The changing nature of leaders, business executives

The changing nature of leaders, business executives
Highlights

The Changing Nature of Leaders, Business Executives, KS Chalam, Business Schools All Over The World. The mundane world it is said, functions with the actions and decisions of people who are influential in the ordinary business of life. They are called leaders in public life and executives in the business world.

Andhra University is the first in India to offer MBA and the course is so popular that we have today more number of so-called Business schools than the Degree colleges. The one single contribution of this course is that it has created respect for our word ‘Guru’ by means of recognizing thousands of management gurus, corporate babas, experts in leadership, soft skills, life skills trainers, etc. Some of them are well read and educated and many of them are charlatans to make money out of the ignorance of the gullible.

The mundane world it is said, functions with the actions and decisions of people who are influential in the ordinary business of life. They are called leaders in public life and executives in the business world. There are publications elucidating the concepts andcollating them as courses of study in Business Schools all over the world.

However, quite often we read and pay attention to people talking about the dearth of competent leaders in a troubled world today. It is true that we need leaders with a vision, aptitude and empathy for the people rather than attending to their immediate routines as political or other functionaries. History is replete with episodes of great men and women emerging as leaders to lead the people, groups, nations and countries to a chosen destiny and earned name and fame.

Though, history does not recognize individuals as superhuman, the conditions and circumstances that shape the significant events are, however, recorded and in the process some individuals might get recognition as leaders. Historians have recorded the significant contributions of Ashoka, Alexander, Akbar, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Churchill, Attlee, Gandhi, Nehru, Ambedkar and several others both at the national and international levels. Now the issue is do we have capable leaders now to take on the threats of contemporary society?

It is often seen that old people who have passed the age of sixty, calling the younger generation hopeless individuals without any objectives in life. But such indictments are proved false when young innovators or achievers demonstrate that they are different. In other words, we can never generalise a situation to hit the mark. It is necessary to study the leadership qualities of the individual(s) and classify them as successful or unsuccessful.

This is an academic approach to study personnel and we have now hundreds of institutes to teach and train people in leadership. Of late, media is also contributing its share to this enterprise. Interestingly, the notion ‘training ‘, introduced in the beginning to control animals like horse, dog and other pets as per our desires, is being used now for humans indicating the absence of human element in most of the programmes.

Harvard University started the first Business School in the World in 1908. It has changed the course of academic discourse of social sciences in a short period of less than a century. In fact, it is not a discipline; it is a programme borrowing its content mostly from Economics, Psychology and Finance. But, its influence on the world of knowledge and the value system is incredible and future historians would record that if there is any single training programme that has altered the direction of the society and economy, it is Business Management. Some scholars accuse that it has swallowed the Public Administration discipline and inspired NPM in governance.

Andhra University is the first in India to offer MBA and the course is so popular that we have today more number of so-called Business schools than the Degree colleges. The one single contribution of this course is that it has created respect for our word ‘Guru’ by means of recognizing thousands of management gurus, corporate babas, experts in leadership, soft skills, life skills trainers, etc. Some of them are well read and educated and many of them are charlatans to make money out of the ignorance of the gullible. It is the American guru(s) who have defined and elaborated the new concepts of Leadership and Business Executive.

Bennis, an American Guru has said that, “Managers do things right. Leaders do the right things”. Austrian-American Peter Drucker has laid strong foundation for the development of the management course through his two dozen books not only in the USA but in several countries where English is popular. We have also our own guru (a late Professor of Michigan) who said that people can make money out of the poor and was responsible for the now unpopular micro finance business. There are executives who brought a turnaround in their chosen fields with inputs from management gurus.

The ambitious among the successful gurus joined the World of Business seeking money and muscle. A few of the gurus are on the radar of the media and police and the powerful are still in the corridors of power and business empires mediating and lobbying, may be for a consideration. Experts in the field with the support of scholars through sponsored research have developed what is called instruments, consisting of batteries, schedules, questionnaires, etc. They deploy standard statistical tools like ANOVA, Factor Analysis, and Regression, etc., to arrive at conclusions. Even Political Science (PA) scholars are obliged to accept Theory X and Y to denote leadership styles.

However, a section of the intellectual community dissents how the onslaught of a sundry subject is distracting the concerns of human sciences from the welfare of man to creation and accumulation of wealth. The endowment of the Harvard Business School with $ 2.7 billion reflects this (one fourth or $ 50 million contributed by Tata alone). Some of our young politicians have stints of Business education and it has become a craze that civil servants are deputed to get flying degrees under one of Harvard or Stanford’s short term Executive Education programme paying thousands of dollars as fees by the Government. Late P.C Alexander, former Governor and Cabinet secretary in one of his articles critically remarked that why the Government is deputing officers to the USA and what do the incumbents learn except getting a label?

Leadership is about the capacity and ability of a person(s) to inspire people to achieve certain inclusive goals. It is also about the sacrifices that one can acquiesce in the interest of the followers and to realize the wellbeing of people. Gandhiji and Abraham Lincoln who sacrificed their lives to uphold certain values under the spirit of common good are the kind of leaders that we are longing for. The leaders who are trained in competencies or skills like charisma, inspirational and intellectual stimulation, communication, guidance etc are meant to add value to customers and margins to corporations. Regrettably, the delicate difference between Leadership and Business Executive is erasing after economic globalization.

The mind -set of the present leaders in most of the countries is overwhelmed by the business issues to see only short term gains and not the long run interests of humanity. It may be due to the fact that the capitalist democracy that guides the qualities of most of the leaders including George Bush (Harvard), were trained as Business leaders. They are constrained by the corporate goals of some powerful lobbies that sponsor their candidature and not the enlightened citizens guiding them to attain collective dreams of people.

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