Leadership in the 21st Century

  • Conversation Summary

Faculty Response (18 December 2008)

Our conceptions of leadership are often shaped by the zeitgeist of our times. Leadership in the 20th century was largely defined in the context of the large, hierarchical, industrial organization (companies like GM). How will our conception of leadership evolve in the 21st century?

Is there a moral component to leadership? How do you restore hope (appeal to values)?

Original Questions

Leaders (in business and government) have lost the public trust. It was already low before the recent economic crisis and has now plummeted even further. What has caused this loss in trust and how can it be best restored?

Different academic disciplines focus on different facets of leadership. Is it useful to aim for an integrated coherent view of leadership or are we better off with a wide plurality of perspectives? Indeed, is the popular literature on leadership in some ways better or more useful than academic studies of leadership?

Your Comments

  • Yoana Petit
    MBA Student 2007
    GYP Investments Corp

    Personal leadership in the 21 century is all about how you lead yourself in your own life. It's about the decisions you make and the actions you take, whether people are watching or not. It's about learning to trust your own actions so that others can learn to trust you. It's about developing the habit of doing the right thing all the time, even when it causes you inconvenience, expense or embarrassment. Here are three tips to help you develop your own personal leadership for the future.

    1. Serve Others before Yourself While your self-interest and self-preservation are important, get in the habit of first considering how a situation or decision will impact others involved. Look for ways to give before you find ways to receive. When Davidson College made it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA basketball tournament this past spring, the trustees of the College offered to give any student who wanted to travel to Detroit to see Davidson play Wisconsin a ticket to the game, bus transportation and 2 nights lodging. The trustees knew that this opportunity may not come again to the College for a long time, and they wanted their students to have powerful memories of the experience. They gave to the students without expectation of receiving anything in return, because that's what they want their students to learn. Should you ever meet a Davidson grad (from any year) ask them what they think of their school experience. "Trustee" -- what an appropriate title. Nearly 300 students took them up on their offer.
    2. A Deal is a Deal Follow-through on agreements you've made, even if they seem trivial or insignificant. If your voicemail greeting says you will call back anyone who leaves a message, either call everyone back or change your voicemail greeting. Inconsistency is the enemy of trust. Often we are paid to deliver a service. Many of us make a deal to receive a paycheck in return for performing a job. Make sure you're living up to your end of the bargain by delivering good service to your employer. Some employees (like school superintendents) are expected to deliver service across multiple key groups: in this example, to students, to parents, and to taxpayers. Serving multiple groups before serving yourself requires a high degree of personal leadership. Thinking selfishly for even a moment can rapidly extinguish trust with one or more of your key groups. Keep your deals, and do well the jobs you are paid to do.
    3. Better Kind than Right Often we find ourselves in situations that offer us two paths. One path will give us an opportunity to say something like, "I'm right, you're wrong, and I can prove it." The other path gives us an opportunity to decide that proving ourselves right in this situation isn't worth causing another person pain or embarrassment. Dr. Wayne W. Dyer suggests that often it is better to be kind than right. Debates can be healthy, and sometimes it is necessary to clearly establish right from wrong. Other times, who is right really doesn't matter. For example, a friend recently remarked about how overpaid CEOs are. While I was prepared to debate it from the other side, I chose not to because the outcome would be neither productive nor supportive of our relationship. While I didn't agree with him, I chose to be kind when I could have been right.

    Take Trust Personally

    Trust is central to all our important relationships. Some try to dodge trust issues by insisting on written contracts. Personal leadership puts its trust in personal behavior, not a piece of paper.

    It takes time to learn to trust others, whether we're hiring them, electing them, or marrying them. Trust is earned over time, yet it is lost in a moment of irrational behavior. Always strive to do the right thing by considering others before yourself. Then others will consider you a leader worth following.

  • cc

    Leadership skills often appear to be silent. Exercising accountability by filling in the gaps as you work on a project - not just ignoring the voids in thinking - but stopping and doing enough research to be justified in moving to the next point will help those that you expect to follow.

    Often, you lead by quiet example and thereby gain trust. Trust is demonstrated in the measured effectiveness of your intent or goal.

    Multiple types of leadership are required to successfully communicate with multiple populations whose skills and training vary.

  • Andrew Llanwarne
    Consultant in Sustainable Development

    Many people have lost faith in leaders who fail to match rhetoric with action, particularly on global issues such as climate change and international development. Often politicians and business leaders recognise the challenges we face in these matters, but are either reluctant to take steps to achieve long-term changes which will be unpopular with voters and shareholders in the short term, or unable to direct the kind of changes in government departments and business organisations that are required. Or both. Facing up to these challenges is easier said than done. But great leadership is about overcoming challenges and taking people in a new direction when necessary.

    For many other members of the public, wedded to the belief that continuing material advancement and conspicuous consumption lead to happiness, there is much truth in the article elsewhere on this site by John Quelch on Selling out the American Dream. It's just as true on the British side of the Atlantic, taken in by the vain promises of consumer society. Now the chickens have come home to roost and our politican and business leaders can be seen to have lured us along the road to ruin.

    We need leaders who can mark out a new path towards a society and an economy based on more modest - but more equal - levels of consumption, and a recognition that we need to live in harmony with this planet of ours, not wreck it and expect a replacement to become available.

    Andrew Llanwarne

  • Tom Dolembo
    Alumnus MBA 1971

    Professor Nohria, professional managers are not leaders, they are employees. By definition they have no real stake in the outcome and no skin in the game. In a waning era of professional managers, gaming the system is mistaken for leadership. We cannot game trust, or launch it on ego or cult worship. Trust will be restored from the bottom up, when managers know and care and have interests that restore not just the confidence, but the value and, yes, security of those associates who empower them.

    Professor Khurana, we should listen to and study now those we have presumed to lead, attend to the quiet voices we have disemployed, and shape our new world to the visions of those we have as managers disillusioned. At the start of every revolution is a period where the ruling classes look within for guidance, only to be hastily dispatched by the mob. Be cautious now when you conjure your hypotheses. It's a sea change. Those we have betrayed will shape their own leaders and integrated coherence will be transcended by this terrible angry plurality.

  • Jimmy J. Tran
    MBA Student MBA/MPA 2009

    Part of the fault lies in leaders who are unable or unwilling to deliver hard facts to their constituents, whether these constituents be employees or citizens. For years now, Americans [and perhaps many citizens of the world at large] have been living in ways that are unsustainable from multiple perspectives [financial, environmental, etc]. Yet leaders have not made this fact known to their followers - instead, leaders often told their followers the exact opposite: borrow more, consume more, and everything will eventually work itself out.

