THOUGHT SERIES – THE CULTURAL IMPACT OF GENUINELY GOOD CULTURE
CONSULTANT DIRECTOR | MEMBER UAE SUPERBRANDS COUNCIL | CHARTER MEMBER TIE DUBAI
UAE, 14th November 2021: The global experience of the last two years has brought out the best in us, as well as the worst. The business and economic pressures that leaders, politicians, managers and those in positions of authority have faced during the pandemic period has truly shaken off our masks, and brought out our real selves.
Increasing instances of major abuse of authority, use of abusive language, knee-jerk decision making – all seem to have caused immense damage, going by voices we hear in social media or in the rapid rise in global counselling sessions. Social media has also made more people voice or express their opinions on various platforms. And, if one were to go by indicators, the noise of negative opinions seems to be on the rise. It seems fairly obvious that societies and organizations are reluctant to address these issues, mostly to ensure that performing leaders are not touched.
A significant part of this behavior seems to come from the belief that authority flows from power that is given to some of us by virtue of our position, out title, and that this power can be abused without any one questioning, as long as there is sustained performance.
The contrarian view to this is that the strength of great leadership comes from the amount of commitment of the followers. How leaders behave determines whether or not the followers will committedly follow. Authority, power and influence in leaders actually comes not through our positions or titles, but through our followers.
Over decades, one subject that has been a topic of discussion is the issue of culture. Culture of a country. Culture of a race. Culture of an organization. Culture of a community.
There are some of us who live with the belief that our attitude hugely matters towards both ‘performance’ and ‘people’.
There are many more who believe that rewards come to those who focus on performance and deliver it on a continuous basis. At all cost. And that is all that matters. Those of us who belong to this category argue that individuals as well as companies that have delivered great results in spite of their known toxicity towards colleagues and employees, have gained monetarily and materially. This is also actually and factually true, and there are enough instances to prove this theory as well.
So which belief system creates lasting brand value?
Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book titled ‘David and Goliath’. In this book, Malcolm says that people will obey and follow much, much better when they believe they are being treated legitimately well.
Malcolm has very correctly defined 3 key guidelines:
1.Those who are being ruled or governed need to feel that they have a voice which they can constructively express
2.The rules need to be perceived as predictable and consistent.
3.The rules need to be consistently and fairly applied to all.
Countries, societies, organizations, brands, or individuals who want to be leaders in their respective fields, with a large and genuine fan following, need to ask themselves these three queries:
How does one understand and prepare for what changes are happening
Social, cultural, economic, business and political views and philosophies are constantly and ever changing. What are the internal and external listening posts that we have set up to give ourselves the early warning signals. And, more importantly, how ethically, brutally honest are those listening posts.
What are the reasons that the change is happening
Understanding the reasons of change is as important as identifying the fact that change is happening. Ultimately, it is the knowledge that brings strong conviction to our response to any change.
Are we a leader, a follower, or a passive observer in this change process
Leading change for the better gives us the legitimacy to lead. Avoiding change, or refusing to acknowledge that the environment has changed just makes the situation more and more complex.
Leadership is most definitely about performance, numbers and parameters. And yet, in today’s highly connected and socially influenced world, it is most certainly not just about wealth or profits. This, in part, can be seen by the large number of people globally leaving jobs for a relatively better quality of life. The new generation has very different aspirations.
In the final analysis, Leadership is the act of leaving behind a lasting legacy that others will be honoured to take forward. The cultural impact of good, strong leadership is a culture based on the concept that attitude needs to be correct and honest towards “people” and “performance” both. At the country level, classic case study of sustained success with this thought process is the UAE. The country which is home to almost 200 nationalities. The country which has performed on all “people” and “performance” parameters. This small nation which has created massive cultural impact on the global stage. Huge credit goes to the forward thinking and building up of the right culture by its Rulers. India has all the ingredients and the capabilities to create similar cultural success, state by state.
There is no one hard and fast set of guidelines to success. And success is not guaranteed. Yet, it is only such societies, such governments, such organizations, who are truly focused on “people” and “performance”, who will increase the probability of longer-term survival, flexibility and agility in a rapidly changing world.