Published: 16th December 2021
E-Canteen Fundas: Exploring the Why, How, What and Who of effective leadership
To get started on leadership — which includes leading your own life — ask yourself what the Why, How, What and Who are in your life and start working on them to achieve good results
‘I’ve been made the group captain at college and I have no clue what to do,’ said Rinku. ‘I need a crash course in leadership. Please help.’
‘You’re the boss,’ said Rahul. ‘So do whatever.’
‘Not like that,’ said Rinku. ‘I want to do a good job. And I need some pointers on where to start.’
‘It’s true,’ said Rakesh. ‘Though leadership is such a critical and important aspect, one that can make or break a team, it’s still a nebulous area. Most times we are thrust into leadership positions without any training, which can harm the team. So, let’s take a look at a basic version of leadership to get you started. I call it my leadership black box.’
‘What’s in it, bhaiyya?’ said Rahul.
‘Four basic things you need to have some clarity about to lead well,’ said Rakesh.
‘What are they?’ asked Rinku, ready with her pen and paper.
‘Why, How, What and Who,’ said Rakesh. ‘If you have some clarity on these four aspects, you’ll be in a good place as a leader.’
‘Can you explain some more, bhaiyya?’ asked Rinku.
‘Yes,’ said Rakesh. ‘As a leader, you must start with ‘Why’. Why are you leading? What’s your vision for your team? What’s the purpose? Your ‘Why’ will give your team the strength to power through with conviction and give it direction. For example, your ‘Why’ could be about winning the championship, showing excellence, displaying values, giving a message — whatever — something big and tangible to aim for your team. A larger purpose for its existence. To start with, I suggest you write a few lines about your vision for your team.’
‘Okay,’ said Rinku. ‘That’s a good start. I feel energised already. I was thinking of following the earlier leader’s vision which was to participate, but now I realise I can set my own ‘Why’. We’ll go for being number one.’
‘Next, look at the ‘How’,’ said Rakesh. ‘It has two parts. The first ‘How’ is about how you do things — the ‘values’ your team practices. The other ‘How’ is the process, how efficient your processes are. Values are what you value — honesty, fairness, diligence, playing hard and so on. The values your team practices bind it together. The second ‘How’ is about how efficiently work is done in your team. Look at how things are done in your team and improve any processes to do things more efficiently. Meetings, updates, progress, practices or whatever.’
‘That’s a good one,’ said Rinku. ‘I can change a few things both in terms of values and processes for sure. I’d like to focus on ‘teamwork’ as a value and bring in informal team meetings where we all share honestly as a process.’
‘Great,’ said Rakesh. ‘Next, look at the ‘What’. What concrete, specific, goals are you achieving in the short and medium-term that lead up to your big vision? Set process and performance goals and figure out how to achieve your ‘What’.’
‘Hmm,’ said Rinku. ‘I can see that my ‘What’ gives me a map with milestones to achieve in the short and medium-term. It helps me plan and see my progress clearly.’
‘What else, bhaiyya?’ asked Rahul. ‘You’ve covered everything.’
‘The most important thing is left — the ‘Who’,’ said Rakesh. ‘All that you planned cannot be achieved alone. You need people to do it. Every leader achieves what she does only because of those who have supported her. So, you need to understand how to deal with people and get them excited, inspired and motivated to do their best work. You need to know how to pick the right people and put them in the right place so you get the best from them. That way, your team will achieve its goals easily.’
‘Yes, bhaiyya,’ said Rinku. ‘You’ve got me thinking. I have to be precise here.’
‘Wow,’ said Rahul. ‘I can use these parameters for myself to check how I am doing as a leader.’
‘Yes,’ said Rinku. ‘And I have enough homework to do before I meet my team tomorrow. It looks like a lot.’
‘These are basic guidelines,’ said Rakesh. ‘Don’t get overwhelmed. Write down three points each under each of these — Why, How, What and Who — and address them for a start. Then discuss with your team and finalise so that everyone is involved.’
‘Yes, bhaiyya,’ said Rinku. ‘I see now that as a leader, it helps to know my Why, How, What and Who.’
Pro Tip: To get started on leadership — which includes leading your own life — ask yourself what the Why, How, What and Who are in your life and start working on them to achieve good results.