    I believe leaders can restore trust in their "followers" by treating them like adults. Leaders must dig deep and muster up the courage and wherewithal to explain why the current trajectory cannot continue, and why we must live in more sustainable ways by saving more, consuming less, and being more environmentally friendly. As followers, we must expect and demand more than sugar coating from our leaders.

    The prevailing notion is that such a hard stance would destroy leaders in the business/political world. But there have been numerous occasions where leaders have delivered hard truths or challenged their followers -- the most striking example is that of John F. Kennedy, who challenged his fellow Americans to each do his/her own part to strengthen the country.

    We must seek to restore this conviction, courage, and integrity in our leadership. Only then will public trust follow...

  • Rob van den Hurk
    Mental coach to educational leaders
    CINOP (CINOP.NL) -The Netherlands

    The loss of trust in educational leadership in The Netherlands vocational education environment is caused mainly by school leaders who are not given the trust and the responsibility they deserve. The governing bodies give these school leaders full responsibility but hesitate to hold them accountable for their leadership, afraid as they are that these leaders will quit their jobs once lack of knowledge is being discovered. This trend we see throughout the vocational education environment, top to middle management.

    One interesting way of looking at this challenge is by looking at the hiring and selection process of school leaders. The best teachers and professors often become middle and higher school managers or school leaders by virtue of their accomplishments as scholars and educators. Their management skills and their willingness to actually lead a team or a school are not given the right attention. There is no sense of urgency among governors to pay attention to the school leaders' needs to become educated, on the other hand.

    In my view, the simple technique of listening to a future school leader and assessing his or her capabilities and competencies would bring about a revolution in the way school leadership in the vocational educational environment is performed.

    It would take a turn for the better.

  • John Coleman
    MBA Student MBA/MPA 2010

    2,100 years ago, Marcus Licinius Crassus, a general and politician would buy the burning houses from common Romans, put out the fires, and resell the houses at a higher price. In his first inaugural address, FDR lampooned "unscrupulous money changers" in New York for the decline of the U.S. economy; and in 1928, Indiana Governor Edward Jackson apparently have bribed people on behalf of the Ku Klux Klan. Ten years ago, Bill Clinton was impeached(even as a popular television show, the X-Files, implored watchers to trust no one), and earlier this decade, Enron and a host of other companies fell after blatant abuses of the public trust.

    I believe that it's overstating the case to say that leaders in business and government have lost the public trust. For the most part, I don't think generic "leaders" ever had it. Some leaders have it now (e.g., Barack Obama, Warren Buffett), Others do not; and I am not sure I believe -- absent opinion surveys to the contrary -- that confidence now is lower now than it was during the administrations of Hoover, Truman, Johnson, Nixon, or Carter, to name a few (though George W. Bush and Congress both lag in polls).

    I think the solution to this leadership crisis as to others in the past remains individual integrity and institutional reform. As always, we need leaders of integrity who will make the right choices even if they are unpopular. I think this training comes from schools, colleges, churches, community organizations, families, and graduate schools. Our institutions, meanwhile, should become more transparent, accessible, and accountable both to shareholders and to the public at large -- though I might contend that they are more accountable today than they have ever been. Things are definitely bad. That's not in doubt. Both politics and business need reform; and a lot of people are suffering right now because of the failure of those in positions of authority. But I'll forward the contrarian view (for the sake of argument) that leadership now, on average, is no worse than at most times in history; and in some ways, our institutional checks and balances are better than ever. In fighting corruption, vice, and failure, we're fighting human nature itself -- and progress is, by necessity, slow and temporal.

  • TR Sarathy
    Market Manager
    Deutsche Bank

    I think in the current scenario it's important to get our basics correct. I think current leadership in the organizations/global political leaders try to minimize or control the business/economy in the name of cost optimization or risk control. Let's look at how growth happened and trust was created; according to me, innovation in addressing the needs and wants of the market with appropriate bottom line will restore the situation. Today's need is money that is the blood of the business. If Govt. /financial institutions keep looking at the situation and lock the cash box, nothing will move. Govt. body should start the lending immediately to save the corporate, SME's and self employed people, with appropriate rates with minimized regulations.

  • Narendra Kale
    Alumnus AMP 96
    Kale Consultants Ltd

    This is a very relevant question in today's environment.

    This has been caused by, in a one single word, "GREED".

    The solution has to be in leadership exhibiting both professional and personal traits which would make them ROLE MODELS.

    Once, integrity, ethics, courage and openness were virtues always associated with leadership. Re-establishing these old virtues would take us far.

  • Sanjay Inamdar
    S.M. (MIT), MPA (Harvard)
    College of Engineering Pune, India

    Hi Friends,

    Thanks to Nitin and Rakesh for the conversation.

    I would like to contribute two cents from my learning and observations of many years on leadership:

    There are no leaders in this world; only people who perform leadership and we call them leaders.

    Leadership is a service to be performed.

    While performing leadership, idealistic and kind actions do not always suffice. Leadership requires to make people capable enough to handle their own problems.

    This requires change in attitude or habits and change calls for resistance due to fear of loss of something.

    At this point leadership becomes very difficult and at times dangerous.

    Handling change at a pace with which the people can go is the art of leadership. It's like cooking; without heat nothing will cook and with too much of the lid will blow off.

    Looking at most of the today's world (happily not all though)I feel like teachers are outshining teaching.

    Emptiness is usefulness and Full is the issue.

    Thanks for your patience!

    Sanjay Inamdar Pune, India

  • Vishnu Agarwal
    Senior Consultant
    Digicel Pacific

    It is not the polls or public opinions but the character of the leader that determines the course of the history. In general, most of us want to work with person with strong character. And I believe, in today's mad rush for money, status and fame, most of the leaders are keeping character at backstage. Hence Leaders (in business and government) have lost the public trust.

    All the great world leaders, such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln, were very strong character and had strong self-esteem.

    Our emphasis today is to make good engineers, good doctors good lawyers, and mostly we forget to make good characters.

    Another trait of leader should be "Role Model".

    Role models or mentor can teach through example. Children who are taught the importance of integrity during their formative years generally don't lose it. It becomes a part of life, which is what we are looking for in any profession, whether in a contractor, attorney, accountant, politician's police officer, or judge.

    Last but not the least - "doing right things and doing them consistently".

