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Redirecting your animal farm of leaders

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Most people don’t view paranoia as a plus. But Rashesh Shah sees its benefits.

As chairman and chief executive of Edelweiss, a financial services firm in India, Shah favors “productive paranoia.” He urges his managers not to settle for “good enough” so that they always strive to do more.

To instill healthy paranoia, Shah prods employees to embrace new challenges and pursue tough assignments involving unfamiliar terrain. At the same time, he accepts their failure as long as they give their best effort.

Managers sometimes fear being pushed too hard. They may feel vulnerable making mistakes or exhibiting incompetence with the CEO watching.

Yet Shah argues that struggling and persevering produces personal growth. He often tells employees, “Think and act one to two levels above your pay grade.” When they crave more responsibility, individuals elevate their performance and take charge of finding solutions.

Shah wants his managers to develop subordinates who can grow with the company, without imposing a one-size-fits-all template of leadership. He categorizes leaders as:

  • Owls. They fly above the action, taking an Olympian view. Their detachment helps them see the big picture.
  • Sharks. These highly competitive executives act ruthlessly and lead aggressively. They don’t try to hide their ambition.
  • Foxes. Their persuasive communication skills enable them to shape the environment to advance their objective. They’re adept at subtly manipulating a situation to their advantage.
  • Teddy Bears. Easy to love, these leaders empathize with others and let their sensitive side show. They are hugely popular among the rank-and-file.
  • Tortoises. Slow and steady, these plodders let nothing stand in their way. Their determination and resilience keep them on track, even when distractions swirl around everyone else.

“Each of them has qualities that are important to the growth of the organization,” Shah says. “The challenge is to get them to work together as well as go beyond their natural tendencies.”

— Adapted from “CEO Interview,” Melissa Ferrier, www.ysc.com.

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