India needs War Cabinets (Part 5)

Here is an excerpt from Pawel Motyl’s book, “Labyrinth: The Art of Decision-Making”:

The traditional approach to decision-making rested on a simple assumption that both the quality and the accuracy of decisions were based on the competence and experience of the decision-maker in tandem with the quality and completeness of the information at their disposal. That approach was highly effective for many years. If a decision was made by a professional acting in good faith and drawing on information from trusted sources, the decision was pretty likely to be the correct one. All you had to do was develop good systems for gathering and analyzing data and entrust key decisions to the most competent personnel to be guaranteed relative peace of mind. Recent years, though, have turned the situation on its head. During the crisis, it was precisely those people who were most experienced, with the greatest successes behind them, relying on tried and tested, reliable sources of information who made the most dramatically awful decisions.

As Motyl puts it: “Great leaders are distinguished by their awareness that greatness is no guarantee of infallibility.”

Motyl goes on to outline the four roles of a leader in decision-making. While these are in a corporate setting, they apply equally well to leaders in government.

  • Visionary and strategist. As a leader, you decide in what direction the entire organization will go, and you ultimately choose the strategy. Be led by solid data and logic, and don’t allow yourself to be seduced by past successes and a sense of invincibility…Authentic leaders constantly question the status quo, even if they created it.
  • Agent of change. You are responsible for shaping reality. If you are able to carry out the first task of a leader, and you set out a bold vision, taking strategic decisions for the organization, make sure the system is going in the same direction.
  • Architect of organizational culture. As a leader, you are the driving force behind the organizational culture, and your actions have an enormous influence on the attitudes and behavior of others. Encourage others to make decisions that support your vision.
  • Creator of the decision-making infrastructure. Remember that in the new normal, “loneliness at the top” is both outdated and ineffective. You need allies, as you won’t be able to analyze the gigantic amount of information and impulses flowing from the exponentially unraveling world of the new normal without help. Build courageous, competent teams whose members understand and support the vision and values you want to promote.

India’s political leaders at all levels of government are faced with a situation they were not trained for. This is the first war they are living through. They need to rise to great heights if they are to fulfil the expectations that people have of them. They cannot do it alone or through conventional leadership. They each need to create a war cabinet that will help guide them and the nation through these turbulent times.

Tomorrow: India needs War Cabinets (Part 6)

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.