Emerging Value additions in the horizon of attitudinal mindsets of leaders in contemporary organizations


Dr. K. Ravichandran
Bharathidasan Institute of Management
(School of Excellence of Bharathidasan University)
Tiruchirapalli-620 014

Nothing succeeds like success. We all want to be successful in our career, be it in our roles as individuals, team players or leaders. Taking responsibility for one's actions is a key component of success as an individual. And taking responsibility for what our team does is a key component of leadership. When one doesn't do that, failure is just around the corner.

At our workplace, we will often hear people passing the buck when something goes wrong. Those people definitely will not climb up the ladder. We will find most of them projecting the same pattern in their reasoning and approach to life, as well - that nothing would be their fault, including the incidents that happen in their personal lives as well.

Blame and Lame excuses: hallmarks of an unsuccessful leader

Avoiding responsibility in one's personal life carries over into one's professional life, and vice versa. Excuses for failure and the choices we make at workplace ignite dysfunctional thinking and, subsequently, undesirable behaviour and actions. Making excuses, rather than taking 100 per cent responsibility for their actions, decisions, and their outcomes, is the hallmark of future failures. This is why taking responsibility is so powerfully important and is the essence of what can make or break a leader. 

Take responsibility at workplace

Taking responsibility is the underlying factor behind success at work. If someone in our team makes a mistake, we must be able to admit it, take the necessary action and then proceed. This is something that many do not understand. No leader can be successful without being accountable for his/her own actions.

Being responsible ensures that, even when events outside our control go awry, we can at least determine how we will react to the situation. We can make the situation a disaster or we can use it as an opportunity to learn and to grow.

We are continuously confronted with external pressures/ stress at work that affect us greatly. It is how we react to these pressures that largely determine what we accomplish in our career. Those who take responsibility and recognise their own weakness in the way it relates to the problem are the ones who grow and accomplish. Those who blame others or ignore their roles stagnate and achieve less.

Every workplace is different, and accordingly, each has unique challenges. Simple solutions do not apply to every business, especially if managers and employees are constrained by rigid labor agreements or ill-conceived business models.

Ten Commandments to assist leaders to maintain overall
Positive attitude in the workplace

1. The leader/manager should, first and foremost, demonstrate a commitment to the organization through hard work and responsible behavior.

2. The leader must be competent and worthy of leadership.

3. The leader should have a clear vision of the goals of the organization; the leader should clearly communicate those goals to the appropriate parties.

4. The leader should translate the organization's goals into clearly definable work.

5. The leader should establish clear expectations and provide frequent feedback so that employees will know when they have been successful in their work and when they have failed.

6. The leader should create an atmosphere of success, one in which employees confidently believe that they can be successful if they apply themselves.

7. The leader should reward success and praise behavior that meets or exceeds expectations while dealing at frequent intervals with behaviour
that fails to meet expectations.
8. The leader should demonstrate appropriate respect for his or her employees.

9. The manager should understand that attitudes are contagious and that a manager's outlook, either positive or negative, will play a major role in the overall attitude of the workplace.

10. The leader must understand that chronically negative individuals will, inevitably, have a profound negative impact on the morale of the workplace.

Why people don't admit their mistakes

"Mistakes bring about a feeling of tension and anxiety within the individual. At such times, the mind seeks rational ways of escaping the situation. A range of defence mechanisms can be triggered. These defence mechanisms are subconsciously employed to protect the ego and they tend to distort, transform, or otherwise falsify reality. One uses these 'deceptions' to avoid facing issues of guilt, failure, fear, emotional pain, or embarrassment. In distorting reality, there is a change in perception which helps to lessen anxiety," says psychologist Dr. Kanchan Misra. There are many defence mechanisms. Some examples are:

Denial: Claiming/believing what is true to be false
* Projection: Attributing uncomfortable feelings to others
* Displacement: Redirecting emotions to a substitute target
* Rationalisation: Creating false but credible justifications
* Reaction formation: Overeacting in an opposite way to the fear
* Intellectualisation: Taking an objective viewpoint in order to ignore the emotional  aspect
* Regression: Going back to acting like a child
* Repression: Pushing uncomfortable thoughts into the subconscious
* Sublimation: Redirecting 'wrong' urges into socially acceptable actions

"Some defence mechanisms are healthy. However, we sometimes either use them at the wrong time or overuse them, which can be destructive," says Dr Misra. For example, a leader whose team keeps failing, may misuse defence mechanisms such as rationalisation, projection, or denial, often.

