Can a Leader be on AutoPilot Mode?

Imagine that you’re on a Delhi – Hyderabad flight, and the pilot nods off for a while allowing the autopilot to completely takeover. However so, a slight shift in route by just a couple of degrees of a two hour flight path will lead to the aircraft landing way out to Bangalore, instead of Hyderabad! This goes on to show, that even the slightest margin of error in calculations can result in a significantly altered outcome, one that is more likely to lead to negative consequences.

Its a visual I often use to explain why there is sometimes a huge gap between the goals set out by organizations and how these are erroneously executed by the front ranks primarily due to the miscommunication by a succession of managers both vertically and horizontally. A bit like that funny childhood game we all loved playing, Chinese Whispers.

Miscommunications aside, leaders sometimes miss the woods for the trees because of their inability to operate from the field. An over reliance on reams of data cannot compensate for an on-ground pulse of things. A disconnect between the generals and their troops leads to front line disaster because the top man in such situations, is rarely, if ever, ‘the first egg in the omelet.’

Having been at the helm of leading company turnaround, I have noticed how challenging it is to get the team aligned both vertically and horizontally. Ironically while most companies have good budgets for employee training, business development and communications, inward alignment and syncing of KRA’s gets a backseat.

Today, in the midst of grueling competition, a nebulous policy landscape and a volatile economy, the decisive factor between success and failure can simply be team cohesion.

“Veni – Vidi – Vichi” – “I came; I saw; I conquered”. Probably the 3 most important words ever spoken by a front rank general – none other than Caesar. The world’s most successful generals – whether Caesar, Alexander, Napoleon or Genghis Khan – none of them ever left things completely on autopilot. They led from the front. From start to finish. And thus, earned their place in history

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