The Expectations of a Leader

Months ago I was invited to have lunch with a man named R. D. Thulasiraj.  I was told he is an amazing person who played a role in successfully bringing high quality eye care to masses of poor people in India.  He is now trying to bring the same quality care to the multitudes in developing countries.  One plank in the strategy is a mentoring program for professionals in those countries.  Prior to his arrival, he sent a list of things that concerned him while pursuing his purpose in the developing world.  After reading his list of challenges, I reconstructed his underlying theory of leadership by turning the challenges into expectation statements and laying them out on the four quadrants of the competing values framework.  As you read the list, ask yourself what they tell you about the man.
Strategic Growth: Vision and Change

  • Instead of struggling to address operational challenges, leaders focus on institution building.
  • Leaders have a drive for growth or a fast track growth curve.
  • Leaders regularly articulate the organization’s mission or values.
  • Leaders step out of the realm of what is possible and push the organization to do what is necessary.  They take risks to create what is needed.
  • Leaders have a sense of urgency to make course correction that improves results.
  • When facing a challenge leaders try new ideas and they review and improvise.
  • While leaders focus on day-to-day operations, they also focus on developmental work, be it operational or strategic.

Achievement Focus: Accountability and Impact

  • Leaders do not tolerate poor outcomes or poor documentation: they establish high standards.
  • Leaders are disciplined in following up in the implementation of the new process.
  • Leaders do not externalize problems such as under performance; instead they propose or experiment with newer approaches.
  • Leaders do not micro manage or over delegate, they hold their staffs accountable.

Operational Discipline: Analysis and Quality

  • Leaders have a mindset for quality, constantly pushing for perfection.
  • Leaders do not react to superficial analysis but go for in-depth analysis of detail to understand the root cause of the problem.
  • Leader do not rely on intuition when they can generate evidence and analysis to make decisions to improve operations.

Relational Engagement: Support and Collaboration

  • When faced with challenges, leaders seek out help or support.
  • The staff is aligned and fully engaged.

As I completed the analysis, I concluded the man I was about to meet truly was a transformational leader.  He understood what it means to build an organization of excellence.
The lunch meeting finally arrived.  I was introduced to a man from India who appeared both gentle and wise.  In less than sixty seconds, I also concluded that this man of great accomplishment had little ego; instead, he was wedded to the common good.  He spoke to me as if he had always known me.  I felt immediate trust.  Yet as he spoke, I sensed a laser like focus on purpose and discipline.  The drive to excellence that permeated his list of challenges also permeated his comments.  He was interested in accomplishing his purpose and he was hungry for any idea that would allow him to do so.  When our lunch ended, I felt I had spent an hour in the presence of greatness, in the presence of a human being who had programed himself to make a difference in every conversation and every other moment of potential influence.

  • What do you learn about the man from reading the list of expectations?
  • Which of the expectations do you hold for your own people?
  • Why do people who have nurtured great transformations have such expectations?
  • How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?


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