Tough Love

The Cyrus Mistry saga has brought into focus the concept of “tough love” that he talked about. What he meant, probably, was a shift from the old paternalistic culture that the Tatas were known for. Employment was not just guaranteed for a lifetime but sometimes for more than one generation. While this, arguably, fostered a sense of belongingness and loyalty to the organisation – it did not necessarily promote accountability.

If that was the colonial style of management, at the other extreme were the “hire and fire” organisations generally identified (perhaps, not without justification) with American corporations. As the era of collegial coexistence gave way to intense competition. – leaders too had to develop new people competencies. In a propensity to over-correct, clinical ruthlessness was often mistaken as an essential ingredient of strong leadership.

However, those gifted with Emotional Intelligence soon realised that, a leader with all head and no heart was as dysfunctional as one who was all heart and no head. That is where probably the genesis of “tough love” lies.

Like so many concepts of modern management – one can find the best examples of “tough love” in the military. As the army combines care and command, responsible leadership is all about balancing empowerment with accountability, recognition and reward but above all creating a positive environment that help people succeed and grow. The key is to provide ‘value addition’ to employees that not only prepare them for bigger roles within the organisation but also add to their market currency.

Training was long considered important. But, it remains largely an industrial era instrument to enhance productivity. Traditional methods of training do not normally lead to self realisation and inner transformation. Instead, Performance Management Systems based on Structured feedback and identification of individual development needs are far more effective. These are competencies new age leaders need to master.

Sadly, a vast majority of leaders tend to be cursory in their feedback and do perfunctory job of. assessing skills and competency deficit. This is where “tough love” kicks in. By delaying the “bad news” as it were – supervisors are not only unfair to the people but also undermine organisational performance. The two feed into each other creating a vicious loop – that destroys value both at employee and corporation level. As organisations stop growing – growth opportunities for people also start shrinking. Carrying an overload of under-performers act as a dead-weight in trying times.

Finally, when the axe does fall – many find themselves not only unemployed but unemployable. That is much more of a tragic outcome than the transient pain of “tough love” displayed was at the right time.