Sunday, November 7, 2010

Travelling in India

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Traveling In India - Modes of transportation intercity / interstate

As I've covered in my previous blog, getting to India is mostly through air travel, and those staying in Malaysia can opt for the significantly cheap budget airlines Air Asia. The other option is JetAirways besides Malaysia Airlines.

So now once you are in India, how do you get from city to city and between states. India is a large country. Travel options vary from flying, driving, buses and trains.


Flying :
For my flights, I first used sykscanner.net, where you key in your from and to (destination) and, dates, one way or return and number of passengers. Skyscanner scans the available airlines and gives you a summary of options, including travel time, and transit if required and cost of tickets. This is really good as you get a good comparison of all airlines available, their timings and cost. A plus point is that it also 'smartly' figures out to link flights if there's no direct flight option.

I used skyscanner to identify my preferred airlines and then books through the airline website, though you should be able to book through skyscanner.

For my trips I found Indigo to offer the best rates, followed by Air India. Indigo, and Jet Airways are budget airlines, where as Kingfisher offer some other value proposition, i.e the Only 5 Star Domestic Airlines. But at times Air India is cheaper, and it does give you free meals on board!

Here's some experience sharing :
Indigo - Indigo is an interesting airline. Reason for choosing, they were the cheapest. First thing you notice on indigo airlines is that all the stewardess (yes I have not noticed a steward yet) is that they all have the same .......


Yes the same hairstyle!

Source : http://www.gadling.com/2010/09/24/galley-gossip-indigo-flight-attendants-are-forced-to-cut-their/

Indigo being a budget airline do not serve free meals on board but do have them on sale. Our take-off was delayed, and we had to sit in the plane for a while, and requested for a blanket as it was cold, the stewardess politely informed us "Sorry as we are a budget airlines, we do not carry / provide blankets". If it was Air Asia, they'd be more 'business'sy and probably offer you a blanket for sale. :) Anyway the plus point of Indigo was, the stewardess offered to increase the temperature / reduce the air conditioning, and even came back after a few minutes to check if it's ok. This really shows personal friendly touch.

Another positive experience was I called the call centre due to some requests, and they picked up after a few rings, I would say unlike AirAsia that is notoriously known to be slow in picking up calls and even wants to charge if you want to call the 'premium fast response' line. Anyway, the call person on Indigo resolved my issue immediately and I was really happy with the response. Not really putting AirAsia down, undeniably, AirAsia is the BEST budget airline with great rates and better coverage, but they do loose out on the service and people factor.


Train
The train service in India has a vast coverage, is huge and equipped with fast trains (fast not bullet trains yet). You get check the schedule at their website http://www.irctc.co.in/ and I think it includes all the trains. The good thing is that you can pre-purchase your tickets for the Air Conditioned (AC) coaches, which have reserved sits. You will need to register at irctc first before you can view their schedules.

Things to note.
i. If there is no direct train from your place to your destination you will need to figure out how to make the connection between trains, the website only provides you timings, routes and stops plus online purchases. I did not try to purchase through their website, however heard that international credit cards are not accepted, so please double confirm. There are some other sites that offer the same online purchase facility so you might want to try them. One site to check out is makemytrip.

ii. I realised that you cannot make booking on Sunday after 2pm. So if you are planning a trip on Monday morning, better pre-buy and not wait last minute, otherwise you will have to purchase the normal (no reserved) sits and probably stand. Sometimes you can buy seats from the conductor before the train departs subject to availability but you will need to go through a crowd that wants to do the same thing.


Buses
With the new highways coming up, travel by bus is also becoming an option, however most bus, even the sleepers are natural air. I just booked tickets at the counter, however redbus.in seems to be helpful having timings searchable from and to destionation and purchases.

All right then, all the best getting around in India.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Visiting India

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India - Useful information before planning / going to India.

Traveling overseas sometimes seems cheaper then inter-city travel at times thanks to low cost carriers. Though I am not a BIG fan of AirAsia, a big kudos to then for really living their moto, Now Everyone Can Fly.

Our one way ticket to Chennai from Penang with added baggage cost around RM400. Really good deal, and it wasn't purchased during any of those super cheap promos I believe.
We pre-paid additional $$ in foresight of access baggage as the itinerary included visiting relatives. Interestingly the flight was 65% empty.

Getting to India.
First of all, here's a simple checklist:

For Malaysian citizens you will NEED a VISA (correct as of time of blog entry).
Many people are obviously aware that visa application can be done in the Indian Embassy in KL. Now here's the GOOD news.
For those in the northern region, there is an Indian Visa Agent in Penang.
Yes, thanks to my dad for the info. Their office is in same row as my dads. It is located on Chulia Street, a few shops down Kapitan Restaurant and Sykt Hussain Surani.