  • Pranay Jain

    I believe the primary problem plaguing our leadership today is their myopic view of all problems. Our so-called "leaders" prefer to implement populist solutions, which, instead of solving the problem holistically, simply defer it for the time being, or create new ones in the process. If we look at any of our great leaders, be it Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela, they firstly have the foresight to address the real problems, and then had the courage to implement the solutions, however difficult/unpopular they might be in the beginning. That is what I think differentiates a good leader from somebody who just happens to chance upon a leadership role.

  • Varun

    I believe leadership is to do with identifying what you want and taking charge of it until you succeed. A leader has to be staunch in his or her belief. Leaders, in my view, are not born, but they inculcate the habit of leading through their passion to show the way to others. A true leader today is one who knows how to come out of the doldrums prevailing in today's [business] environment. A leader has to gain the confidence of the audience.

  • Shabbir Merchant
    Chief Value Creator
    Valulead Consulting

    One of the key reasons for the loss of trust that leaders (especially in the western world) are experiencing is due to the lack of balance between "Individual Interests" and "Collective Interests".

    The spotlight needs to shift to eastern philosophies that give a larger thrust to the paradigm of "Collective Interest".

    The paradigm of "Collective Interest" is a way of thinking and needs to be practiced as a way of life, before leaders can see its effective manifestation in the government or corporate world.

  • Sundar Ramanathan
    Senior Manager

    A common phenomena with popular sentiments across the globe from time immemorial is hailing the leader in good times and putting them down during tough times. Be it the Golden Ages or the Dark Ages, a leader reflects the aspirations of the community and society they represent. Already in the dawn of the 21st century we saw minor glitches in the technology sector with false hopes and promises that could not be kept sometimes referred as the ".com" bust that followed the "Y2K" travesty. ... The industry went into exploring other forms of labor resulting in the global outsourcing explosion. This is just the IT - Technology /Services part of the story.

    Can a society or a community control the GREED of a few individuals? Some may even go to the extent of proposing this to become somehow a process to filter in selection of leadership. A leader cannot exceed the controlled aspirations of people. ...

    During the financial and economic crisis, the focus should be on what qualities a leader should have in every section of developed, developing, emerging or under-developed societies and economy. The 20th century ended with some "business ethics" classes in the MBA curriculum. Corporate and poilical leadership need to undergo some metamorphosis to really EARN the trust of global citizens, and I strongly believe education and strong changes in the practice of management and governance would be ENABLERS. As a born optimist, I can only see a groundswell of opportunities for education/ training/ orientation practices to create the next generation of leadership in all walks of life.

  • Puneet M Sangal
    Practice Manager, Professional Services
    Akamai Technologies

    Leadership is the relationship between people when one person influences the other to achieve an objective.

    The impact of making decisions and consequences of those decisions is high. Even one bad decision can tamper the public trust of masses. In today's world, a leader needs to lead by example. He needs to have diplomacy, empathy, knowledge & control.

    Leaders need to recognize singularity in diversity, and diverity in singularity. While academics helps to gain basic knowledge, popular literature enhances those basic skills. A leader needs to recognize his blind spots and improve upon them via academics & popular literature.

  • Nawal Ahmed
    Chief Investment Officer
    Noor Financial Investment Company, Kuwait

    Mr Nitin Nohria's observation of lack of trust by the public in today's leaders is quite aptly put and needs addressing. In order to suggest a solution one needs to understand the problem. The problem in my mind comes from the fact that we live in a world today where the biggest crime is apathy. Leaders have not lived up to a promise of leading which entails fairness, justice and caring for a fellow human being. Money spent on an executive lunch today is far more than possibly a lifetime of earnings for many people in the world! Money spent on a single watch worn by a Wall Streeter is far more than money needed for an average Indian bride to get married. The fear of Indian parents of lack of funds for a girl's wedding has led to thousands of female fetus abortions every year. I could go on with more examples. But needless to say, excessive pay to the leaders of the world has not resulted in sharing responsibilty of taking care of the needy. Thus we see the results of the captioned mistrust.

    In my mind the solution lies in:

    Leaders taking active responsibility for the rest of the world just like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have shown by really sharing their success with the needy. These two individuals do not fall in the category of leaders who have lost public trust.

    The public taking more responsibilty in governing the government and standing up for their rights instead of being like lambs to the slaughterhouse. One prime expample is the Bush administration getting away with the global mess they have put America in from all standpoints. The Bush Administration has simply ruined America financially through the 2 wars; socially America's image is ruined, and economically the country is in terrible shape as well. While the people have voted them out, they should further hold them accountable. This responsibility belongs to the public.

  • Gordon Homer
    Alumnus MBA 1971

    The following is Canadian newspaper article I wrote in 2004, which still holds true today:

    Financial Post March 25, 2004 CORPORATE CULTURE, VALUES COUNT

    A lively debate has been raging for some time on many corporate governance issues, including board governance, separation of the Chairman and CEO roles, director independence, corporate ethics, accounting standards, compensation plans, risk management oversight and new checks and balances in securities regulation. However, adhering just to this list of prescriptions may not prevent future abuses. For example, many of the high profile problem companies already had separate Chairman and CEO roles and supposedly independent directors with expertise in financial issues. In my view, two other key issues have generally been overlooked in this debate and corporations will be doomed to repeat the past mistakes unless Boards address these adequately.

    The first issue is the critical importance of having the right "corporate culture and values" embedded in a company and in particular its CEO. Statements of culture and values endorsed by the Board and CEO and set out on paper are common these days but the real test is what is actually in practice and reinforced every day by the actions of the CEO and the organization's other leaders and management team. The issue of culture and values is much broader than the issue of ethics. CEOs and other leaders lead by example and inappropriate, inconsistent actions by leaders, tolerance of such behaviour in other employees and reward systems that reinforce such behaviour will inevitably lead to the kind of excesses and problems we have recently seen. The issue of the right culture and values should be one of the key criteria that Boards use in selecting their CEO and other senior leaders and in turn that managers should use in hiring, evaluating and rewarding employ ees. A dysfunctional culture and set of values as evidenced first and foremost by the CEO is at the root of almost all of the recent problem situations, yet little has been written on this in the academic world or in the recent governance debate. Even with all the new checks and balances, a company and CEO with the wrong culture and values will face an increased risk of future problems or at the very least underperform over time.

    The second issue is what I call the "Directors' Dilemma." By this, I mean the conflict that Directors face in dealing with management primarily through the CEO but at the same time needing to assure themselves that they know what is really going on in the company both at and below the CEO level. This is a tricky road to walk given the traditional separation of Board and management roles. Audit Committees, internal and external auditors and other oversight procedures certainly provide valuable assistance on financial issues. The problem comes when information presented to the Board about the company's results, prospects, potential problems and risks is filtered by the CEO and other senior managers. Human nature will generally result in some positive bias but problems occur when this becomes excessive and the true picture is hidden from Directors until it is too late. Fear of reprisal within an organization combined with the wrong corporate culture make it difficult for middle management and employees to speak out if they see major problems and risks that senior management is not willing to adequately disclose or address. Inevitably, this unhealthy behaviour transcends down the organization and reinforces itself, even right down to the company's newest employees. Again selecting the right CEO with the right culture and values will temper these tendencies.