Common defensive expressions used at the workplace

"It was not my fault." (blaming others without accepting personal responsibility)
* "It wasn't all that important." (belittling the act)
* "It happened a long time ago." (implying it doesn't matter anymore)
* "They made me do it." (blaming others for a personal wrong act)
* "There was no other way out." (justification of wrong)
* "It only happened once." (rationalisation)
* "Everyone does it." (rationalisation)
* "I am only human." (indirectly blaming god)
* "Well, no one is perfect." (general comparison to shift the guilt)
* "The contract we lost was not a good one anyway." (a case of 'sour grapes' -- another defense mechanism)

How to take responsibility as a leader

"You have to be emotionally mature enough to see your decisions through and deal with the outcomes, whether positive or negative," says Rishi. Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind:

Acknowledge that your work is your responsibility

No matter how much you try to blame others for the events at work, each event is the outcome of choices you made and are making. Demonstrate accountability.

Make no excuses

Listen to the little voice inside your head. "The next time you catch yourself making an excuse, whether for a missed deadline or an unmet goal, gently remind yourself -- no excuses," says Anjali. Excuses fuel failure.

Listen to yourself when you speak

"Observe yourself talking with colleagues and friends. In your conversation, do you hear yourself blaming others for things that aren't going exactly as you wish? If you can sense your blaming patterns, you can stop them," says Dr Misra.

Take feedback seriously

If someone gives you feedback that you make excuses and blame others for your troubles, control your defensive reaction, explore examples and deepen your understanding of the situation.

Thus, when events at the workplace exert pressure on you, you can respond positively or negatively. Those who respond positively and take responsibility rather than blame others or be indifferent are the ones who grow as leaders. Consequently, they develop the foundation for great positive responses, great achievement, and great success in leadership.

Change your setting

Your mind reacts to its surroundings and has an uncanny ability to generate new ideas when the physical setting changes. You may be thinking in a very linear and academic way while you are at your workstation, so take your laptop/PDA and sit by in your office garden/park or cafeteria and you may see some fresh perspectives. Take a walk or hit the gym. The mind is agile when the body is indulging in a disciplined and rhythmic physical activity like a jog or workout. For all you know, a change of setting may bring you the inspiration you need.

"I am at my best when I am out in the open with my laptop and listening to my favourite music during a lunch break," says Shelly Jain, a Delhi based consultant with NIIT.

You could even take a notepad and jot down your ideas and thoughts and later organise them when you get to your workstation. The time spent thinking would be worthwhile as you will be away from the usual workplace distractions. 

Go out of your way to help others

Step out of your job description once in a while and help others with their tasks. Do this without having to be asked. Saying, "Need a hand there?" has a two-fold effect. First, you encourage others to give of themselves, creating a more positive workplace.

Second, you buy yourself a future favour, since kindness always comes back. The people you have helped will become soundboards for your ideas and will be able to give you new ideas and suggestions that may get you thinking on a new track.

"A response such as 'This is not my area of work. Find out from the person concerned', shows that the individual is responding from his own frame of reference, an attitude detrimental for both employee and organisation," says Anil Bhatnagar, a management consultant. Help people whenever they need your expertise. Offer your support to new emloyees as they usually have the ability to come out with bright ideas. Their minds are fresh and have not been conditioned to think in a linear fashion like most tenured employees, so they may springboard some fresh perspectives.