The Indian Visa Centre in Penang details:
GrandLotus India Visa Centre Penang
No. 105, Chulia Street, 10200 Penang
Tel : 04-2505000, 250 5001
Fax : 04-2505002

Visa application for tourism in my case took around 1 week, and the Visa is valid for around 6 months with double entry and a required gap of x (two months if I recall) before the 2nd entry.
It costs below RM200 for the total application. In the visa form it says apply for visa BEFORE purchasing ticket.

Well some of you start to think, hey, isn't India a Commenwealth Country, do I still need a visa, answer is yes.

Language
India is a large country, with the size of its states really large relative to States in Peninsula Malaysia. Most of the states have their own languages, however as a rule of thumb, most souther states like Tamil Nadu (Chennai), Tamil is most widely spoken, where as in states like Maharashtra - Mumbai (though Marati is it's state language) and states further north, Hindi is most commonly spoken. You should be able to survive with English, however for bargaining or getting around easier, some understanding of the local language will definitely help. Hindi Classes are available in Penang both island and Mainland, check out Learn Hindi in Penang

Currency
I recall last time there used to be a ruling on the maximum amount of Indian Rupees (INR or Rs) you can bring into India, however am not sure if that ruling is still valid. Anyway, for whatever amount allowed, I would suggest to convert your Ringgit Malaysia to some Rupees from here. In Penang itself there are many money changers, in the same area as the India Visa Agent, i.e Little India area in Georgetown. If you are in Bayan Baru, there is an Money Changer in Sunshie Square as well. For that case, I think even Queensbay Mall has one now. Surprisingly (or at least to my surprise) most banks do not provide forex change services except their Foreign Exchange Forex branches at the Airport, anyhow usually the rates are better at the Money Changer.
Be careful to look at the changed notes, I sometimes even jot down the serial number of each currency in worry of getting fake notes.

Withdrawing Money in India
Before going, I called a couple of banks I have account in, here's the summary

1. Maybank - You'll notice your ATM card has got the Visa Plus / Intralink Icon, so per Maybank call centre, any banks in India (or elsewhere) that show this symbols will enable cash withdrawal. I think the charges is RM12 per withdrawal.
NOTE - you will have to inform Maybank of your travel plans to enable international withdrawal - either permanent or provide time frame.
2. Bank Islam - Currently only tie up with Banks in Indonesia.
3. HSBC - I have a credit card with them not savings, Visa.

My experience
1. Maybank - I couldn't get my card to work at the few different bank branches I tried. Possibilities :
i. Just doesn't work.
ii. It could be the ATM machines in India still use the magnetic strip, and maybe my Maybank Kawanku card's strip is damaged. Remember in Malaysia we are 'advanced' (to avoid forgery) so we have implemented the Chip in the Cards.

2. Then it occurred to me, I already requested an ATM pin for my HSBC C/C Visa so let's try that. Any yes it WORKS!. I'm not sure how much the charges and the interest rates are going to be, lets see.

Credit Cards
Remember to inform your c/c company about your planned travel overseas, to avoid your card being blocked in fear of theft and mis-use.
Ok, again, Malaysia being advanced, you will notice your Credit Cards come with a Chip / IC on the front (the one that's gold plated, looks like your mobile phone SIM card).
During my few years travel to US as well, they had yet to implement the Chip Cards.
So in India, when I tried using my card it got rejected. Luckily I managed to read the text display on the Card Reader, " Use Chip Instead".
As it seems in India the magnetic strip (i.e where they 'swipe' you card across the reader) is still in use, you will have to explain to them to 'slot' in the card in the below slot in the same machine.
Alhamdulillah for that, that the Credit Card Reader Machine has BOTH the magnetic and CHIP reader.

Calling / Telephone / Mobile Hand Phone Sim Cards
Usually when traveling overseas for more then a few days, I get a local sim as receiving calls will be cheaper, and making callls cheaper. However arriving in Chennai, we came to realize that getting a new prepaid starter kit is now rather difficult due to security concerns.

Best option is to go to one of the branches itself as for my experience the re-seller was not very 'informative'. From my understanding, if your are born / working in Tamil Nadu (Chennai's State) you will need to provide proof of this and then get a SIM. If not rather difficult. For tourists / foreigners, besides providing a couple of Passport sized photograph, and your passport as proof you will need to provide a local contact (referee) person's full name and contact mobile number. So if going on a business trip, make sure to get details of your host. Otherwise check if the hotel manager is willing to be the local contact person.

Cost Of Things
Currently for RM1 you will get around Rs 14. However for RM1 in India you will get close to 1 -2 samosas not 14!. If fyou are using a smart phone you should be able to find a Forex Apps, I'm using FX Currency on my Milestone Android phone.
So actually cost of things are nearly the same after you convert, probably lunch at an Air Conditioned restaurance would cost your RM30, then here it would be around Rs 450.