    Boards need to deal with this "Directors' Dilemma" in a pro-active and responsible manner. The Board should get to know all the senior management team to gain a better insight into the real culture and provide informal opportunities for differing views to be heard. It may also be advisable to establish an explicit company policy on employees' obligations to report any material concerns about transactions, behaviour and breaches of company policies and standards. A company and CEO with the right culture and values will encourage openness and healthy discussion of issues and concerns. To ensure that this is not stifled, Boards should also consider instituting an official process for employees to follow in order to report any concerns that they can't resolve themselves directly in their day to day activities. This could include the ability if necessary to approach more senior executives other than their direct manager or, even in unusual material circumstances, contact the Internal Auditor or the Chair of the Audit Committee of the Board. The mere existence of such a policy would put both employees and managers on notice, encourage a culture of openness and debate and hopefully reduce both the likelihood of abuses going unreported and employees' fear of reprisals.

    At the end of the day, no amount of new regulatory checks and balances and new governance procedures will be adequate to protect the company and the Directors if the true corporate culture and values embedded in the company and especially as displayed by the CEO are inappropriate or dysfunctional and the Directors aren't able to see the early warning signs of trouble well ahead of time.

    Gordon Homer Former Deputy Chairman of a major Canadian investment bank

  • Dan Lawson
    Ashland University

    In the 21st Century I predict a global resurgence, perhaps even a demand, for ethical leadership. There is growing evidence that ethical leadership is highly prized and heavily sought-after in all sectors. In fact, there appears to be a world-wide return to the concept of moral absolutes. This seems evident in both collectivist cultures as well as individualist cultures.

    In the corporate arena, current research is demonstrating that it is possible for a company to practice strong ethics and sustainable development while still remaining financially profitable. In fact, if all things are equal, 85% of the general public will prefer to purchase or do business with a company that practices strong business ethics. As the global recession continues to escalate, more people will be interested in investing and spending their money where it will accomplish the most good, for them and for society.

    Leaders in the 21st century cannot afford to ignore this global outcry for more ethical leadership. In order to practice more effective leadership, and to regain respect for those who lead, leaders in the 21st century must visibly display and actively demonstrate a core character of high moral values.

  • John Barr
    Transformation Through Leadership

    Leadership is an act, not a position. It is about envisioning the future, not about acting on the present. Trust has been lost for some time due to the greed and dishonor many managers have exhibited over the years. Laying off workers and keeping bonus, Presidents who believe that any action they take are legal, or "it all depends on what the definition of is, is." Trust is earned by being trustworthy, worthy of the trust of employees, citizens, peers, and society in general.
    This is complicated by the influx of MBA's who know a lot about finance and very little about leadership, systems, quality, or change. (Harvard Working Paper; "Harvard Business School Discusses Future of the MBA "published November 24, 2008 on Working Knowledge clarifies the issue)
    Dr. W. Edwards Deming identified the problems over 25 years ago and most American's didn't even hear the message. The problem is in the Board Room, not the employee. Yet boards are full with clones that reinforce the status quo of "you scratch my back and I will scratch yours." Promoting people too fast results in the lack of accountability for previous decisions (Peter Senge states "cause and effect are separated by time"). Deming 14 points distill the problem with a set of do's and don't including: Institute Leadership, point 7;Drive Out Fear, Point 8; Break Down Barriers between departments and staff area, point 9; and the most difficult for mangers to understand Eliminate Arbitrary Numerical Targets, point 12. To reconnect the managers to society we must stop reinforcing management by financial number alone, act as if the true critical resources are our people, use the talents of the people to solve the problems management have created and always remember "every system is built perfectly to generate the results it generates." If we become trustworthy, celebrate our employees, hold ourselves absolutely accountable, and question our assumptions every day, we just may be able to create trust and reinvent the role of management by creating leaders.

  • Deepak Alse
    Project Manager
    Wipro Technologies

    Rakesh, I think the answer to your question will answer Nitin's question too.

    Do we need to integrate or provide a coherent view of leadership - I suppose we do not need such an alignment of thoughts/expectations.The kind of leadership that the world needs today is the leadership of action - Plurality of perspectives often enhances the ability to act.

    Popular literature on leadership is a search for heroes - Academia is more in search of leadership as a consequence. For a leader, leadership is an ongoing journey.

    The loss of trust we see in business and government is an after-effect of our society's need for heroes. In the search for individual heroes, we often vilify or venerate individuals and set them up against expectations that we often arent willing to deliver or face the pain for. Leadership is a function of the system - environment, value system and emotive elements. Some systems generate more leaders than others. The loss of trust in leaders that we see today, is primary the loss of a dream - The dream or ideal that pure capitalist approaches deliver eventually.

  • Karthik Narayanaswamy
    Project Manager
    American Express

    Trustworthiness is an attribute of leadership that needs to be kept up at all levels of the society. While it true that the recent global crisis has culminated in a lack of trust due to the excessiveness of a few (leaders), it is up to the leaders that remain to define themselves more precisely to their sub-ordinates. Daily experience teaches that even though this is no ordinary thing to do, few pointers that has been worthwhile during my leadership experience are:

    1) As a leader, always be cheerful and well connected to people reporting to you.

    2) Make sure that any rumors (of job/salary cuts) are dealt with right away and clarified as appropriate (positively or if it is so unfortunate, negatively). Either way, be honest about it!

    3) During meetings, keep an upbeat voice and make sure to use humor occasionally. (Remember that during tough times as this, any degree of humor will be welcome - from dry to intelligent ones !)

    4) Fairly assess your position, as a leader, any organizational impacts that could occur due to management decisions.

    5) Make all efforts to defend your employees from any layoffs. There should be a well-thought argument for each of your team members highlighting their strengths to the management.

    6) NEVER avoid eye contact. When talking with any of your team member, always maintain eye contact. This definitely has a psychological advantage.

    Along with this, there are several other factors that a leader, by himself, must fairly be able to assess depending on the situation s/he is placed in.

    If leaders, at all levels of any organization (be it government or private establishments), can learn to be more transparent, well-connected, egoless and upbeat, the situation is likely to improve across the society.

