Who is a leader? A simple definition is that a person is a leader who has followers. For without followers whom will the leader lead. There are many persons who occupy positions in an organization and because of it there are subordinates who follow their orders. They are also leaders in a sense but only till they hold the position. They owe their leadership status directly to the position they hold in the organisational hierarchy. Once they lose the position they stop being leaders. Such leaders can be called formal leaders or positional leaders.

In all organisation there are always certain persons who hold no formal position, yet most of the persons within the organisation, will go to them to get their work done or seek their advice from time to time. They are very well connected and this makes them equally very effective. They are thus informal leaders and do not owe their leadership status to any position in the organisation. They attract followers even when they know they are not going to get any rewards from them. The informal leaders have no time span. They can go on and on.

Between the positional or formal and informal leaders it is the latter who is a natural leader. He possesses a natural charm, a committment to a particular cause and acts as a magnet drawing persons to get their work done. In turn he often  only demands from them  loyalty and support. If we look around us we will see that society is full of these informal leaders.

The effectivity and acceptability of a leader is usually decided by the quality he possesses the least. Thus on a scale of 0 to 1 if a leader scores very high on say honesty but scores very low on delegation then this low scoring trait will pull down his overall effectivity.  It is like 1 multiplied by 0.1 is not 1.1 but 0.1.

It is rare to find a leader who scores high on the various traits an effective leader should possess. Perhaps one can count them on one's fingertips, such as Mahatama Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Jai Prakash Narayan, Vinobha Bhave, Netaji, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and so on. These type of near perfect leaders with mass appeal occur rarely and that too at a particular period in the life of a nation. They become a reference point for future leaders who usually suffer by comparison.

Both positional and informal type of leaders many a time suffer because of their longevity as leaders. The followers have expectations from their leaders and in turn are willing to support and be loyal to them. However once the leader's capacity to fulfill the followers expectations starts going down, they start switching their loyalty to a new leader  whom they perceive that he can satisfy their needs. Followers are ruthless in this, because of their own concerns regarding various aspects of their needs like safety, job opportunities, promotions, financial issues, health related issues and so on.

A leader who can create bond of a trust between himself and his team/followers will be forgiven many a times even if he is not able to fulfill their expectations fully. A leader has to work hard to reach such a level or position. He is under constant watch by his followers and those who are opposed to him. A mass leader has to be alert 24 X 365 hours.

However with passage of time a leader can start to becoming stale. His own biases and preferences can increasingly influence his decisions, leading to heart burning amongst many of his supporters. The leader also starts taking his followers for granted. He also tries to distance himself from them and tries to please them with doles and schemes and promises. In fact from an informal leader he becomes a positional leader.

But at the same time there is another grassroots person who is a small time informal leader. He wants to grow into a big time informal leader. He works hard. He delivers most of the time. Increasing number of followers pose their trust in him. His popularity keeps going up. The organisation takes note of it and gives increasing responsibilities to him. It is only a matter of time before he emerges as an effective informal leader.

A time comes when organisations have to choose between the two. It is a decision which is taken easily in favour of the rising and effective informal leader. Keeping the future also in view, but many a times it has repurcussions from the senior positional leaders in the organisation who overvalue themselves and are led by their inflated egos. These ageless self certified positional leaders do not see the writing on the wall and the organisations usually pamper their egos to protect its own  reputation. Over a period of time these positional leaders become redundant and it is the energetically emerging informal leader who gains more control and drives the organisation to higher heights. 

It is therefore very important that in all organisations there should be a retirement age. It will act as a reminder to the positional leaders, that, it is now time to quit and there is no injustice in doing so because the rule is applicable to all. Otherwise we see, almost at regular intervals, how, many ageless wonders have to be cajoled or threatened or otherwise shown the door. Left to themselves they would take their chair to their graves also.

There is a time to grow, a time to consolidate, a time to reap and finally a time to gracefully go.  Both the love and desire of chair lead to clashes. Usually these are masked under various scenarios like generational fight or change of guard or external remote control or groupism etc. But the central reason is usually a person who has outlived his utility in the organisation but refuses to accept it. He wants his longevity in the organisation to be counted higher than his present day effectivity. He wants his past contributions to be weighed more than his present day non contributions. In short he wants to be retained at all costs.

Can organisations permit it and suffer at the hands of the competition ? The answer is a resounding NO.


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