Transportation
By the way, get familiarized with the term, A/C. A/C seldom refers to the Current vs Direct Current but is short for Air Conditioning. Most taxis and obviously all Auto Rickshaws (3 wheeler motorized vehicles) are Natural Air (non-AC).

Transport by Auto Rickshaws is relatively cheap except if you get fleeced. A 5 KM ride would cost your around Rs60 which comes to RM4.50 or something. So far in Chennai, the rides have all been fixed rates, no usage of meters. Reminds me of Malaysia...

The taxis are also actually not super expensive, especially since many ply the roads with Compressed Natural Gas. Now explain this to me, Malaysia produced CNG right? Why are we so slow to adopt it then at least in our public transport. My friend was saying CNG is actually expensive and possibly subsidized in India. ??

City taxis mostly use Meter. However so far in Chennai most transport is by Auto Rickshaws or 'pre-paid cars with drivers'. I.e if I need to go to the Airport with luggage, I don't stop a taxi but get the hotel to inform the transport provider to come over and wait. Do this earlier. One more thing that might come in useful :

Do Auto Rickshaws / 3 wheelers go to the Airport in Chennai - The answer is yes and no. They will take you to the airport, however they are not all allowed to drive to the main drop-off / pick-up zone, so what they would do is drop you at the shuttle drop-off zone, and from there you will have to take a shuttle to the main arrival / departure entrance. The shuttle ride is around 3 minutes only but I am not aware of the frequency of it. So personally if you are traveling light and have time to spare, then take the auto. If not, i.e if you have a lot of luggage, traveling in a group, or short of time, maybe consider the A/C or non A/C pre-paid / pre called meter taxis.
However probably the auto rickshaws would be faster in weaving through traffic. Your decision.


Take a close look at the above picture, notice something interesting? A number of the cars have side-mirrors but are folded in. Yes, traffic is that TIGHT people are probably worried that their side mirrors will get knocked off. To be fair, my MyVi has also lost its side mirror before hahah.
Distance between spots in Chennai appear further then they seem due to the heavy traffic and road conditions.

I remember Chennai being hot and humid. But this time round (Oct 2010) wheather seems pretty nice and relatively dry. Possibly the monsoon is delayed.
One tip on taking auto rickshaws or Taxis, ask them if they know the place, because sometimes they agree to take you to a destination but get lost (intentionally or not, not sure) and might ask more. Usually you can argue your way out but better to confirm, if not ask them to ask. Most drivers proactively ask people for directions if they are not familar with that area.

Chennai Aiport
Chennai airport is currently going thru upgrading. Below is the queue for the immigration clearance in Chennai Airport. By the way Chennai was formerly known as Madras, so the Airport code is still MAA.
Once you arrive, look for the pre-paid taxi counters, there are a few. The one we used was Fastrack Car Rental. Yes I got confused, initially I thought Fast Track Car Rental would be for Renting Self Drive Cars. Not necessary, they've got a fleet of drivers that take you to your destination. Somehow when I landed on through the Domestic Gates, the pre-paid booths were visible before exiting the arrival hall, however for International Flights I did not see the booths. Anyhow if you walk slightly ahead after exiting the arrival hall you should see a 2nd set of pre-paid taxi booths, as below.


I would strongly suggest take the pre-paid taxis, are you will have luggage and the rates are fixed. Indicate to the counter if you have extra luggage, then they'll try to arrange a larger vehicle possibly.

And as the world has it (same thing is Malaysia) getting from Airport to my hotel was cheaper then from hotel to Airport. Go figure.
Our ride on the Fast Track Taxi was pleasent, the drivers name Arul if I recall. Friendly, and recommended some good places for Khana / Sapde / Makan / Eating.

Shopping in Chennai.
So far did some shopping in Pondy Bazar in T.Nagar. There's a lot of shops on that row and also road side stalls selling their wares.
Nilu managed to negotiate from Rs150 to Rs 100 and better so that would probably be the negotiation range.
Look out for defects though.
Pondy Bazar mostly has cloths, ladies shoes, shorts. The shops include stainless steel and utensil stores, also selling Soda Maker.
Local tops, shirts, jeans etc are rather cheap, this could be attributed to possibly India producing its own cotton.

Books - it seems books are relatively a lot cheaper. Interestingly, there is even a 'road side' version (not sure legal or pirated, according to the seller it is legal, cheaper version) where you can get decent books from RM20 and below. Even at the bookstores, the books are cheaper mostly then in Malaysia. You can read more buying books and the experience plus a feel of how much books cost at Books at Chennai

On a Lighter Note
Every country has got its own set of culture, or way of doing things. Here's a few pointers I've noticed so far
1. Movie cinemas are more commonly known as Theatres (similar to some other Asian countries)
2. Junctions or cross roads - locals might use the term cut. i.e take right on 2nd cut would probably mean take right at the 2nd junction. Even in US some of us will find it peculiar, where people say "hang a right" and not take a right.
3. When agreeing or saying yes, locals mostly shake their head in a particular pattern, instead of nodding which might be more common for us. So be sure you understand clearly are they saying yes or no! :)
4. Restaurant vs Hotel. When you google hotels in India or see a sign board like Ananda Hotel, remember it is not neccessary an accomodation. In India, hotel also refers to restaurants. So double confirm, and probably look out for other words used together like accomodation / lodge etc.