Know your organisation's and customers' needs

You must know if what you have to offer is in high demand at work. Find out the direction in which your company is headed and the areas in which it needs maximum improvement. This will ensure that you ideas have a business impact and act as a catalyst in your growth within the organisation. There's much strength to be derived from knowing how a company operates as a whole. Tailor your ideas to meet the organisational objectives and you will be in a position to add maximum benefit to your organisation. Did you ever think that companies would be selling fairness cream for men? Emami, a Kolkata-based company with interests in personal and healthcare business realised the need and launched 'Fair and Handsome', a fairness cream for men in April 2006. The executives at Emami realised that in the age of  metrosexual men, who go for manicures and pedicures, a fairness cream, if positioned well, could be a winner in the personal care market for men.

Understand your work environment

In today's teamwork-oriented work environments, no man is an island. You are always a part of the bigger picture that the organisation has in mind. Expose yourself to different realities. If you are a marketing person, go and spend some time with the finance team or the product management team and ask them questions about their nature of work.  Learn to see things from their perspective. The best ideas sometimes come from looking outside the familiar and that is what "thinking out of the box" means. 
Google.com founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were batchmates at Stanford when the thought of empowering people by creating an easy search mechanism hit them. The Naukri.com advertisement depicting Hari Sadu as the monster boss is a good example of out-of-the-box thinking, because it mixes humour with a message.

So keep your eyes and ears open and indulge in some idea generation activities.

Exercise your mind

Your mind, like your body, needs exercise and can get it through challenges and problem-solving. A good way to feed your mind is to read a lot and study the success stories of other businesses and entrepreneurs.

Read case studies related to your industry or biographies of successful people.

This will not only stimulate your grey cells but also provide you a dose of inspiration. Learn how other successful people generate breakthrough ideas.

Capture your thoughts

When the brilliant spells do come, make sure you capture them. Don't rely on mental notes, you'll surely forget them. Have a notepad, PDA or voice recorder ready at all times, even next to your bed at night (who knows, you may suddenly strike gold at 2 am). Once you've recorded your idea, use it as soon as you can. I read an advertisement for IT company Accenture, which said:  "An idea is like a cup of coffee, it's not going to stay hot forever." So remember that ideas are best when they're fresh.

Branding Yourself: How to Look, Sound & Behave Your Way To Success by Mary Spillane, This is one book that provides practical ideas on image building. Written by Mary Spillane, a consultant and adviser on personal branding, it aims at providing a comprehensive guide on how to design and craft a positive image.

If you need help figuring out how to put your best foot forward, this book is pretty comprehensive and will serve as a good reference for any young professional who is looking at making a positive impression. Until recently, the idea of personal branding had largely been overlooked, but with the huge number of image consultants employed by politicians and celebrities, ordinary citizens are starting to look at the idea of personal branding more closely. The book covers useful topics like how to look and sound, and how to build a personal brand identity to convey the feelings and qualities you want other people to see. Learn how to market and brand yourself with this cool book.


In the contemporary and modern ethnical scenario, the leaders in their respective domain should follow the above- said Ten Commandments judiciously to succeed in achieving the mission of their respective organizations they belong to.  In the vicinity of these attitudinal templates all the apex level contemporary leadership personnel share envisage the essence of their mental readiness to respond to various crisis situations by pondering the afore stated qualities required for leadership. With a view to sail away safely in the ravine of organizational climate prevailing in different organizations of repute, which are all in the race of attaining the world class destination.


1) http://specials.rediff.com/getahead/2006/may/29ppf.htm

2) http://specials.rediff.com/getahead/2006/may/25sld.htm

3) http://in.rediff.com/getahead/2006/oct/16snappy.htm

4) http://specials.rediff.com/getahead/2005/dec/01slid.htm

5) http://in.rediff.com/getahead/2006/jul/18work.htm

6) http://www.rediff.com/getahead/2006/dec/18read.htm

7) http://in.rediff.com/getahead/2006/jul/19work.htm

Dr. K. Ravichandran
Bharathidasan Institute of Management
(School of Excellence of Bharathidasan University)
Tiruchirapalli-620 014

Source: E-mail November 27, 2007


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