I wrote yesterday about the passing of C.K. Prahalad and how he had a profound impact on my own thinking. I discovered his work literally on the first day of my new adventure as an academic, and his work continues to influence how I try to practice management myself today.
In January-February 2010, he published a column in The Harvard Business Review entitled “The Responsible Manager.” (p. 36). In it he lists 11 things he told his students for the past 33 years about how to become a responsible manager. I want to share all of them with you here because they are just that excellent.
1. Understand the importance of nonconformity. Leadership is about change, hope, and the future. Leaders have to venture into uncharted territory, so they must be able to handle intellectual solitude and ambiguity
2. Display a commitment to learning and developing yourself. Leaders must invest in themselves. If you aren’t educated, you can’t help the uneducated; if you are sick, you can’t minister to the sick; if you are poor, you can’t help the poor.
3. Develop the ability to put personal performance in perspective. Over a long career, you will experience both success and failure. Humility in success and courage in failure are hallmarks of a good leader
4. Be ready to invest in developing other people. Be unstinting in helping your colleagues realize their full potential.
5. Learn to relate to those who are less fortunate. Good leaders are inclusive, even though that isn’t easy. Most societies have dealt with differences by avoiding or eliminating them; few assimilate those who aren’t like them.
6. Be concerned about due process. People seek fairness – not favors. They want to be heard. They often don’t even mind if decisions don’t go their way as long as the process is fair and transparent.
7. Realize the importance of loyalty to organization, profession, community, society, and above all, family. Most of our achievements would be impossible without our families’ support.
8. Assume responsibility for outcomes as well as for the process and people you work with. How you achieve results will shape the kind of person you become.
9. Remember that you are part of a privileged few. That’s your strength, but it’s also a cross you carry. Balance achievement with compassion and learning with understanding.
10. Expect to be judged by what you do and how well you do it – not by what you say you want to do. However, the bias toward action must be balanced by empathy and caring for other people.
11. Be conscious of the part you play. Be concerned about the problems of the poor and disabled, accept human weaknesses, laugh at yourself – and avoid the temptation to play God. Leadership is about self-awareness, recognizing your failings, and developing modesty, humility, and humanity.
Once again, those are the words of C.K. Prahalad (Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 2010, p. 36). I don’t know that I have ever seen a more complete and concise list of what it means to be a responsible leader. Thank you, C.K., for adding this to the legacy you left us.