Accommodation in Chennai
Cost of accommodation in Chennai is average. A decent hotel would cost you around RM100, and you should get better value nowadays (as of Feb 2011) with the strengthening Ringgit. We stayed in two different hotels:

1. Malles Manotaa in Periyar Road, T.Nagar. We also walked around after checking in, and definitely Malles Manotaa to us would be the best value for money. They have breakfast, rooms are fresh, and dine-in menu items are a good variety and reasonable.

2. A good option to find hotels in Chennai is to read the reviews. However there are probably some good ones that are not online as they might be new and only accept local credit cards. You can start your search here : Find Hotels, Rates and Reviews in Chennai

Eating in Chennai
InsyaAllah this will be another entry. :) Await the likes of Murugan Idli, Dhanda Jigar and differentiating a meals restaurant and non-meals.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bukit Merah, Lost World of Tambun or Sunway Lagoon

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There are a number of Water Theme Parks in Malaysia, among others,
So which is the best water park to go to? I guess this blog can be quite controversial, as people have their own preference, and theme parks change their attractions from time to time.

My review is based on below parks and time, taking into consideration their water parks ONLY:
  • # Sunway Lagoon visited many years ago and last on 2009.
  • # A'Famosa Melaka - visited around 2002
  • # Lost world of Tambun, Perak - visiting mid 2010
  • # Bukit Merah Lake Town Resort Perak - visited 2009
Let's start with the simple Lost World of Tambun - one word - CRAP. Though they seem to boast a huge park, and a lot of marketing promotions, the rides are actually rather few. My feeling - "that's it"?
They offer both dry and wet park, however both rather dissapoint. Suggest to go hear ONLY if you haven't been to the others, otherwise you'd probably be dissappointed.

A Famosa Resort Melaka has the 'scariest, most challenging ride'. I went the with my colleague mate. And I still remember it clearly. We climb and climb and finally reached the top of the ride, and my was it a very high ride. Quoting the website it's a SEVEN story high ride. When we got there, we were in awe, and well, were going "you GOTTA be kidding!". Yes, it is REALLY high, and the way it is designed leaves much to the imagination. Finally when we RODE the water slide, it was a super fast descend, and it was literally 'burning' the trail.
So for an awesome water ride with a big plus on FEAR factor - A Famosa Resort is the choice.
Yes definitely they have other rides as well, but for this ride to still be fresh in my mind after many years, it must have left an impact to my memory.

Accommodation wise, you could probably stay at A'Famosa or Malacca.

Next Sunway Lagoon, I'm not sure is it just age or it really changed. I remember going to Sunway Lagoon water park when I was a teenager, and the water rides were fun and aplenty.
However during our visit last year, it was like, again IS THAT IT? I actually asked one of the lifeguards and he said YUP. I think they tried to diversify by making more themed parks, however having to sacrifice some water rides. Anyone any comments? Anyway as mentioned, this is the best 'wholesome' park in my point of view.

For those from outstation, you can opt to stay in Selangor or KL, however Sunway Lagoon is located in Petaling Jaya (PJ) specifically, so it would be best to get a room in PJ. Go for Sunway Lagoon Resort if its in your budget, or check out and compare hotels near Sunway Lagoon.

Definitely different people prefer different rides, I'm done with roller coasters and prefer water rides and 3D / 4D rides. Can't wait to visit universal studios in Singapore. The one in Orlando which had 3D Spiderman was AWESOME. No it isn't one of those low cost ones where u just sit in a cinema, but this one really takes you on a ride!

And finally Bukit Merah Lake Town Resort. I actually found this water theme park fun. Eventhough we went during the school holidays it wasn't over crowded. They've got the normal water slides as below.



Here's a side view of the slides, and the sky-chair that takes you across from different parks. A good experience especially if you decide to skip the water theme park.


There are 2 awesome water rides there the Giant Bubble a first in South East Asia, as you can see below.


The wet-bubble is basically a semi-sphere (a half dome bubble), which is kept wet and you climb up, push people down and just have loads of fun. It is hard to describe, but the fun is mostly in the challenge of climbing up, yanking the rope so people trying to climb up fall and jumping on the bubble and pushing other people down. Not sure but the life-guard didn't like it when we jumped too much on the top of the bubble.



The bubble is limited to 6 pax per turn. So there's naturally a slight queue.

And then the Boomerang Slide. This is also fun and gives you a 'roller coster' feel without the dizziness.



