Sunday, March 04, 2007

Power Plays

Power Plays
(John O. Whitney & Tina Packer)

Continuing where we left last, the authors quote Shakespeare saying about the people who focus on power for power’s sake that “his piteous and unpitied end”. The best leaders seek power in order to accomplish something.

Authors find a conundrum in Power from People as we know that authority to lead is derived from those who are led. A good leader hears people he is leading and lets them know that they are being heard. However, when he has to make a judgment call about the course of action, it may not be the popular one. A new manager on his first day learns that he/she cannot please everyone. For elected leaders a preoccupation with polls is a prescription for failure. Great leaders are great creators. Someone else would have discovered America if Columbus would have put his proposition to a vote! So a initiative has to be the essential ingredient of a leader – one that is in the best interest of the people being led even if they may not recognize it. A leader must understand the capabilities of his followers, not as they exist today but as they would exist if they were stretched. A leader’s job is not to seek what is comfortable but what is possible and will ultimately serve the purpose.

A wise use of power is equally important. Action without thought is foolish but thought without action is fruitless. There come a time to decide, then act. You might not have all the information you need but if you wait too long, the opportunity will pass you by.

Talking about strategies, the authors quote various examples from King Richard II and King Henry IV and stress on the point that a strategy is necessary for actions and wonderful quote from King Henry IV

“Advantage feeds him fat while men delay”

And

“Are these things then necessities?
Then let us meet them like necessities…”

Following up strategy, once it is adopted, then all decisions have to conform to the strategy unless some new information comes our way that merits a change in the strategy as happened in the case of Aufidius, who did not change when informed about Coriolanus’ changed plans. The decisions have to be taken by the people mandated to take them and such decisions aren’t subjected to democracy. One can’t lead according to the polls. You can lead only by acting upon the course you think is right. Sometimes you do make mistakes. But then, the biggest mistake a leader can make is to sit there and do nothing. Such decisions many a times have to be tough ones, as a compromise on strategy should be accepted unless the new information so warrants. Anyone unwilling to serve the grand design of the enterprise must leave one way or another. And the timing of such decisions is of prime importance and here is a piece from Julius Caesar to reinforce it:

“There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves.
Or lose our ventures”

If timing is not focused upon, we may have to utter what Richard II said, “I wasted time, and doth time waste me”.
But how does one know when time is right. One way is to follow the rigorous analysis followed by insight and intuition, but this comes from great leaders with good experience, who have a strong gut feeling in their area of expertise.

Another most important aspect of a business is clash of ideologies. When ideologies are intractable, one needs to do a good introspection before assaulting on the rival ideology. Just as a general looks to his army in the battlefield and analyses: Are his soldiers trained? Do they have the stamina – both physical and emotional? Is the army big enough?
To have confirmed answers to the analysis one needs to do, one should have the understanding and faith of the source and strength of power of self and opposition. However, unlike military situations, when in business one should try to see if the opposition ideology carries merit for acceptance. If it dies, use it.

Julius Caesar considered himself as a constant northern star and paid a price for it by hands of Brutus and uttering, “Et tu, brute”. One should be wary of the thoughts of Brutus of being the constant northern star as being one is the sole property of the star and none else.

2 Comments:

Blogger Time said...

Simply awesome ! Thanks for the posts.

And now we can expect dope on leadership in addition to finance from you in 4 weeks time. Pls fasten your seat belt.

06 March, 2007 18:20  
Blogger tejbir said...

Don't you make the blunder of learning from the taught!

06 March, 2007 19:06  

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