True Test of Leadership

Make yourself redundant.

This is the foremost mantra a leader can choose to follow and perhaps the biggest service one can do to one’s organisation. While some may not fully understand why anyone would do this, those who practice this mantra have come to reap huge benefits for their organisation.

Those uncomfortable with this approach worry that by following this, they stand to lose their relevance or even their place within their organisation.

A former colleague who led a team expressed concern on the outcome of such an approach. ‘Isn’t it self-defeating to pursue this path? If I make myself redundant, why would my organisation keep me on the rolls? And if I stand to lose my job, why would I indulge in this misadventure?’ I tried to explain but nothing I said could shake off his insecurity.

I realized this was a common concern across most leaders though only a few would acknowledge this in public. It takes one selfless and very secure leader to create a scenario leading to one’s redundancy. How does one do that? To start with, you need a strong deputy leader who is empowered and equipped to take over in the absence of the leader.

Leadership is about building multiple layers of leadership. Not just a strong vice-captain but a second, third and down the line of leadership. Nothing is more valuable to the organization than having multiple levels of leaders in place who can very quickly step up if the need arises. This requires structural training, empowerment and frequent drills where leadership skills are tested across the rank and file.

Organisations which practice this seldom face any crisis of leadership. But very few actually do. Because the leaders do not wish to give up, as long as they remain. Tony Blair was asked by Vir Sanghvi at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit how he relinquished the office of British Prime Minister when he was in his 40s, when politicians, especially in India, seldom retire even in their 70s and 80s. Blair replied “the thing about power is that it is important to put it down and no one ever does the job well unless they have the humility to know when it is time to go”.

Leadership is about letting go. Now I pose this to all leaders – Are you ready to do so?

Post Script: I am ready to give up. I sincerely hope my boss is not reading this 🙂

Published by RG

I see, I think. I hear, I think. I read, I think. Sometimes I write. Let me know what you think

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