Per entry just for the water park is RM25 per adult. Rather reasonable. My only complain would be the wave pool didn't have any WAVES! The life-guard said it's broken. To bad.



Getting there - That the PLUS North South Highway and exit Bukit Merah. The Resort is just five minutes from the drive and sign-boards are a plenty.

For accomodations in Bukit Merah, you can either call Bukit Merah Laketown Resort or book online and check prices for Bukit Merah Laketown Resort

Besides staying overnight, a day trip is also sufficient. However if you are coming from far, another option I would recommend to stay at Taiping as there are a number of things to do there and Bukit Merah would be not to far a drive. Things to check out at Taiping are the Zoo / Night Safari, Lake Gardens (Taman Tasik Taiping) and definitely Maxwell Hill. Click here for hotel in Taiping.

Enjoy!



WHAT MAKES SOMEONE A BETTER BUSINESS LEADER

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The paper is from the subject Leadership and Management (L&M). I found the topic rather interesting, with the local lecturer beingvery informed and having a vast array of experience. And as usual, once my results are out, I publish my report at my blog. Hopefully readers find it an insightful reading material, and can serve as an example of a write up. Remember no plagiarism, (this content is easily google'able).

So here's my forth post, after the third post some time back titled PROGRESSING POSITIONS TO ISSUES AND INTERESTS COMBINED WITH FRAMING TACTICS.

What Makes Someone a Better Business Leader

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Executive Summary. 4

1. Definition. 5

2. Are Good Leaders Born?. 6

2.1. Good Leaders are not one of a kind. 7

3. Leadership Practices. 8

4. Self Awareness and Conquering Adversity to Emerge Stronger 10

5. Learnings from ‘Not Good’ Business Leaders. 11

6. Summary. 14

7. Refernce. 15


Executive Summary

Many definitions exist for a leader. What is common among these many definitions is leadership should achieve an objective using certain means and approaches. Leadership is present in businesses, governments and other entities. This paper will focus on the business aspect only. A business enterprise function is to perform its economic activities effectively. Therefore a better business leader is someone who achieves an objective using certain means to bring economic benefits at a level higher and more efficient than average.

Not all business leaders are born, and definitely not all are alike. Better business leaders can be made, with a lot of hard work and time. Though there exist many definitions and characteristics about better business leaders, not all leaders are the same and cannot be ‘cookie-cut’. The one major consensus is that better leaders are self-aware. Possessing self awareness and conquering adversity to emerge stronger is a trait seen among many successful leaders. One of the most reliable indicators and predictors of true leadership is an individual’s ability to find meaning in negative events and to learn from even the most trying circumstances.

Leaders are able to lead not dictate people on a journey of learning that will reveal new insights about creating value. Kouzes & Posner (2007) define five practices to achieve this: by modeling the way, subsequently inspiring a shared vision. Then challenging the process and enabling others to act. Finally encouraging the heart by making people feel like heroes.

Based on TIME’s Top 10 Crooked CEOs among others Enron: greed and unethical is the cause. Therefore while exploring and growing ones’ capabilities, the fundamentals must remain intact: effectively communicating, taking responsibility and adhering to moral values.

It can be summarized that there is no one definition of a better business leader, but it is a title for individuals who delivery long term results, while growing oneself and team members, doing it ethically.

1. Definition

There are good leaders, average leaders, and then there are better leaders. Leaders exist in many situations, in family nucleus, in non-profit organizations, in religious sects and also in business. This paper will focus on the business aspect of a better leader. There are many definitions for leadership, with definitions varying depending on situations. For example Drucker (1955) defines leadership as the lifting of a person’s vision to a higher sight, raising performance to a higher standard, and building a person’s personality beyond its normal limitations meanwhile Chemers defines leadership as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task” (cited in Riggio, Murphy & Pirozzolo 2002, p. 140). What is common among these many definitions is leadership should achieve an objective using certain means and approaches.

O'Sullivan & Sheffrin (2007) defines business as a legally recognized organization designed to provide goods and/or services to consumers (for a profit). Whereas according to Drucker (1955), a business enterprise is an organ of society which function is to perform its economic activities effectively. Blagg & Young (2001) quotes John Kotter, HBS professor that leadership in business is going through significant socioeconomic revolution, comparing it the only other two socioeconomic revolutions of this magnitude: the move from hunting and gathering to agriculture and from agriculture to industry.

With leadership and business defined, what defines a better business leader? Better is basically defined comparatively to good, being of a higher standard, or more effective than other things or people (Cambridge 2008). George et al.(2007) comment that achieving superior results over a sustained period of time is the ultimate mark of a true leader.

Therefore a better business leader is an individual that can successfully achieve objectives through people and avenues, enabling an entity to perform economic activities more effectively and sustained over a period of time.

