My name is Wais Achikzad, and I am and always will be a student of leadership.
After 20 plus years in the corporate world, working for some of the largest organizations in the world (JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs), I have been fortunate to gain some valuable insights into the dynamics of leadership and organizational behaviour.
The “Great Resignation “or “Quiet quitting” are testament to how the employee landscape has rapidly transformed given external conditions shaping the way we view our workplace.
Leadership has never been more critical to an organization’s ability to survive and thrive than in these turbulent times where the competition for talent is at a premium.
How do we become more effective leaders? How do we, as leaders, evolve to account for these new dynamics we are encountering daily? What tools do we need to equip ourselves with to navigate the unknown?
What strikes me as interesting is upon entering any Barnes and Nobles, the shelves are lined with leadership books written by 5-star generals to business leaders. Similarly, social media content overflows with one personality after another espousing their views on what leadership is and how best to lead.
Peering into the formal corporate leadership training programs, which I have been privy too, it’s clear that millions of dollars have been poured into copious learning materials designed to provide the tools to bring out the best in those who are sitting in management seats or who have those aspirations.
At the end of the day, we are talking about some very successful people and organizations with perspectives and prescriptive methods that we can benefit from in bettering ourselves when in leadership capacities.
The question is, how do we sift through all this content to determine what suits us, individually or organizationally?
The multitude of leadership philosophies and approaches is daunting. It can lead one to question their own approach given the overarching theme of “right way to do it.”
Throughout my career, inevitably as most of us do, I’ve had to navigate the minefields of organizational dysfunction and toxic cultures stemming from a dearth of leadership and which in certain instances, have had a profoundly negative effect on my career. But I am grateful for all the experiences that I have had. It’s allowed me to learn some valuable lessons on the significant impact that a manager and the organizational culture can have on employees and their career trajectory.
I have also been privileged over the years to have been afforded opportunities to lead multiple teams in some very competitive and challenging environments.
These circumstances I have encountered over the years have left an indelible mark that stays with me as a leader today when I examine my own approach to leadership.
I could refer to all the leadership content that is out there in the universe and at my disposal. I don’t discount or underestimate any of these options, which might enhance my abilities or enable me to gather more information to add to my arsenal in order to become a more impactful leader.
- Would this make me a better leader?
- Could I inspire my team to achieve more than they thought they every could?
- Could I help my team realize their potential individually and collectively as a team if I listened to that latest podcast on leadership or took courses from the executive leadership training program at my firm?
However, when I examine the approach that has guided me throughout my various journeys as a manager of people, it all boils down to the one question I ask myself constantly: “Am I the manager I wish I had?”
What is it that I look for in my managers?
As I reflect on this fundamental question, I am drawn most to the reality that I yearn for an authentic and sincere human connection with my manager.
- Would they allow me to be myself and to share my thoughts and ideas which, in turn, would help me to learn and grow while feeling a sense of belonging and empowerment?
- Would they make the effort to experience what I feel?
- Do I seem content with my current position and my responsibilities, or do I sense that I am not being utilized to my fullest capacity?
- Am I satisfied with my career progression in the organization and my place on the team?
- Are they giving me the tools to succeed and instilling the confidence in me to achieve more than I thought I could?
- Are they concerned about my well-being, in general and given all we face in today’s environment outside of work?
How could my manager possibly know all this unless a concerted effort is made to take a vested interest in me and develop a connection based on who I am as a person and my makeup.
Imagine if my manager was attentive in all these ways?
To address my original question: Am I the manager I wish I had? My response is that every day that I logged into my PC and said “good morning” to my team on our group chat or in person, I certainly aspire to be that manager.
Introspection guides me in helping to form those authentic human connections with my teammates driving my interactions with them both individually and collectively. This, in turn, allows them to unleash the best version of themselves. Once an individual contributor is aware of their own success, the team’s output improves along with their development and growth.
There is no script for this; there is no leadership manual or class that can take the place of human elements that lay the groundwork for how we lead. However, there are various leadership development programs that can absolutely provide us with the tools to work on ourselves, our self-awareness and the development of our emotional intelligence.
I can’t emphasize how critical these components of leadership are today more than ever before.
As we examine the state of our world and all the uncertainty that abounds, there is an even greater reliance on our leaders in every capacity.
These human elements are vital to improving how we wield our influence in positions of leadership and are the foundation upon which our ability to combat the myriad of issues facing us rests.