  • Bill Flynn
    Paeon Partners LLC Coaches

    I think the whole idea of leadership needs to change if we are going to seize the 21st Century as an opportunity. I see our past view of leadership as the person who leads by knowing; knowing where we are going and how we are going to get there. Fewer and fewer of us are naive enough to think anyone can be that anymore. We are no longer the ignorant masses. Rightly or wrongly we think we know something and we believe our opinions matter. The powerful leader of today is a person who is willing (in spite of carrying more responsibility) to enter the arena of the group and share themselves. And learn to follow the wisdom of a supposed underling.

    After all, it isn't the boss' job to do anything, it is his/her job to accomplish the objective. And the one who knows how best to do that is not any single person. That wisdom resides only in the group who shares that objective. They all need to be empowered to be part of the solution. Otherwise they will be part of the problem.

    Accountability also needs to be shared. If the boss is the only one being held accountable, then only she/he can fail. Or succeed. Few of us actually want that today, whether we are boss or underling.

    The true leader is the one who can facilitate that kind of collaboration and cooperation.

  • Marta Mooney
    Emeritus Professor
    Fordham University

    It seems to me that answers to both Professor Khurana's and Professor Nohria's questions depend on what these leaders are trying to accomplish or, as Khurana says "Leadership for what end?" If government leaders see their purpose as making policy and business leaders see their's as making money, the answers would be quite different than if both groups saw their mission as serving some larger, long-term social goal.

    For federal employees, this "higher purpose" was spelled out pretty clearly in The Employment Act of 1946. This law encourages government officials to formulate policies that promote full employment, stable prices, and rising per/capita income. Although treated more as suggestions than directives in recent years, the Act nonetheless continues to provide policy-makers with a "coherent view of government leadership" and their constituents with a common standard for assessing leadership performance.

    As Khurana points out elsewhere, there is no comparable consensus on the "higher purpose" of business or, for that matter, on any other legal purpose. Typically, U.S. business leaders are left alone to make these calls. As long as this continues a "plurality of perspectives" on business leadership is the only game in town.

    Is this a good idea? I suspect a coherent, integrative view would be preferable, but only if the new consensus model for business leadership was fully supportive of the nation's agreed upon long term social goals. Further, it strikes me that the reluctance of public officials to insist that business leaders begin cautiously moving their firms in a more socially responsible direction helps explain why public trust in both government and business leaders is spiraling downward at an accelerating pace.

  • Dr. Ian Metcalfe
    Leadership Facilitator
    Adaptive Learning pty ltd

    Response to Nitin:

    Trust in our elected and business (positional) 'leaders' like all trusting relationships is a function of disclosure and perceived intent. I suspect that the general public neither knows their 'leaders' nor has any faith that their intentions are for the 'common good'. A century of highly publicized scandals (in Government and Businesses) has not helped. How can trust be restored: slowly; our so-called leaders need to show that they are human - we need to know who they are, and what they truly stand for. It would help if politicians (and businessman) show respect for others and start to form positive, generative relationships. We are looking for authenticity and servant leadership without the ego, heroism or hype.

    However, status and position doesn't make a politician, CEO or manager a leader, but that's another proposition altogether.

  • Dr. Ian Metcalfe
    Leadership Facilitator
    Adaptive Learning pty ltd

    Response to Rakesh:

    Yes, all of the above. We (humanity), at all levels and situations, are greatly in need of dialogue about Leadership: Starting with "What is it?" and "What sort of leadership does the world need for the 21st century?" The problems we collectively face (environmentally, socially and economically) will not, as Einstein said, be solved "with the same thinking that caused the problems in the first place". Academic studies are illuminating the fact that 'leadership' is now evolving into something Henry Ford or Frederick Winslow Taylor would not recognise. Popular (management) literature is showing just how different 'new leadership' is from classical management and through practical examples is highlighting the issues facing transformational leaders in traditional organisations. Neither of these is better than any other way of trying to understand what leadership could be. We need to welcome all views and all approaches, integral or otherwise. Having a focus on leadership and having the conversation is all important.

    In the end it is my belief that we will come to some realisation that the (choose your own adjective - integral, new age, post modern, transformational, breakthrough, quantum, non-positional, servant...) leadership we need for the future will turn out to be an emergent property of deep (heart-felt, trusting, respectful, authentic) relationships between interdependent people in situations which have meaning and where the participants can make a difference. The purpose of such distributed leadership will be to uplift individuals and collectives to a greater level of awareness - such that together we can solve some of the (organisational / societal / environmental) problems we face.

  • Gautam Aggarwal
    Vartman Bricks

    A term as broad as leadership cannot have an integrated coherent definition. The different types of fuctional areas require different perspective. For eg: a leader in politics might not be an effective leader in business. There can never be a universally applied definition of leadership and it is inevitable to have plurality of perspectives.

    I think both academic studies and popular literature on leadership are equally useful and it depends how you adapt those practices in real life business scenarios.

  • Aabhishek Desai
    Team Lead
    UBS India Service Center

    Gaining back trust of clients, stakeholder, community & employees, is not going to be easy with the recent happenings esp. in the banking & financial industry. Need of the hour is to go back to the basics, what I call the principle of C.A.R.T - Commitment, Accountability, Resposibility & Transprancy, in every decision/action taken.

  • Gautam Aggarwal
    Vartman Bricks

    Business and government leaders have lost public trust just because their self interests outweigh the public's. As leaders they are expected to work for the betterment of the public. As politicians have made politics more of a business rather than a selfless activity that calls for extreme devotion and sacrifice, it has made public feel cheated and duped. Stating on the recent flood outbreaks in Bihar and most recent terrorist attack in Mumbai, the reaction of certain politicians was inhuman (I think it is the most appropriate word). Certain, so called, government leaders were observed "inaugurating" the relief camps while no efforts were made to equip these camps with relief aids and some leaders of opposition were seen acting smart and encash the opportunity of criticizing the ruling party in a time of national grief as serious as 26/11 attack. Numerous such examples can be citied from across the world. It is these kind of actions that calls trust into question.

    As for business leaders, it is the times like these that they are expected to play a role of a mentor for their employees but it is "layoffs" that comes to them as the most effective and easiest way to make their business survive a slowdown or a recession. The business leaders must consider alternative ways to make their businesses survive the times of recession. It is this attitude that creates scepticism among members of the general public. The alternative plans of cutting costs can be difficult to identify and implement but I think this is what the business leaders are expected to do to pacify the situation.

    The lost trust can be regained if the business and government leaders shed their self interests and are willing to live up to the real meaning of professionalism and leadership.