2. Are Good Leaders Born?

Kouzes & Posner (2007) stresses that leadership is not the private reserve of a few charismatic people, it is a process ordinary people use when they are bringing forth the best from themselves and others. Goleman (2004) argues that a strong leader will not be complete without emotional intelligence. He adds that fortunately, emotional intelligence can be learned, though not easy, it takes time and most of all, commitment (Goleman 2004). Blagg & Young (2001) quote HBS professor David Thomas that leaders are 90 per cent made, mostly from abilities which are brought to the fore by their experience in life.

Goleman & Boyatzis (2008) comment that having a talent of good instincts is widely recognized as an advantage for a leader in any context, whether in reading the mood of one’s organization, or in conducting a delicate negotiation with the competition. Goleman & Boyatzis (2008) deduce that it is not easy to increase one’s social intelligence, and the only way to develop social circuitry effectively is to undertake hard work.

Therefore it can be concluded that though there are individuals who would be more apt and boast strong emotional intelligence and leadership traits, scholars mostly concur that by being self-aware on ones experience and working hard, one can achieve the road towards becoming a better business leader.

2.1. Good Leaders are not one of a kind

So if good leaders can made and groomed, would they all be one of a kind, i.e. possess a cookie-cutter leadership style?

Both ex-CEO of Lloyds Bank (Pitman 2003) and George et al. (2007) agree that there is no definitive style, or traits of great leaders and their secrets to their success. George et al. (2007) insist that if there existed a cookie-cutter leadership style, individuals would be forever trying to imitate it, making themselves into personae (a fa├žade), not people, and others would see through them immediately.

HBS professor Joe Badaracco questions that if a person acts more like a manager yet makes an organization significantly does better without all the noise, are they mere managers (Blagg & Young 2001)? Clearly there are leaders who are extrovert like Richard Branson, but there are many successful introvert leaders as well, like Bill Gates (Kahnweiler 2009).

The following will present and discuss certain practices, traits and skills for being a better business leader, while maintaining that better business leaders are able to build on themselves, through feedback and self-reflection, successfully adjusting to the environment and required styles.


3. Leadership Practices

Kouzes & Posner (2007) define five practices of exemplary leadership. Firstly is to model the way, leaders create standards of excellence and then set an example for others to follow. One way of looking at modeling the way is to apply the research interviews by Bennis & Thomas (2002) that great leaders possess four essential skills, namely the ability to engage others in shared meaning, a distinctive and compelling voice, a sense of integrity and finally the most critical of the four, ‘adaptive capacity’- the ability to transcend stresses, and to emerge stronger than before. Practicing this four essential skills will enable a leader to clearly model the way for employees of an organization.

Secondly inspire a shared vision: envisioning exciting and ennobling possibilities, subsequently enlisting others in this common vision. HBS professor Nitin Nohria agrees, stating that effective leaders are masters of the classical elements of rhetoric, being able to distill their message however complex it may be to something that is accessible to those who many not share their knowledge or background, an example of this being GE’s Jack Welch, who is astonishingly articulate and able to convey complicated concepts in just a few phrases (Blagg & Young 2001).

Thirdly is to challenge the process, leading to a change in the status quo, challenges ranging from new products, process flows, and trying out something knew with the informed risks of failure., Forth is enable others to act, grand visions do not become realities through the actions of a single person, but requires a team effort with solid trust and strong relationships embedded.

The last step, is encouraging the heart: leaders recognize and reward accomplishment of individuals, keeping hope and determination alive consequently making people feel like heroes (Kouzes & Posner 2007). This is in agreement with Pitman (2003) who emphasizes that leaders are able to lead not dictate people on a journey of learning that will reveal new insights about creating value.

Two of the practices defined by Kouzes & Posner, namely enable others to act and encourage the heart, is resonated by Buckingham (2005) who stresses that a great leader ‘releases’ instead of transforms, constantly tweaks the environment so that the unique contribution, the unique needs, and the unique style of each employee can be given free rein. He further stresses that the success of a manager will depend almost entirely on his or hers ability to do this (Buckingham 2005). In the practical perspective many real business leaders do agree to a certain extent about the importance of developing people and that different people have different capabilities. For example Jack Welch known as a tough leader believes that there some who fit and excel in their jobs and then there are some that don’t fit and have moved on to be successful, finding their niche (Welch & Welch 2005).

Buckingham’s (2005) concept can be related to a combination of Goleman’s (2000) coaching and affiliative leadership styles, which Goleman states is focused more towards personal development than on immediate work-related tasks. He explains that the affiliative style focuses on praises and positive aspects only, while the coaching style focuses more on personal development which is time consuming rather than on immediate work related tasks (Goleman 2000). For these reasons, these styles are used least often as many leaders don’t have time in the high pressure economy for the slow and tedious work of coaching and affiliating, but instead need immediate results (Goleman 2000). Contrast in thoughts can be observed where Jack Welch the fast result oriented high achiever believes in letting go people who do not perform in an environment so that they can grow in other suitable environment (Welch & Welch 2005), while Buckingham stresses that great managers don’t try to change a person but make best of their talents (Buckingham 2005).

