One of my colleagues at work is a prolific writer. He writes articles regularly and also publishes in magazines and newspapers. He is proficient in professional areas as well as fiction. One day he called me to inform that I will not see his articles in newspapers or in the public domain anymore. I was surprised and enquired as to why he suddenly lost interest.
He called me back to tell that his boss has asked him to stop publishing articles in the public domain like newspapers, magazines etc. I asked him the reasons for the same and he had no answers. He said his boss feels that a lot of his time is spent in writing articles and thereby he is not able to contribute much within the organisation.
I had advised one of my colleagues who worked with me to utilise every opportunity to represent the organisation and present papers and participate in discussions in academic and professional circles. I was surprised that one day she called me to state that her current boss has started questioning her participation in these events on the basis of time spent (even if most of them were on weekends) and also on their impact to the business.. I wondered why and when asked for the reasons her explanations were not very convincing.
This led me to the insight that many managers are insecure of their own team members. As parents, all of us want our children to excel in whatever they pursue. We want them to do better than us both in their career and in life. Then how is it different for a manager or a leader. Many leaders are wary of their own team members. If my boss calls one of my subordinates directly and interacts with her, I am worried.
Similarly many managers themselves want to make all presentations in leadership team meetings and do not want to give opportunities to their team members. They may justify this by stating that they cannot take the risk of failure or afford any goof up in front of senior leaders. I beg to differ. If we cannot take risks with our own team members, with whom will we take ?
Imagine a senior cricketer thinking that if he coaches a budding youngster and the junior excels, he may lose his place in the team. A true leader will always want his team members to do better than himself. One of the primary responsibilities of a leader is to develop their own team members. If leaders feel that projecting their team to the outside world will expose their weakness, they are only fooling themselves.
On the contrary, the best of leaders I have seen and worked with in my career have always promoted and facilitated their juniors with potential to try and even fail. After all, none of us can excel unless we get an opportunity to fail, learn and improve. As a leader, I should use every opportunity to promote my team members. The more I promote my team, the more I am respected as a leader. We can give all the credit if they succeed and own responsibility if at all they fail.
I recall one of the quotes of the legendary JRD Tata. Once when many leaders from the TATA group left and became CEOs of other companies, somebody asked him if TATA is producing leaders for other companies. JRD replied that he is happy that TATAs are producing CEOs for the country. This is leadership in action.
The more I am worried about displaying the talent of my team members in public domain, the more insecure I am as a leader. Further, really talented people will be wary of working in my team. The earlier a leaders learns about this insight, the better it is for his or her own career.
We need to remember that our security builds security of our team members. The more insecure we are, the more insecure our team members feel and behave. The more we expose our team members to the world outside, the more we get recognised as a leader. A true leader should be almost invisible and work only in the background.
The insecure boss is like the king of the past, who never left his seat for the fear that someone else may occupy it if he leaves it even for a few hours.
Every leader needs to realise that their own insecurity is their weakness rather than the weakness of their team members. The earlier they realise it, the better they will grow as a leader.
Let us learn to develop ourselves by developing our team by giving them all possible opportunities to learn and grow both within and outside the organisation.
Lets try from today.
S Ramesh Shankar
15th May 2021