  • Moderator

    Note: Comments below are in response to new questions posed by faculty on December 18, 2008.

  • Gugu Moloi
    Founder and Chairman

    Leadership must have less to do about what we do....e.g. talk about the vision, lead from the front, etc. It must in the 21st century be about who we become - if we become truly global citizens, for instance, it means it ought to worry us whether the economic system of the world is serving all people or a few. If we become real leaders who serve others rather than leaders who serve their own limited interests, we would find new and alternative empowerment tools to give voice to those at the margins of the economy or political involvement. The problem seems to be that many people ascend to leadership positions and once there still drive limited interests.... their environments dictate who they are instead of them changing and influencing their environment to think longer term, more inclusively doing things in a more empowered way. We lead based on who we are .... so the loss of confidence of business and political leaders has to do with who those at the top have become - greedy, selfish, short-term thinkers, and in some cases "too" educated to listen to some of the most simple things that will get this world right!

  • G. Venkataraman (Harvard Faculty Aspirant)
    Asst. General Manager
    Paharpur Cooling Towers Limited, India.

    I have gone through the comments and almost all points have been covered by others about leadership.

    I strongly believe that leadership is an action oriented thought process.

    As a wise man said, a leader is like a gardener taking care of the saplings and grown plants in normal and adverse conditions. Of course this gardener is different in taking the blame and responsibility when the plant does not grow well as expected. When the plant grows well (due to the gardeners' care timely inputs), the plant will be immediately complemented.

    A good leader always think of his subordinates or followers first before himself. "Leading by action" has to be the principle whatever the field of activity may be, whether politics, enterprise, social service or customer service.

    The expected traits of leadership:

    Highly pricipled (yet flexible) Cost sensitive (with exceptions) Strategic approach (with human touch) Commitment to the core Supports the system at all times.

    I think I have taken a lot of your time for my simple inputs and send thanks.

  • Narendar Singh
    Vidya College of Engineering

    Leadership in 21st Century has not got off to a start primarily because children are exposed to too much media that always highlights the adversaries or something that is not natural. Individuals' role models are stars created by media. What then is sought is one who builds a dream that can be seized in adverse conditions, and the leader's impatience to accomplish it thus becomes the cornerstone. Rationality is a bystander. What should s leader then be like? Rambo. What is needed is to go back to role models, and only then can leadership take its position back.

  • Hamandawana Zhou
    Business Consultant
    Devine Attention Business Consultancy South Africa

    In Africa, leadership is confetti of stubbornly permanent chiefdoms of confusion among a multiplicity of cultures and ideals from Western and African heritages, punctuated by iconic Eastern mosaic precincts. It is a convenient marriage of the worst that the West can offer and the best of the African curse. It is also an oxymoron in which a cattle herder is tasked with keeping sheep and a shepherd with herding cattle. Observing a cattle herder in rural Zimbabwe, the herd boys always drive their cattle often with stones and knobkerries of unimaginable proportions. On the other hand, the shepherd always magically believes that his blind occipital precipice will serve the sheep and goats from a poacher's snare. In South Africa, cattle seem to roam freely, even on the busy freeways with no responsible herd boys in site, while in Kenya the Masai will asphyxiate any room for the cattle to roam freely and define own identity. Unsurprisingly, one always sees confused cattle herders and shepherds in the evening searching frantically for lost beasts.

    African Leadership in the 21st century has to begin at home and not horned in post-liberation struggle kindergartens or MBA schools. Management apprenticeship begins at infancy. Parents must instill the hallmarks of leadership: discipline, responsibility, innovation, recognition of opportunity, and most importantly how to deal with failure and success. Africa needs to move from collective leadership with a personal focus, to individualism with a collective focus, if we are to extract ourselves from the current economic and political mess. We need to cultivate stewardship at an early stage and dilute the stoicism of catholic boarding school ideals with their focus on blind submissiveness to authority. This breeds blind followers and stubbornly regressive leadership. Management and leadership schools should therefore only be there to refine the skills that are already inherent in their pupils.

  • Waju T.Ogunleye
    Chief Ideas Officer
    Nth Sense Consulting Group

    As the world becomes more of a global village, leadership is fast becoming a personal matter of IDENTITY. You can train all you want, but if a leader does not maintain a high and noble sense of himself, he will fall like any untrained and corrupt leader.

    I don't quite agree with Mr Rob van den Hurk's statement alluding bad leadership to people not been given the trust and responsibility they need to perform. Leadership, trust and responsibility are like air; we don't need board approval to take it up.

    I heard a little story about the French Revolution where the entire royal family was wiped out except for a little 6-year-old prince. The evil general who inspired the palace coup decided he did not want the little boy to die innocent and go to heaven. According to the story, he assigned an old witch to teach the boy evil and to eventually kill him. After years of fruitless effort to "corrupt" the boy, the exasperated witch screamed obscenities at him to repeat after her, to which the young prince replied, "I CANNOT DO SUCH THINGS -I WAS BORN TO BE A KING!"

    I hope my story quite illustrates my point that leadership is now being seen for what it truly is. Leadership is not in the size of your organization, nation, religion etc, it is in the personal identity concept that an individual has. "Bad leaders" behave poorly because they think they can. Those who portray better leadership propoerties like honesty and integrity do so because they have assumed the identity of integrity and honesty.

  • Jeremy Vogan
    MBA Student

    Responsibility for the loss of trust that has become evident in the relationship between leaders and their organizations, and between leaders and their various spheres of influence in our country, must ultimately be laid at the feet of the leaders themselves. No instinct is more basic than that of the rank-and-file worker, intimidated by the personality and the work ethic and the perfectionism of the man or woman in the corner office, yet who leaves the plant at 5:01pm every day with a real sense of safety and security because the light is still on in that corner office. And the worker knows that the light will remain on in that corner office until the success of the organization is secured. This dependence exists in many different relationships in our society (parent and child, teacher and student, governor and subject etc.) but nowhere is it more visible than in the workforce. Every other relationship depends upon the ability of each person and each family to support themselves, to be provided with food and clothing and shelter and to be fulfilled spiritually (for the body cannot exist without the soul).

    Successful provision for one's followers being such a fundamental role, it is also paradoxically the highest calling a leader has. What makes leadership so difficult to aspire to is unquestionably the finality of its evaluation, that is to say, the firmness of its demand that the leader achieve success in the long term. No matter what goes wrong in the community, in the country, or in the world, there will be winners and there will be losers as a result - and the task given to every leader is to be one of the winners. This task necessarily involves intellectual ability, instinct, aggressiveness, unwillingness to admit defeat, negotiation skills, integrity, business acumen, technical prowess, people skills, and a host of other characteristics. And it is debatable whether this task does not involve a goodly share of plain old luck. But at the end of the day, the corner office with the light still on and the worker whose diligent labor has been rewarded with security will be the company whose doors are still open and whose future is still bright.