4. Self Awareness and Conquering Adversity to Emerge Stronger

Bennis & Thomas (2002) conclude in their research that one of the most reliable indicators and predictors of true leadership is an individual’s ability to find meaning in negative events and to learn from even the most trying circumstances. Put another way, the skills required to conquer adversity and emerge stronger and more committed than ever are the same ones that make for extraordinary leaders (Bennis & Thomas 2002).

Steve Jobs who was recently recognized as the fourth most influential managing Gurus (Kneale 2009) exemplifies this through his life story. In his Commencement Address to Stanford he shared that he had faced many challenges in life: having being adopted, being poor, dropping out of college and finally at age 30 he was fired by his own company Apple (Jobs 2005). However years later he has come back, bringing greater success to companies under him namely Apple and Pixar (Jobs 2005). He reflects that it turned out getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to him (Jobs 2005). It is this characteristics of emerging successfully through challenges that Bennis & Thomas (2002) stress are the crucibles or mold that makes one an extraordinary leader.

George et al (2007) findings that when 75 members of Stanford Graduate School of Business Advisory Council were asked to recommend the most important capability for leaders to develop, they answered nearly unanimously: self awareness. George et al (2007) therefore recommend that leaders should learn from their own life story, know oneself authentically, practice their values and principles, balancing extrinsic and intrinsic motivations, and finally build a support team and stay grounded. This is further supported by Blagg & Young (2001) quoting a Harvard Business School (HBS) professor Nitin Nohria, “Every one of us has experiences, but we aren’t all open to learning from those experiences in the same way”, stressing that one characteristic most leaders have in common is the capacity to learn and change throughout their lives.

5. Learnings from ‘Not Good’ Business Leaders

Most discussions about a better business leader take examples of successful and highly regarded leaders. It is also informative to analyze on the other side of the horizon: business leaders who have failed. Having an understanding of this perspective will provide a ‘to-avoid’ guideline besides the generally discussed ‘to-do’ guideline towards achieving greatness in leadership. Undoubtedly many leaders have succeeded, many have failed as well.

There are average leaders, then there are better leaders, and finally there are ‘crooked’ leaders. Leaders like Madoff and CEOs of Enron, had been regarded as good leaders for years, so what led to these leaders now being branded among the Top 10 Crooked CEOs (TIME 2009)? TIME (2009) claims that the reason for this is greed and being unethical.

Lewis (1985) identifies two points that are of importance to the theoretical foundations of ethical decisions: (1) one’s business ethics cannot be separated from his or her personal ethics and (2) business will never be any more ethical than the people who are in business. Meanwhile Allio (2007) explains that causes of this current ethical epidemic include the leaders’ personality disorders, akrasia (weakness of will), flawed values, and avoidance of reality.

Seeger & Ulmer (2003) elaborate that the demise of Enron is grounded on the failure of principle: a communication based responsibility of leaders, namely: (a) communicating appropriate values to create a moral climate, (b) maintaining adequate communication to be informed of organizational operations and (c) maintaining openness to signs of problems. Cohan (2002) concurs that the Enron scandal highlights ‘a recurring communication dysfunction within the organizational structure of the corporation itself’.

Allio (2007) summarizes that the emergence of bad leadership can be averted if leaders pay attention to the welfare of stakeholders, listen to alternative points of view, rely on their team for support, foster a culture of integrity and cultivate personal awareness. This is in fact among the recommendations made by George et al (2007) that leaders should practice their values and build a support team to stay grounded.

Seeger & Ulmer (2003) note that the examination of Enron re-affirms the role for leadership and suggests that leaders are obligated both to model and to communicate appropriate ethics and standards in congruence with their behavior. They further add that leaders are responsible about the operations of their organizations even in an era of decentralization and self–managing teams, keeping themselves informed and engaged in organizational operations. And finally, leaders have to be open to bad news, dissent, warnings and problem signs (Seeger & Ulmer 2003).

Seeger & Ulmer (2003) point out, that responsibility, perhaps because it is so fundamental to organization relationships and processes, is often overlooked, with the focus more on strategies and processes. Therefore the glamorous keywords: traits, practices and emotional intelligence skills are undoubtedly important to become a better business leader, but the basic fundamentals of ethics, communication and responsibility must not be overlooked. Indeed, Hamm (2006) believes that the real job of leaders is to inspire the organization to take responsibility for creating a better future, where the most critical tool for making this happen is effectively communicating.

