Do brilliant students become weak leaders?
For a not-so-good student like me, the academic notes of the top students in the class were like a gold mine in school days. Anyone who asked for such "notes" would get the daring look as if you are asking for their marks from the exam or something similar, let alone sharing them! Experiences like these are very common in our academic culture.
However, in the course of time, top students do not often turn out to be the greatest of leaders in the political or corporate or in any professional environment. Let's find out why.
It can be better explained using the concept explained by Adam Grant in his book – A Revolutionary Approach to Success - Give & Take.
There are three profiles of people – Giver, Taker and Matcher (GTM). The "takers" are people who are good at getting as much as possible from the other person and contribute as little as they can in return. Taking the above example, if the top students in medical or engineering colleges start spending their time helping others, they fear that they may fall behind in their studies which may have a direct impact on their results.
This group tend to maintain a targeted network like teachers and seniors with a good academic background to get the best out of them. Often, this group is termed as exploiters.
At the other end, we have the strange breed of people that we call "givers". This group of people always looks for an opportunity to help others by giving advice, running errands for them, providing counselling, sharing knowledge etc. without expecting anything in return.
Many of us try to maintain a balance between "giver" and "taker" and this group is called the "matcher". This group usually goes with the flow and expects a fair return against each support.
Each profile of people can excel in certain kinds of jobs. For instance, "takers" can nicely fit into research, teaching etc. and "matchers" into brokerage, deal-making etc.
According to a survey, the significant majority falls into the category of "matcher". To be a successful leader, however, it is important to be a "giver'.
Based on GMT, it is important to understand the profile of people an organisation has. A large number of research has been conducted in this area and it has been repeatedly proven that the organisation with a higher level of "givers" has a direct co-relation with revenue growth, profitability, customer satisfaction etc. If "givers" are so important for an organisation, what do we do about them? My reason for getting into the subject was to understand how to retain the "givers" and gradually increase the level to create more leaders.
The "givers" get easily burned out by helping others as they say "yes" to every request at all levels. Our politicians also say the same. The politicians who say "yes" and deliver are considered as trusted leaders. If this group is not well managed within the organisation, then in all likelihood they would either get sick or leave the organisation as they are the ones who end up having a work-life balance. So, the organisation has to identify the "givers" to protect them from likely burn-out.
Secondly, the organisation should drive a culture of seeking and giving within the organisation so that the pressure on the "givers" are shared with others. Thirdly, recruit more "givers" in the job in order to take some load off the existing givers.
Does it mean that "takers" or "matchers" can't be a political or corporate leader? The answer is certainly yes. It is very much possible only if one is self-aware of his or her profile and starts to work on changing oneself to "givers" at an early stage of his or her career.
It all boils down to making some positive alterations to our professional attitude and character. It is very much possible to transform the political and corporate landscape of Bangladesh if we work towards having a growing number of givers.
The author is a telecom and management expert.