    I believe that in very many situations this loss of trust between leader and followers stems from the loss of this perspective on the part of the leader. The aspiring young executive who is enthralled by the perqs of the office (a high salary, valuable benefits, the deference of others, the trust of your board of directors, etc.) but forgets that all this is contingent upon the achievement of success without resorting to unethical behavior is setting him or herself up for another breach of corporate and national trust. Results may come in the short term, but without the commitment to the provision of corporate stability in exchange for individual diligence, the relationship is doomed to failure.

    Conversely, this relationship may best be restored by the redefinition in thought and practice of what the leader's job is. It is not merely to build things, it is not merely to sell things, it is not merely to make deals, it is not merely the balance sheet, it is not merely the efficiency reports; the leader's job at the end of the day is to help his or her people win. Winning may come at the cost of losing battles along the way, and certainly will come at great personal cost to the leader, but when American business leadership returns to this ideal it will find waiting for it the relationship of public and private trust that we enjoyed in former years.


  • Phil Clark
    Consultant and trainer
    Clark & Associates

    Way too much discussion. Leadership is about people...not stuff. My grandfather was a great leader. He encouraged family to go after their dreams. He never said an unkind word to anyone. He was always positive, even through the great depression. He was willing to help others succeed. And...most importantly...he genuinely was happy for the success of others. One statement I will always remember, "If you want to be happy, you want to have enough money to take care of yourself and family but never enough that others want to take it or take advantage of you."

    I have instructed leadership for many years and have boiled it down to a key fundamental all can remember. My formula...L=WD. Leadership is enhancing the worth of others so they can make sound decisions. As many have already adequately voiced...it is about doing.

  • steve botham
    caret consulting

    The conversation seems to highlight two distinct aspects of leadership. I would describe these as process and credibility. Research on followers carried out by the Charterted Institute of Management in the UK showed were looking for people who inspired them and about a third of people had never found an inspiring leader! We followed this research up and found that inspirational leadership comes in four distinct "types". There are those who create the future - and envision people, those who put ideas into action and implement things, those who enthuse, enable and engage people and those who bring strong values and a moral purpose to their leadership.

    This links to the process side of leadership. Some leaders integrate these four aspects and ensure that vision is actually followed through and implemented.They then ensure that people are engaged with the vision and tap into values. Often organisation struggle because these links are not made - the visionaries are satisfied with their plan, the implementers work hard but don't prioritise, the values people loose sight of the real world and the enthusers have a good but not neccesarily effective time!

    The second element is credibility - as many of your commentators have said, trust is a major leadership issue. Leaders need to be deliberate about being authentic. Increasingly we find that this links to self awareness - if you don't know yourself well you can not manage your credibility. Leaders who are realistic about using their strengths and working around their weaknesses will be more successful. As Marshall Goldsmith says, the further up an organiasation you go the less important technical capability is and the more important relationship building becomes.In these troubled times trust drives relationships and relationships create the drive that enables organisations to weather the storm.

    Getting the right processes in place and thinking through the way to fully engage people is therefore a key step for effective leadership. Credibility and trust enables leaders to make best use of those process skills.

    Steve Botham

  • Jeremiah McEnerney
    Alumnus 2004 Senior Executive Program
    Senior Principal Leader

    Public Trust: The trust was lost when someone in a position of responsibility (eg. trust) did not accurately convey the current condition or said something would happen and that thing did not happen.

    Trust can be restored by 1) accurately communicating our current condition, 2) articulating a vision which can be achieved, 3) taking the steps to achieve that vision and 4) achieving that vision. These four steps must be continuously linked and communicated.

    Views of Leadership: There are certain verities of the human condition and the fundamentals of leadership are timeless. Focusing on the timeless principles of leadership is an important facet of academic discipline.

    Timeless leadership principles can be applied in a whole host of different situations and perspectives. These stories, often conveyed in popular literature, are an important part of learning. Creating a polarity between popular literature and academic study does not contribute toward a greater understanding of leadership principles.

  • Steve Mostyn
    Head of Executive Development

    I wonder if our focus should not be 'leadership' and if a renewed look at 'management' may be more beneficial. The debates that both Professor Nohria and Professor Khurana have commented on previously, that management should become a profession, is where our focus should be. The profession of management would be enhanced by investigation into developing managers' critical thinking skills, helping them understand the assumptions they have about 'leadership' and 'management' and a fresh look at the responsibilities and opportunities that come with creating better governance processes.

  • Mark @ Alchemy United
    Chief Alchemist

    "Leaders (in business and government) have lost the public trust."

    IMHO, this is the wrong jumping off point for this conversation.

    In business, being at the top of management food chain does not necessitate that he/she is a leader. It just means that after having performed all the Darwinesque duties of that particular corporate culture he/she has bubbled to the top of the org chart. What's good in and for the company has little correlation to the public, public trust, etc. They aren't being measured for "public trust" so why should we then assume that is part of their M.O.? Running a company - where you can fire your constituents or they can leave - is not leadership. Is it?

    As for politicians, I believe the more accurate phrase is elected officials. The race isn't based on leadership but electability. So in the end, we don't elect leaders but those who were able to sway more of the public to vote for them than the other guy/gal.

    Much like our culture's fascination with celebrity, we - due to the MSM? - confuse fame, power and electability with leadership. There's more to it than that, no?

    It's also not wise to assume that just because I vote for someone that I believe they are a leader. In a two-party system, a vote only means I like that candidate more than the other guy/gal. It doesn't mean I think either one of them are qualified to "lead". In fact, aren't politicians elected to do the will of the people (as opposed to leading)?

    The better question might be: Why do we assume politicians and business execs to be leaders? Or why is the term leader no longer something that is earned but in too many case self-anointed?

    Pardon me if I'm missing the point here. But I can't help but wonder if we've fallen victim to the assumption that Nihria and Khurana (as the "leaders" of this discussion) are asking the right question here. Or maybe I'm just too quick to question authority :)

  • Jay Somasundaram
    Systems Analyst

    Loss of public trust: If we believe ourselves a democracy, then we, the public are the leaders. We appoint the government as our factors. Likewise, we create and empower business through our laws. If we have lost trust in our actions and don't know how to get it right, it suggests a failure of democracy, and is thus more a question of political science than of leadership per se.

