of their classroom styles (directive or non-directive) and another third have no clue while the remaining one third had a perception of their styles as Directive while in reality they are non-directive or vice-versa. Like the teachers most managers from our 360 Degree Feedback of last thirty years indicate lack of awareness of the style and its impact across a large percentage of managers. Particularly some of the most successful managers are not aware of their style and how it has motivating or demotivating effect on others. This is perhaps also true with parents. Parents may unconsciously and un-knowingly kill the motivation and talent of their children with their style.  Talent prospers under encouragement. Discipline requires some amount of coercion and criticality some times. However it has to be used in small doses when required and quickly switched over to empowering style. Catch them do something good and praise them so that they cultivate talent and continue to do good things.
I have observed that many successful top level managers of firms, Institutions as well as even political parties may not have a clue of their style. They may think that they are empowering and developmental while in reality their juniors may not always perceive it that way. It is the perceptions that influence motivation and work. It is not possible to change perceptions always.
HOIs and top level managers need to create opportunities for themselves to become sensitive to theirs styles and their impact. Otherwise they may lose their people and restrict the talent. Some Indian CEOs even of professionally managed companies who have been rated as successful unfortunately have miserable employees who are waiting for change of their leader. Make sure you are not one of them!!

 


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