As management students, we are expected to know the importance of leadership. Leading teams, getting people to adhere to project deadlines etc is a part of a manager’s everyday life. Subliminally, all of us are leaders. But to convert that potential energy into kinetic energy requires guidance.
Someone once told me that Leadership is all about taking initiative and leading from the front. And Prof. Minu Ipe, while handling the leadership course, did walk the talk. Prof. Minu Ipe, holds a BA (first rank) degree from the Bangalore University, an MA degree from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. She currently is the Clinical Associate Professor of Management as well as the Faculty Director of W. P. Carey Evening MBA. She is a US-based scholar of international business, leadership, and organizational behavior.
Her style of driving leadership purely followed one principle, “Practice before you preach”. I’ve learnt punctuality as a leadership trait from her by observing how she was always on time to class, I’ve learnt that no matter what ethical plane one holds himself/herself to, when he/she is responsible for a team of people, it’s extremely important to raise the bar even higher. Honesty, if practiced by the self (in this case, by the leader), would eventually, trickle down into the core value system of the entire team.
She put us in teams and thereby helped us identify, practice and hone our ability to delegate. She subtly asked us to identify the strengths of every team player and delegate tasks appropriately. This helped me get to know people better, to strengthen my strengths and eliminate my weaknesses. This activity also taught me that to lead, one has to follow. An individual would only make for a great leader if he can understand and empathize with the issues and the inabilities of his fellow team players. This is where, like Prof. Ipe said, Emotional Intelligence is of paramount importance to the leader.
Having had some corporate work experience before this course, I was part of teams and had the opportunity to observe the leadership styles of my bosses from close quarters. The case studies provided by by Prof. Ipe gave me an opportunity to relate to the behaviors of my bosses in different situations and got me to reflect on how I would have dealt with the situation. The illustrative descriptions provided me with an opportunity to observe the effect of a leader’s decisions on the team from a third person’s perspective.
During the course, Prof. Ipe also stressed on the need for effective communication. She helped us understand that effective communication is not only about ensuring that the right point is being driven across to the listener, but also about when and how the point is being communicated. It’s about saying the right thing at the right time. For a leader, making himself/herself available to discuss interoffice issues is vital. This would get the team to learn, trust and depend on the leader and will make the team less hesitant to work harder.
Home sickness, disappointing exam results, sometimes left us slightly depressed. However, Prof. Ipe always had a witty one liner or two up her sleeve and would provide the much needed impetus for our morale. I think she subtly drove the point that morale is directly linked to productivity. All of us have our good moments and bad ones. The ability to let go of what disturbs and latch on to what matters is what discerns a commoner from a leader. At the work place, if a leader is constantly trying to find the humor in struggles, his behavior would have augured well for the work environment. This behavior of his would have made the work place a happy and a healthy space to work in where the employees would look forward to finding a solution to the issue, rather than dreading it.
There is no greater motivation than seeing the boss down in the pit working alongside his team, showing that hard work is being done on every level. Prof. Ipe used to teach this lesson by working on improving course content during the breaks she gave us. As a leader, she led by example and provided her commitment to the brand and to her role. By exhibiting this behavior, she not only earned the respect of all of us in the class, but also instilled that same hardworking energy among all of us. This experience taught me that it’s important to show one’s commitment not only to the work at hand, but also to one’s promises. Her job was to teach and to help us understand the concepts of leadership better, by taking up which, she made a promise to all of us that she would make us better leaders. She worked day in and day out to ensure that our learning was maximized and our ignorance was minimized. I can today proudly say that I’m a better man now than what I was before I took the leadership course. I doff my hat off to you Prof Ipe and owe all my learning on leadership to your preaching. Thank you.