    Integrated coherent view: Currently, leadership is a buzzword, tossed about as a cure-all panacea with multiple hazy meanings. Science aims for a single, coherent, unified model while Critical Theory recognises the weaknesses of such an approach. I'd suggest that we should both seek an integrated view as well as recognise divergent approaches.

    An analysis of "Followership" suggests that the only skill needed by an ideal leader that an ideal follower doesn't need is the ability to manage positional power. Worth thinking about.

  • Edris Jackson
    Doctoral Candidate
    Program Coordinator
    Miami Dade County DHS/VIP

    Leadership in the twenty-first century must be based on the possession and utilization of many skills. Paramount in this group of skills, must be an awareness of his/her own strengths and weaknesses (Emotional Intelligence-Goleman 1995). The leader must be pragmatic in his role as decision maker, sensitive towards the needs of his/her constituents, while continuing to operate within the frame work of the "big picture". Theoretically and practically the twenty-first leader needs to demonstrate his understanding of strategic direction, strategic movement and strategic coherence (a comment viewed in a recent news analysis). Leadership in these chaotic and unpredictable times calls for calculated, visionary implematation of ideas, drawn from a large pool of technical, intellelctual or other resources available to him/her. It is indeed clear that twenty-first leadership involves a certain amount of risk taking, which will not fear the possibility of human error, but will make ethical decisions for the common good.

    This country is at a place where it demands leadership with integrity and transparency not just as buzz words, but in reality. It is this writer's hope that our leaders will be attentive to the ongoing dialogue of their constitutents hopes/aspirations, fears etc-and be responsive to the voice of the people. It really is not too much to expect.

  • Tara Rego

    Most of us would agree on a common list of essential characteristics, behaviors, morals, knowledge and experience, even possessing a set of natural gifts, but what do they really mean, how are they interpreted or translated by the "leader" and "industry".

    I believe that effective leadership in the 21st century will require an emphasis on the reality of our time and evolution; continuously and openly benchmarking the leadership role, while actively transitioning away from the "old school" grooming and self-serving political orchestration strategies.

    We are all accountable in the breeding of a new animal, whether we are actioning or determining acceptance.

  • Dr. Ian Metcalfe
    Director, Leadership Facilitator
    Adaptive Learning pty ltd

    I agree with Nohria - "leadership" is an entirely human, social construct loosely defined by the context and needs of the time. Furthermore, there appears to be at present, at least three distinct forms of leadership:

    (a) "positional leadership" - which is a defined management role where a person with status and accountability "governs" over other employees. Here the relationship is essentially formal and contractual;

    (b) an academic, idealised "espoused model of leadership" which is an amalgam of observed trends plus some aspirational component; and

    (c) a more practical "enacted leadership" - thousands of emergent & dynamic leader-follower relationships in organisations and social contexts of all kinds, where follower(s) would describe another as their leader for some undefined period of time. These are not mutually exclusive, resulting in a confusion of practices and definitions.

    "Positional Leadership," as I have described it, is essentially power-based management. A transactional role which sees employees as resources and the "leadership" task being to compel, direct, motivate or inspire people to achieve preconceived organisational goals. This was born out of the context of the 20th century industrial and technological organisation as a large bureaucratic hierarchy. This is still the incumbent form of 'leadership'.

    With the advent of globalisation, greater consumer choice and focus on intangibles, deregulation, generation Y, increasing uncertainty (etc) - the trappings of the so-called "knowledge age" - academics and leadership development consultants have been advocating "transformational leadership" (and a host of other sub species of leadership) as a necessity for success in a changing (business and social) world.

    At the cusp of this changing world order, we see the former resisting the later. Transformational leadership is at best short-lived in what is still a transactional business world, dominated by uneven power-based hierarchies and a definition of success which equates to unsustainable economic growth and shareholder wealth.

    This 'battle' is being played out on the big stage, but everywhere, in local councils, in small enterprises, sporting organisations, in schools and in families.... other authentic, emergent forms of leader-follower relationships are occurring which are dynamic and situational - and closer to what is really needed for the 21st century. This is people-based leadership, not 'role-based,' and is enacted not aspirational. It is entirely contextual and personal - and transformational on a small scale. It is predicated on the belief that the leader-follower relationship is one of shared trust and unconditional respect and its primary goal is to develop and grow individuals (release potential, liberate talent) in a community context - for the mutual benefit of all.

    Khurana asks, "Is there a moral component to leadership" and can we restore leadership values? I think the answer to this is contained within the first discussion. If leadership is a social concept, then it reflects the ethics (or lack thereof) of our times. If we are to restore values to leadership, we must firstly restore morals and ethics to our social, environmental, and economic lives. We need a global dialogue on what is "success" and where humanity wishes to take itself in the 21st century.

    Regards, Ian www.adaptivelearning.com.au

  • Jyoti Sharma
    Ex DGM
    IDBI Bank Ltd

    When we talk about leadership,I always think about Mahatma Gandhi. He said, "When you are in a dilemma while taking a decision,then think about the poorest of the poor and think how he is going to be affected by your decision. Keeping this thing in mind, whenever you will take a decision,your decision will be right."

    When we talk of leadership, I always think about Kiran Bedi(the first woman IPS officer in India) who was popularly called "Crain Bedi" when she was posted as Traffic Commissioner in Delhi. She had given orders to tow away even the Prime Minister's car when it was parked at a no-parking place.So when implementing rules, if the leaders do not discriminate between the people, decisions will always be right.

    When we talk of leadership, I always think about Ratan Tata, the head of Tata Group of Companies. After the 11/26 terrorist attack, he stood by his employees and his stakeholders and offered to render help whatever was possible by the management. I am sure this action of Ratan Tata will ensure unconditional support of all employees and other stakeholders in future.

What is the Conversation?

The Conversation is question- or topic-based dialogue between two conversation leads and our Centennial- site visitors. Every month or so, our conversation leads will pose a question to you, our visitors, to get your thoughts on specific issues in the world of business. The Conversation invites you to join the dialogue, and selections from these responses are made available online.

Conversation Leads

  • Nitin Nohria
    Richard P. Chapman Professor of Business Administration
    Senior Associate Dean, Director of Faculty Development

  • Rakesh Khurana
    Marvin Bower Professor of Leadership Development

Additional Resources

HBS Working Knowledge, an online forum featuring new work from HBS faculty, offers more from Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana and articles about leadership & management. And, if you like The Conversation, you may also enjoy What Do YOU Think?, an ongoing dialogue between Harvard Business School professor Jim Heskett and the readers of HBS Working Knowledge.