Leadership Lessons from 2018

Reported by: |Updated: December 18, 2018

The year 2018 is coming to an end. And it has zapped so many leaders, that I am completely shaken and forced to re-think my fundamentals.The latest is the nail-biting elections in the 5 states of India – and the results shocked many, including the winners and the losers. Moving to the banking arena, we saw several CEOs being forced to step down by the RBI. Ironically, the RBI governor too has stepped down.

Moving to the corporate arena, the fortunes reversed for king of good times Vijay Mallya, who is awaited in Indian jail. Auto czar Carlos Ghosn’s career took a sudden u-turn and he is already in jail. The high-flying Singh brothers of Religare/Fortis fame are not only down in the dumps, but now fighting one another. Face of Facebook Zuckerberg is facing trying times with allegations from around the world. The Flipkart founders are out of the company they founded.

#MeToo has shaken the unshakeable. It is common knowledge that no leadership position is permanent, but the sheer numbers in 2018 makes one wonder what the hell is happening!

What lessons does 2018 present? I figured out three. First is that the flat world, as championed by Thomas Friedman, has made it easier for people to rise to leadership. Witness the large number of start-ups, some of which have become unicorns and many racing towards that status. As entrepreneurship takes root and start-ups mushroom, the CEO population is exploding. For those who aspire to be a CEO/leader, it will be easier than ever before.

The second lesson is that remaining a leader has become much more difficult, as all the 2018 examples indicate. The position at the top has become hyper-precarious.

The third lesson is my analysis rather than an observation, which is that the skills required to REMAIN a leader are quite different from those required to BECOME a leader. Rising to the CEO position requires skills such as knowledge, hard work, intelligence, vision, competitive spirit and risk taking. Remaining a leader however calls for different set of skills, such as wisdom, morality, mission orientation, compassion, humility, collaboration spirit and risk management.

Adopting new skills while at the top of the pyramid is challenging no doubt, but miniscule in comparison with the risk of sliding from the hall of fame to the hall of shame.

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