Leaders and Heroes: 3 Core Competencies


If you have experience in HR and Business leadership, you would know the effect of leadership ability on organizational performance. Which explains why leadership development is the top priority for organizations, and why they spend more on leadership development than any other training category.

With the high unpredictability in present business scenario, the ownership of managing change during crisis fell upon the shoulders of leaders. Leaders – who are not only answerable to the management on how they plan to make everything rosy again; but also have the accountability to lead people – people who look upto them every day, every moment with the trust and belief that somehow the leader will have the answer to all their problems.

Leading can be gratifying, often exhilarating, but it is also lonely!

“Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen all at once.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Winner Stands Alone

The leaders are armed with concepts, models, skills, knowledge and competencies to go out in the business world and be successful; but not even once are they told that every day they will face a disparaging task of maintaining the fine balance between two sets of people with opposite needs and aspirations – at the Top and Bottom of the Organizational Pyramid.

But contrary to popular belief, they do not have a Magic Wand that can make thing okay – just like that!!

We have conceptualized leadership skills, critical leadership skills, and are several discussions are going on regarding the new skills post Pandemic, the new normal and way forward.

“Leadership is something you earn, something you’re chosen for. You can’t come in yelling, ‘I’m your leader!’ If it happens, it’s because the other guys respect you.” – Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback

Amidst all this, let us press the pause button and think – You can have all the qualities that make a great leader – from determination to vision to sheer ability – but if you don’t have luck and good timing, you will never get a chance to show what you can do.

The way you ACT – and nothing else, will decide whether you will be an Effective Leader or not.

Need for Futuristic Vision in Leadership

To start, 10,000 baby boomers are retiring each day and 48% of the workforce will be millennials by 2020.

Meanwhile, 67% of millennials are looking for a new job and of those who stay, 91% plan to stay at their current job fewer than 3 years which might be why 84% of organizations anticipate a shortfall of leaders in the next 5 years.

Also, 83% of organizations say it is important to develop leaders at all levels , but only 5% have fully implemented development at all levels and 25% of organizations say less than 10% of critical leadership positions have ready and willing successors.

Not surprisingly, 58% of organizations top priority is closing leadership skill gaps and 43% of organizations top priority is closing gaps across all leader levels.

Only 18% of organizations say their leaders are “very effective” at meeting business goals, but only 19% of organizations say they are “very effective” at developing leaders

The bottom line?

More money is spent on leadership development than any other area of corporate training, yet 71% of organizations do not feel their leaders are able to lead their organization into the future.

The Crux of Leadership

Looking at the statistics, there is definitely something that we are not doing right – and that something is – addressing the symptoms instead of root cause of challenges in leadership development.

A root cause is defined as a factor that caused a non-conformance and should be permanently eliminated through process improvement. The root cause is the core concern—the highest-level cause—that sets in motion the entire cause-and-effect reaction that ultimately leads to the problem(s).

Whether it is a natural calamity or current pandemic or World War or Great Depression, we have seen leaders who took charge and turned around the situation despite prevailing crisis.

The million dollar question is what did they do different?

Do they have dissimilar Skill set? No!

Do they have additional tools they can use? No!

Do they have access to better leadership coaching? No!

Leadership training and coaching all over the globe follow similar outline, the skills taught are same, the tools used are similar, the organizations they lead are comparable, and the people they lead are usually the same mix. Although what differentiates the common leaders from great leaders is their “Mindset”.

In the words of Maxwell Maltz-

“Close scrutiny will show that most ‘crisis situations’ are opportunities to either advance, or stay where you are.”

True leaders know it, breathe it and live it everyday!

They turnaround the situation using Strategic Thinking or what we now label as “Design Thinking” with emphasis on critical problem solving. Although, we have used cosmetic tools in training and coaching programs to come up with impressive terminology; much like Education- where after decades of beautifying things, we are back to Experiential Learning – something that Indian Gurukuls have been doing for centuries.

What do we need?

We need Life Skills – we need age old wisdom that has distinguished Leaders from Heroes.

“What makes Superman a hero is not that he has power, but that he has the wisdom and the maturity to use the power wisely.” — Christopher Reeve, Actor

As situations change and technologies evolve, every leader needs to be a Strategist at their core. The only tools that they always have at their disposal are their wits, will and wish. Combining them to create solutions to challenges we face is a skill that should be at the top of the list of every Leader.

Leadership Development is a form of personal development only – just a level up and Strategic!

“When faced with a radical crisis, when the old way of being in the world, of interacting with each other and with the realm of nature doesn’t work anymore, when survival is threatened by seemingly insurmountable problems, an individual life-form — or a species — will either die or become extinct or rise above the limitations of its condition through an evolutionary leap.”  Eckhart Tolle

A leader has to view every situation objectively. The way I see it as a Strategy Expert is this –

You have a situation -> You want a situation
You decide how to go from one situation to another -> You do it
Worked? Good -> Did not work? Improvise!

And all these skills are held together by a very fine thread of Communication. You might have the most amazing skills in World, but if you can not exchange it, talk about it – every other Skill will be of no use.

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