Enron practiced a punitive ‘rank and yank’ appraisal system, where low rated employees tended to leave, and middle rated employees faced strong possibility of being ‘yanked’ within the next year, creating a cut-throat culture leading to deception and fraud practices to show profits (Tourish & Vatcha 2005). Drucker (1994) points out that what is required of good leaders is not just genius-ness or cleverness, but hard work and conscientious. They do not dismiss failure as a result of incompetence, but treat it as a symptom of “systems failure, and do not take credit for unexpected success but treat it as a challenge to their assumptions (Drucker, PF 1994). By dismissing failure as incompetence, Enron had created an environment leading to corrupt accounting practices and exaggerated results, which was bound to fail eventually.


6. Summary

I tend to agree with George et al. (2007), that no one can be authentic by trying to imitate someone else. They further emphasize that you can learn from others’ experience but there is no way to be successful when you are trying to be like them. (George et al. 2007). David Thomas, HBS professor puts it simply that increasingly the people who are most effective are those who essentially are both managers and leaders (Blagg & Young 2001).

Mastrangelo, Eddy & Lorenzet (2004) conclude from an extensive literature study, leaders must be concerned with both task and people related issues at workplace, i.e. professional leadership behaviors and personal leadership behaviors. They further elaborate that professional leadership works through the personal leadership to impact willing cooperation.

While exploring and growing ones’ capabilities, the fundamentals of leadership must remain intact: effectively communicating, taking responsibility and adhering to moral values.

It can be summarized that there is no one definition of a better business leader, but it is a title for individuals who delivery long term results, growing one self and team members while doing it ethically.

7. Refernce

Allio, RJ 2007, 'Bad leaders: how they get that way and what to do about them', Strategy & Leadership, vol. 35, no. 3, pp. 12-7.

Bennis, WG & Thomas, RJ 2002, 'Crucibles of Leadership', Harvard Business Review, vol. September.

Blagg, D & Young, S 2001, 'What Makes a Good Leader', Harvard Business School Bulletin, vol. February.

Buckingham, M 2005, 'What Great Managers Do', Harvard Business Review, vol. March.

Cambridge 2008, Cambridge University Press.

Cohan, J 2002, 'I Didn't Know and I Was Only Doing My Job: Has Corporate Governance Careened Out of Control? A Case study of Enron's Information Myopia', Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 40, pp. 275-99.

Drucker, P 1955, The Practice of Management, Heinemann Professional Publishing Ltd, Oxford.

Drucker, PF 1994, 'The Theory of the Business', Harvard Business Review, vol. September-October, pp. 95-104.

George, B, Sims, P, McLean, AN & Mayer, D 2007, 'Discovering your Authentic Leadersip', Harvard Business Review, vol. Februay.

Goleman, D 2000, 'Leadership that gets results', Harvard Business Review, vol. March-April, p. 16.

---- 2004, 'What makes a leader', Harvard Business Review, vol. January.

Goleman, D & Boyatzis, R 2008, 'Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership', Harvard Business Review, vol. September, pp. 74-81.

Hamm, J 2006, 'The Five Messages Leaders Must Manage', Harvard Business Review, vol. May.

Jobs, S 2005, 'You've got to find what you love, Jobs says', Stanford University News, no. June 14 2005, viewed 31 January 2010, <http://news.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html>.

Kahnweiler, JB 2009, 'Why Introverts Can Make The Best Leaders', Forbes.

Kneale, K 2009, The Most Influential Management Gurus, Forbes, viewed 30 January 2010, <http://www.forbes.com/2009/10/13/influential-business-thinkers-leadership-thought-leaders-chart.html>.

Kouzes & Posner 2007, The leadership challenge, 4th edn, vol. 63, John Wiley and Sons.

Lewis, PV 1985, 'Defininig 'Business Ethics': Like Nailing Jello to Wall', Journal of Business Ethics, no. 4, pp. 377-83.

Mastrangelo, A, Eddy, ER & Lorenzet, SJ 2004, 'The importance of personal and professional leadership', The Leadership & Organization Development Journal, vol. 25, no. 5, pp. 435-51.

O'Sullivan, A & Sheffrin, SM 2007, Economics, principles in action, Pearson Prentice Hall.

Pitman, B 2003, 'Leading for Value', Harvard Business Review, vol. April.

Riggio, RE, Murphy, SE & Pirozzolo, FJ 2002, Multiple intelligences and leadership, Routledge.

Seeger, MW & Ulmer, RR 2003, 'Explaining Enron: Communication and Responsible Leadership', Management Communication Quarterly, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 58-84.

TIME 2009, Top 10 Crooked CEOs, TIME, viewed 31 January 2010, <http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1903155_1903156_1903160,00.html>.

Tourish, D & Vatcha, N 2005, 'Charismatic Leadership and Corporate Cultism at Enron: The Elimination of Dissent, the Promotion of Conformity and Organizational Collapse', Leadership, vol. 1, no. 4, pp. 455-80.

Welch, J & Welch, S 2005, Winning, HarperCollinsPublishers, London.



 

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