Leadership perspectives from East to West

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Today’s guest blog is from Prabhjit Kaur, a Global HR Professional, Founder of KaurSkills, joining us to share some cultural muse and talks about her thoughts on leadership perspectives from East to West!

Being a member of the professional body CIMA and a Chartered Manager with CMI; I read a lot that supports management trends and thought leadership globally.

This blog concentrates on two articles, which I share with you on performance management and team management practices in India. These are very insightful; sharing leadership perspectives from the East – with my leadership hat on from the West.

The first of which is from a recent CIMA article on ‘Business Tips for India’ that encourages us to think about ways we may performance manage in India:

… Doing business in India have been determined. To some extent, by the condition of the country’s infrastructure., says Arati Porwal, chief representative of CIMA’s India Liaison Office. “As a result, things are quite slow” she says. “Meetings do not always starts or finish on time. You also have to be prepared for the agenda to be changed at the last minute, while respect for deadlines is not as high as it is in the UK and the US.

Working across two countries, I can relate to this; where ways of project managing may vary. Your leadership and project management skills will be tested for deadline compliance, patience, communications and engagement of project partners in achieving project goals by project deadlines. Concurrent with board reporting and finance recommendations; you will be accountable for achieving ‘quality’ project outcomes and delivery. In essence, communication is key in project management, when addressing key engagement and ensuring everyone is aware of the consequences of delay. Everyone must have clear purpose and defined roles, towards clearly stated project goals.

In this article, Ramanuj Kankani, Head of Finance and Company Secretary at the chemical group Solvay Specialties India is confident that Indian managers are able to manage – i.e. working extra hours to compensate for delay and loss of time. ‘In fact, some people only demonstrate their real worth and #skills during a crisis’.
I agree. In adversity we challenge ourselves to perform our best, but having managed successful high profile projects at senior level in the West, I would not be an effective manager if I didn’t ‘manage’ projects to key milestones consistently nor understand sequential impact to other projects, activities, departments and teams. A key management function is to ensure you are aware of all that is going to impact from your own decisions, and team outputs – even whilst matrix working for departments and individuals you are not directly responsible for.

‘As a manager, you need to continuously push the team to be as systematic and organised as possible, and at times you may be required to keep track of important items remaining in ‘to do’ lists in the team; otherwise there is every chance that some of these points will go missing.’

Elements of this seem as if it coercive leadership style is the norm in practice (in this example from India). This to me does not support inclusive employee engagement and nor will your best resources work effectively if they need constant reminding of the importance of achieving quality outcomes to specified deadlines. Micro-management techniques are ineffective when engaging individuals for projects; but specifying clear tasks and requirements, is key to support employee reporting and board accountability. Sharing strategic information and wider picture of the role, task and overall input as a team, can help engage individuals; their strengths and talent.

Based on the recent press release from The Economic Times (India) which summarizes the Hay Group survey; based on an analysis of Hay Group’s Styles and Climate data, covering 95,000 leaders in over 2,200 organisations across the world:

  • Compared to the global average of 55%, leaders in India are far from the ideal workplace environment, with 70% of leaders found creating a de-motivating climate for their employees.
  • The research also showed that 2 in every 3 Indian leaders (62%) opt for the ‘coercive’ leadership style, compared to just 37% globally.
  • In addition, two-thirds (66%) of Asian leaders create de-motivating climates – the worst of any global region – where just one quarter (24%) have mastered four or more leadership styles. A majority of Asian leaders (48%) have been found to be using the ‘coercive’ style of leadership.

Having shared this survey, with the World Skills Leaders Cafe (#WorldSkillsLeaders) community on Google +; what came to light is that this survey has managed to highlight some important leadership skills that need to be addressed and developed. For me, it is important that the one key skill is communication, method and approach for projects; and the delivery of quality product and services.

Returning to the CIMA article; some positives of working in India, by ‘Ravindran Balakrishnan, ACMA, CGMA, Chief Financial Officer of medical supplies giant international SOS, India says personal contact is regarded as the standard way of doing business. “More often than not, it is easier to do business through good contacts. … This is because at a high level people are connected through networking, business demands, associations and the like. At the middle level, contacts are also important in getting routine work done without difficulty.”

Working in India, I can see this as a superb example of where Indian professionals work really well. Connections, networks, and professional dialogue: Communications that aide business; whereas in the West, this may not be equally as effective.

Kankani suggests that ‘transaction-oriented’ may not be the right way forward for Indian business. But there is a need for ‘relationship-based’ approaches in business.
Some other key factors from this CIMA article were about the need for recognition (more than any other country in the world) and hierarchy in Indian businesses, including the tendency to say yes than no; which is considered disruptive and offensive.

These work practices and qualitative data highlighted may share different leadership practices between East and West. There will be generic statements here, which we mustn’t stereotype; but nor should we ignore some key qualitative and quantitative data from surveys and interviews. We should encourage individuals to shape better work practices and engage champions to support better team working, and work practices. The evidence shows there is room for improvement particularly for #leadership #skills.

I leave you with these personal reflection questions; from all this very insightful data:

  • In being a solution focused professional; what leadership learning can be gained from this insightful data – East and West?
  • What approach and style of leadership would best suit our team and department?
  • How would we improve our #leadership skills?
  • What do we need to enable excellence in #leadership?

I welcome leadership views and personal reflection on my thoughts.

Prabhjit kaurPrabhjit Kaur (CMgr MCMI | AssocCIPD | MBA(Open) is the Founder of KaurSkills (India and UK) and World Skills Leadership Café. She is also a Skills Strategist | Workforce Transformation | Educational Leadership & Policy Consultant. Connect with her onLinkedInFacebook & on twitter at @Prabhjit_Kaur.

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