Dear all,

A very good article titled "Can you manage change? You’re boss" has been published in today's Times of India. It is on the survey conducted by Executive Access (India) on the leadership traits in current times. The important leadership traits are adaptability, ability to deal with ambiguity, innovation, speed of learning, high emotional quotient, people-orientation, critical thinking, decisiveness, courage, curiosity.

My comments on each trait are given below:

1. Adaptability: - Ability to adapt to the new situation is a basic requirement of the leader. One often hears the phrase, "I am not comfortable in ...". However, leaders place the need or their ambition before their comfort. While the common person forever is in search of the comfort zone, leaders step out and face the harshness of reality.

2. Ability to Deal with Ambiguity: - Today's world is absolutely uncertain. Just five years ago, did anyone ever think that the Purchase Managers Index (PMI) for India will go below 50 or Moody's will change the outlook for India? Most of the Indians in 2014 had presumed that India's double-digit growth is a matter of time. But today, many Indians have lost the job and struggling for survival. We forever presume that life is linear and many times planning is based on this linearity. But then today's is VUCA world and how to navigate amidst an unclear business environment is a new challenge.

3. Innovation: - The innovative mindset depends on the involvement in the area of activity, job knowledge etc. Anyway, it is an old trait. Nothing new as such.

4. Speed of Learning: - This is something new and a departure from a traditional trait called “Learning Attitude”. Speed of learning is nothing but grasping power and it is linked to one’s Intelligent Quotient (IQ). What leaders learnt in their engineering or MBA is insufficient and digitisation or robotization has imposed the newer demands. Against this backdrop, mere having a learning attitude is not sufficient and learning speed also matters. More importantly, the focus is back to IQ again. Lately, there has been a focus on emotional intelligence and it was projected that having a strong emotional quotient is a sure sign of progress.

5. Emotional Quotient (EQ) and People-orientation: - Both are inseparable and both are old traits also. To have EQ, the leaders need to have people-orientation as well. But then this is an old trait and a lot of material is already available.

6. Critical Thinking: - It is surprising to find that rather than “creative thinking”, critical thinking has been included. Let us be clear that since “innovation” is included, creative thinking can be by-passed. No, it cannot be and both are independent. Critical thinking refers to the ability to analyse information objectively and make a reasoned judgment. It involves the evaluation of sources, such as data, facts, observable phenomena, and research findings.

7. Decisiveness and Courage: - Both the traits are old. A leader is not a leader if he/she is not decisive or lacks courage.

8. Curiosity: - This is also something new. All along, inquisitiveness as a trait would have looked good but if it is included at the CEO level then it speaks volumes. Curiosity is a basic ingredient of innovation. One cannot be innovative without being curious.

Usefulness of the Survey Report for HR or Training Professionals: - The survey report is useful for recruitment, training, promotions etc. While selecting a candidate, questions can be asked on adaptability, innovativeness, emotional quotient, people-orientation but then the tests have to be designed for testing the candidate’s speed of learning, critical thinking. It is difficult to create questions or tests on tolerance to ambiguity.

The second insight that the survey report gives to the HR and Training professionals is on their fixation on “experience”. In the Indian context, the experience is considered as a length of years spent in the industry. But then experience makes a person put on the blinkers and experience may not be sufficient to measure a person’s ability to deal with ambiguity, critical thinking, curiosity etc. This imposes a greater challenge to HR professionals.


Dinesh Divekar

From India, Bangalore

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