Deepankar and Shekhar joined the company on the same day, at the middle-management level, thanks to their brilliant academic record. They had also worked in different companies for some years before joining this company where some Board members found them exceptionally good. Because of their previous background and the management’s favour they had won in a short time, others in the executive cadre watched their progress with huge question marks on their faces. After about a year journeying through various departments, they were chosen to head one section each.
Here begins this story that speaks volumes about different leadership styles. However, we have fudged certain details for the sake of privacy of persons involved.
Deepankar was a soft-spoken person who allowed his colleagues every type of freedom at work. Anybody could approach him for anything — from a personal hand-loan to seeking advice on which boy to choose for sister. In the sectional meetings, Deepankar encouraged everybody to speak out his mind openly without fear of any reprimand. So, the meetings looked somewhat chaotic from a distance. But the section started doing very well in handling of the assigned task and attaining full success. Colleagues, whom Deepankar called ‘my friends’, were extremely happy in the section.
In sharp contrast, Shekhar was a crisp and no-nonsense executive who entertained no personal bonding with his colleagues (whom he called his assistants). His philosophy was stated simply, and rather curtly: Come to work. Do your work. And get lost. The sectional meetings were a tough time for everyone. For, Shekhar was a tough task master and did not mind handing down a few insults to his “assistants” on a daily basis. For a while, the section’s implementation curve moved upward, but subsequently, it started plummeting.
By now, the contrast between the two sectional leaders’ method of doing things became known to one and all in the company. The members of the Board, too, became serious with Shekhar’s section not rising up to expectations under his leadership. One of them, an old man who had served the Board for over twenty years, called Deepankar and requested him to help Shekhar. Deepankar agreed to make an attempt, though he had serious doubts about Shekhar’s ability to listen to wise counsel.
Those doubts came true when Deepankar met Shekhar at the club. Shekhar told him flatly not to mind his business. “You mind your own business, and leave me alone”, he said curtly. Though he was hurt, Deepankar kept meeting Shekhar regularly wherever and whenever possible. He kept offering his soft advice to Shekhar on how to handle things.
One day, however, Shekhar could take that good-natured advice any longer. He complained to the Board that Deepankar was interfering in his work. So, the old Board member told Shekhar that it was he who had asked Deepankar to help Shekhar.
But Shekhar’s response was violent. He shouted at the old Board member and threatened to quit if he was not allowed to work as per his own will.
It was at that juncture that the MD stepped in and showed Shekhar his section’s bad achievement record. That made Shekhar nervous. After that meeting, he started becoming violently angry with his “assistants” and started punishing them for almost no reasons.
Rest was inevitable. Shekhar was shown the door soon, while Deepankar flourished in the company. Today, he is a Divisional Manager and is being watched as a possible candidate for CEO’s post.
Even though many managers try to be strict and describe themselves as perfectionists, they actually do nothing more than spoiling the atmosphere. But the managers who allow a constructive freedom to their colleagues are often successful in extracting great results.
This is, actually, a major management issue all over.
On the practical side, the executives who grant no freedom are found to trouble themselves more on a personal plain as their performance does not produce good results. Those who allow creative freedom (which may bring certain in-discipline too in the organisation under their charge) are seen often to be enjoying life in general, thanks to their basic liberal beliefs.