Leadership lessons for leaders: What would they look like? 

What would a leadership development program for Travis Kalanick or Martin Shkreli look like? What could it entail? It was only sometime ago that [the former] Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was in the news for the video recording of a conversation between him and a Uber driver, who was protesting against the company’s policies which he claimed, had made him bankrupt. Earlier, Kalanick had to address over 100 female Uber employees in response to allegations of improper conduct towards a female employee, and admit that some of them “had experienced things that are incredibly unjust”. Such incidents eventually led to Kalanick stepping down from the CEO’s seat earlier this month. While explaining his conduct towards the driver, Kalanick was forced to admit that he needed to take “training in leadership”. During a discussion with a few participants of the Owners Management Program, (an executive management program developed solely for business founders and owners, that I head at SPJIMR), I was asked, if I were to design a leadership program for such super successful business founders, what would the program look like. While I would like to claim that our OMP program (or possibly any other similar program from any reputed B-School) covers most of essential components, I took the challenge up, with the greatest of humility to answer the question. I would like to make a disclaimer that I-an associate professor of family business and strategy-may not be the best person to do this, lest I be attributed with the same hubris, that some of our greatest leaders are now being credited with! Some of the key components of the program for leaders would be:Leadership: Specifically, subjects’ leadership: To understand that a leader has to take the others along with him, instead of putting himself in an ivory tower and distancing himself from his subjects, lessons in empathy and the need to contribute (give back) to society are essential. It may not have a direct impact on the bottomline, but they are definitely necessary. Required readings: The stories of Gandhi, Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela, for their humility and resilience of doing what is right. Gandhi, for his ability to rally everyone against the British around a common cause, at the cost of personal benefits. The story of someone in power and yet being humble. Additionally, to understand how the Akbar, the Mughal ruler went incognito amongst his subjects at night, to get a pulse of his people’s needs. Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence, is a must read for understanding how to influence people without actually using power. The classic How to win friends and influence people could be an additional optional reading. True North by Bill George is invaluable to get thinking about the moral compass and to orient action toward their desired goals. The rise and fall of the Roman Empire, to caution leaders of the perils and guarding against arrogance and hubris due to their huge success. Ethics: A case study on Martin Shkreli of Turing who increased the price of Daraprim, an AIDS and cancer drug from $13.50 to $750 overnight, nearly a 5,500% jump because he needed “to make a profit”. The video of his appearance before the Senate committee should be a required viewing. The key discussion point would be, “Is he right?”. A leader’s responsibilities and decisions could be studied from the legal, fiduciary and ethical viewpoints.Maybe even examine Mr Kalanick’s statement, “Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in life on somebody else”. The need for leaders to be observant of the larger scale implications of their statements, decisions, and the balance, if any, between the pursuit of profit and the greater societal good, would be a required discussion.  I was reading about the Kalanick incident while going to work in an Uber. My driver, when asked, mentioned that his earnings had come down by over 50% because Uber had stopped giving incentives. This had left many stranded, as they had taken expensive loans to become drivers for the app-based service provider. They were now staring at a dismal future. He admitted that the early bird drivers had made a lot of money driving for Uber, but now, with the incentives gone, the entire business model had become unprofitable for them. So they resorted to protesting against Uber’s policy. In retort, Uber asked them to stop working if they were not satisfied, which wasn’t an option for them. This was a modern debt trap, where the drivers were forced to work just to keep up repaying their interest installments. The Uber drivers in Mumbai had protested and even went on a strike, but at the time of writing this article, things were still unclear for them. Whether the drivers should have been wary of a good thing not lasting forever or is this a rationalising decision for Uber to

Source: Leadership lessons for leaders: What would they look like? | Forbes India

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