After having spent more than 30 years in the corporate world, I have been really fortunate to have worked with some great leaders. During this journey, I have also seen some leaders, whom I would have liked to forget but nevertheless, they also gave me some vital insights as to how I should not behave when I get myself to be in their positions.
In order to explain the various leader that I worked with, I would like to use the analogies of trees to explain their leadership styles.
1) Banyan Tree Leaders
These leaders were fun to work with during the initial period of my career. Like a Banyan tree, you could enjoy and even relax on a “hot” summer day under their shade. They were very protective and preferred to maintain business as usual stance as long as you were not there to rock the boat. They were the homegrown variety and had long associations with the companies and during the pre 1980’s period, were the most commonly found species in the corporate world. Like a typical Banyan tree, they had solid “roots” supporting them in the form of a close group of people, who were their die hard loyalists. Like Banyan trees, they had extended longitivity in the organizations. Surprisingly, many of them had statures even larger than the Indian promoters for whom they used to work for. Sadly, like you don’t have any foliage growing under the Banyan tree due to the restricted sunlight , people working under them could never hone their leadership skills and always remained in their shadows. Banyan Tree leaders were never able to develop a leadership pipeline and in the process, they remained in their positions way beyond their superannuation years.
2. Coconut Tree Leaders
This was another variety of leaders that thrived in the 70’s and 80’s. They were larger than life figures, standing very tall beyond their peers in the organizations. They were so much in the clouds, that it would be a herculean task for the “commoners” in the organizations to even meet them. They were good in networking and would ensure that the external environment always “favored” their business interests. They were very poor people managers and for them, business sustenance took precedence over all other priorities. They also enjoyed longitivity in organizations. Working under them would mean following a string of directions from them and most of the other time, you were left free to manage the internal affairs of your department the way you felt necessary. I felt much better working under these type of leaders as compared to Banyan Tree leaders because, I would be left alone most of the time to manage my department the way I wanted to as long as I was prompt in following their “orders” when it came to certain business decisions.
3. The Water Hyacinth Leaders
Water Hyacinth is a plant that you see many times covering the surface of water-bodies, ponds and lakes. Its a green plant that has rubbery leafs and once it finds its roots in a given pond or a fresh water lake, soon engulfs the complete pond with its off shoots. Within no time, its roots absorb all the oxygen from the water that results in the death of most of the organisms living in that pond. This species was introduced in India as an ornamental plant and today, it is slowly sucking life out of most of the water-bodies in our rural areas. Off late, you can see water Hyacinths also invading the shores of our rivers as well. It is a plant that is banned in many countries today. Just like water hyacinth, some leaders who look very “attractive” are introduced into the corporate ponds with the view of adding value and bring a new direction in companies. These leaders promise a world of deliveries and within no time, get a set of people known to them in the system on the pretext of infusing “new blood” ( overriding some of the solid performers of the organization). In the short term, they seem to deliver on the surface but actually, their actions leads to long term damage to the fabric of the organization. During their tenures, your best people leave and many of the superficial ones, are then left to man the leadership positions. These leaders, unfortunately continue to sell “dreams” on a regular basis to promoters and or CEOs. By the time they are found out, its too late for that organization.
4. Banana Tree Leaders
These are the best kind of leaders that I have worked under. They are very approachable, and can survive in any kind of environment. Each and every part of them is useful to the organization. Like a banana tree, they give regular fruits to the organization, and more importantly, sprout many small trees all around them, each one capable of delivering fruits in no time. These people are actually leader churning machines and do so, without much fuss in a very normal way of working. Its a real treat working with them because every day turns out to be a new learning experience and in a very short span of time you find yourself capable enough of delivering results without much supervision.
I am sure many of the readers can identify such leaders all around them.
About Sunil Ranjhan
Sunil Ranjhan has over 29 years of experience and has worked with organizations like Asian Honda Motor Co., Bangkok, Thailand, Honda Motor Co., Ltd, Tokyo, Japan, Honda Cars India Ltd., Honda Siel Cars India Ltd., JCT Electronics Ltd. ( A Hitachi JV), National Productivity Council ( Autonomous org. under m/o Heavy Industries, Govt. of India) & Wipro Information Technology Ltd. Sunil holds a Degree Name Masters in Management Field Of Study Human Resources, Corporate Planning & Basic Engineering from Birla Institute of Technology and Science.