Leadership — A result of conscious and continuous effort!

Sep 2020, a year ago, I was excited for getting nominated for an year long Global Leadership Development Program at Thoughtworks. At the same time was little confused on what we are going to do in this program for that long. I must say it was so well executed, despite the challenges of Covid#19, where we all(participants, speakers, coaches and other enablers) are globally distributed working from their home. Expectations were set, virtual meetings were set with options to attend at per individual comfort. Program was designed in multiple phases, with continuous feedback, and some measurements. Now this program come to its end for our batch, but it has left some long lasting impact on us, I feel we are now more stronger and more confident in what we do.

I read a forbes article, that tells how important it is to train your leaders to drive a transformation, and it is amazed to see that Thoughtworks value the same. I briefly talked about this program in my article my impactful change stories. In this article, I am sharing my key takeaways from last one year of leadership journey, they are actually many and never ending as the leadership is not a fixed destination, it is a continuous improvement and effort. I am covering the ones that have changed my way of working/thinking.

Strength based leadership

It is always easy to reflect on our strengths than working on our weaknesses. The word weakness itself is negative, and bringing a positive change while on a weakness is difficult. However, on the other side, working on strength is already a winning path, and it is always a easy conversation when we talk people on their strengths, and work to add more it.

I come across CliftonStrengths (StrengthsFinder), the book and their assessment. It helped a lot in finding my strengths, and before this, I never thought these values in me are actually my strengths. Another important part I learned is blind spots, every strength comes with some blind spots, we need to be conscious about them when applying our strength. For Eg. One of my strength “Adaptability” that allows me stay productive when the demands of work are pulling me in many different directions, however I need to be careful when I apply this while working with people who thrive on structure and stability.

Strength-first thinking not just help us grow, but also helps while working with/leading the team, we start thinking about the people’s strength, and encourage them strengthen more there. Overall productivity of team increases automatically, and it becomes win-win for everyone. Remember no one is perfect in this world, no one is without strengths and no one is without weaknesses, it’s on us where to focus on.

Coaching is not what we think

Just like we need doctors in life, I feel everyone need a coach in life whom we can trust, and share our things. But me mindful, coaching is not what we think! I wrote about this topic in details here. I have been coaching throughout these the years but I understand real meaning of it in last one year. Now I am more confident in coaching people and get coached. I have never thought just listening to people and re-affirming their plans and solutions could be so powerful. Learned the power of asking right questions, to get insights, and coaching models like GROW can make conversion much easier.

Navigating through organisational politics

I have been hearing and supporting statements like “There should be no politics in an organization”, “I left X organisation because of politics”, “So much politics in that organization, will not let people grow”, “lot of favoritism politics there” … till last year. We hear politics always in the bad lights, and most think that it blocks people’s growth, and bring injustice in the system.

Here is a different perspective I learned, that politics is part of life, it is a natural aspect of human nature, knowingly or unknowingly we all do politics. Eg. My younger son just 4 years old, knows who can fulfill his demand the best, he goes to grandfather to go outside for playing any time he wants, he comes to me to play in pool, and go to his mom when want to sleep. He knows who has what influence, and capability, and how he may get his things done, and who he can easily convince.

Organization is made of people, and we talk about human, politics is bound to be there, no matter how one feel about it. So there is no organization without politics. We all have emotions, likes and dislikes, some of them matches with others and some don’t. We all have some influence/trust/friend circle, bigger or smaller, and unknowingly there are always some entry and exits. Now it is on individuals how they see these circles. if they find ways to navigate through these circles, then these circles (socially connected network) are very helpful in getting things done. Now if they don’t find they way out, then they start blaming it to organization politics. If we remove politics from organisation, it would become an organization of machines, driven from fixed set of rules. People organisation can’t work like that. We can only force a change in organization, but cant bring the change in org without politics. As people of an organization, we need focus on building our social network and politics on trust, transparency, and growth. Exercises like Stakeholder Mapping would help to understand the formal and informal structure of organisations.

Prioritization and Delegation

I learned number of aspects and methods for priorioritisations, and I now make sure I am not always doing tasks when they becomes urgent and important, but also do some important tasks to avoid my burnout. Delegation is important part of leadership, and I learned about how to do the good delegation.

Build your own brand

There was some great exercises to defined Me Now, and Me Next, with action plan. What I like most is the term personal brand. What is your personal brand, how well you have communicated your brand to the the world. I am still not a goal person, our life is not fixed so a goal also can not be fixed. However, last year I focused more in defining my brand, and now it’s easy for me to explain it to others.

Refer section “Build your own brand”, and “What is your WHY” of previous article. I will continue working on my brand.

We had some great sessions in enlightening talks, I presented brief about “What is a successful change” derived from my article.

Learning never stops, and so it the learning for leadership. Leadership is not a goal, but it is a continuous process, we need to keep refining it. Keep it going…

Happy leadership!

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Principal Consultant, Engineering and Head of ARVR Practice @ ThoughtWorks India.

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Kuldeep Singh

Kuldeep Singh

Principal Consultant, Engineering and Head of ARVR Practice @ ThoughtWorks India.

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