Chronicling the crumbling of ‘ivory tower leadership’ (Book Review)

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Chicago, July 3 (IANS) A new order of leadership has emerged around the world which is “transient” in nature and dependent on “the issues of the day”, a just-published book edited by a leading Indian American expert in reliability engineering, says.

“There may still exist leaders in the traditional sense such as presidents, prime ministers, lawmakers, CEOs, and so on, but their roles will get constantly shaped and reshaped by social media trends.

“The ivory tower of leadership has fully crumbled and from its debris is emerging a new order where leadership will become transient depending on the issues of the day,” says Bharat Thakkar, a respected engineer and professor, in the preface to the book “The Future of Leadership: Addressing Complex Global Issues” published by Palgrave Macmillan.

The book, which was released here by technology guru and development thinker Sam Pitroda, who has also written a foreword to it, gathers respected experts in various fields and offers nine exhaustive essays on a variety of subjects.

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They include a brief history of leadership, women and future leadership, leadership in the next decade and beyond, and healthcare and leadership.

“My objective is to offer broad trends in the emergence of a new order of leadership in different walks of life. Leadership is not just about government or politics, but it shapes all human endeavour. It is important that the human race prepares itself for these major changes,” Thakkar told IANS.

Illustrating how traditional structures of leadership have broken down, Thakkar said: “In my own career as an engineer and then as a professor in America spanning five decades, I have had to constantly respond to this level of democratisation.

“It is quite common for my Ph.D. students to directly challenge me in my assessments by the simple act of sending me an email. For a long time, professors were those mythical, aloof figures whose wrath could be earned by students at their own peril.

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“While there are still figures like that, by and large the role of the professor as an academic leader has undergone an extraordinary change.”

He said because of the democratisation brought about by information technology, “leadership in all walks of life has become extremely mindful that they are being watched by a vast majority of people”.

In his introduction to the book, Pitroda writes, “Unlike in the centuries past when leadership meant exclusive elites, mostly men, who controlled knowledge and information and therefore societies, we now live in an age where information and knowledge have been rapidly democratised in terms of access and understanding. This has, in turn, made decision-making deeply informed and individualised.”

“The traditional evolution of leadership from being — transformational- trust-based to transactional-performance-based to customer-centric-satisfaction-based to people-centric-delight-based — is now at a stage that it incorporates all the above even as it responds to the exponential growth of technology in every walk of life,” he writes.

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“Everything is technology and technology is everything now. Even in politics the ability to get rid of intermediaries the way Twitter and Facebook have done, allowing political leaders to directly reach people, has forever altered leadership,” Pitroda writes, but warns: “It can often be to the detriment of society if not used judiciously.”

Thakkar said the book is written in a manner that it appeals to both regular readership as well those pursuing academia. “In fact, I think it could become prescribed reading for universities around the world.”

–IANS

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