Some of my thoughts on leadership vacuum

(This article is in part, my thoughts I had submitted to Bhutan today on leadership vacuum)

In today’s fast moving, ever changing, and highly competitive environment that we are all new to, there is a question of vacuum of leadership for tomorrow. For with leadership vacuum comes unpredictable times and sustained leadership vacuum can only spell more vulnerability, institutionalized corruption, and helplessness from those who want to make a difference. More than ever our government, businesses, and our educational institutions need leaders to take the next generation and beyond forward.

Leadership vacuum is a very complex subject, even in Bhutan today. The pool of potential leaders has increased both in terms of numbers and discipline. The different theories of leadership would still indicate a higher probability of finding better leadership. This however is not the case. Why?

In many instances we see unsatisfactory leadership at the helm and resulting into out flux of employees. This is mostly visible in the civil and public sectors. Prolonged vacant positions are also not very new to the recruitment obstacles. Poor organizational performances and non-accountable board members add the finishing touches to the already shaky structure. Organizational behavior theories posit that organizations have cultures and it is what these cultures promote and encourage that the employees in the organization tend to inculcate over period of time. Therefore, it would not be too far fetched to conclude that an organizational culture that is driven by poor leadership or absence of good leadership would result in not only a failed organization but leave a legacy which would need a lot of hard work to neutralize even before the organization can reach the starting line.

Given how modern technology and media has brought access to news and exposure, sometimes a little too much if I may add, people’s expectation grow exponentially and even before someone reaches the starting line, an over eager and premature conclusion maybe made in declaring someone a poor leader. This however, does not rule out the relevance of the cliché “the wrong person on the wrong job”.

The development of competitive exams to positions has definitely been a positive sign but an inherent flaw that remains and erodes the sense of meritocracy (a basis to promote and recognize leadership potential) is the appraisal procedure itself. Often we find superiors who are only too happy to over rate contributions by employees. It is also not uncommon to hear that biases and unfair appraisal ratings have been accorded. It is also said that employees seek unfair ratings from superiors. My own experience as a performance manager in the HR field has brought me face to face with this on many instances. I remember trying use “a bell curve fitment” formula to get around the problem which did deliver the result in some odd ways. This is to say that there already exists ways and means of working towards improving leadership cultures in order not to have vacuums at organizational levels. However, this is a symptom of a bigger issue at hand.

Leadership at the national level is of a more complex nature. While monarchy will always remain the one institution that holds the fabric of the Bhutanese society together and a champion of selfless, empathetic and genuine leadership, it is with regard to the political and managerial leadership that I now refer to in the following lines. The concern is primarily to do with leadership vacuum in the times to come.

Leadership vacuum is most worrying and for all the right reasons. Do I think there is a possibility of leadership vacuum? My own opinion that the symptoms definitely are a growing concern and should be taken seriously. More and more we hear of absence of good leaders. This is a worrying trend and we may have to take the time to reflect on it. To truly ascertain the extent of the concern, an assessment or study maybe important and could prove useful in determining the next steps in addressing the vacuum.

Most of our senior leaders today have had wonderful opportunities of being groomed so well but have we managed to pass on this knowledge and groomed the younger generation similarly? I believe we do not lack leadership completely, on the contrary I think we maybe lacking opportunities in providing platforms to grooming them to realize their full and real potentials. I would not think that the leadership today in any significant ways has been hampered by this vulnerability of leadership vacuum but it is certainly an indicator and a very important one at that, that they need to take cognizance of and draw a road map so that our society is already in a planning mode. This to my mind comes as one of the biggest responsibility and challenge of our senior leaders today, to groom those of us who come from a younger generation, aspiring to be the future leaders in our own fields, to take Bhutan forward.

Timely investments need to be made into building leadership as in all other things. I do not claim to say that investments are not being made but perhaps, simply that investment into human resource and leadership maybe different and distinctions may be very necessary. The civil servants primarily and public servants today present us the possible answers to the issue but leadership is much more than academic and intellectual conquests. Considering the profound implications that leadership and it’s vacuum has on society, it is imperative that policy initiatives by our senior leaders today take into account these various facets of leadership and beyond. The leadership vacuum is not only limited to political leadership alone but vacuum in the political arena is also indicative of the worrying degree of vacuum that we may inhibiting other areas. With investment in leadership in society it appears natural that the benefits would manifest in and within all spheres of our society; whether in polity, judiciary, bureaucracy or even business. In conclusion I would like to end with a line I read somewhere on leadership which further high lights the need for investment into leadership.

Contrary to the opinion of many people, leaders are not born. Leaders are made, and they are made by effort and hard work.

Bhutan today brought out a very pertinent and crucial issue leadership vacuum in Bhutan. I thank Bhutan today and commend their effort in bringing to light this very critical issue.


Update: I have received comments on my short essay and I have taken interest to write further on it. I express my gratitude to those who already have sent me your comments, and I would appreciate more. Thank you once again all.

Published in issue Vol.2, no.232 dated July 31, 2010 of Bhutan today newspaper.


About Sangay Khandu

Elected to Parliament of Bhutan twice. Previously worked with the Central Bank, the largest SoE (power utility) and international organization.
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One Response to Some of my thoughts on leadership vacuum

  1. Sogyel says:

    Very true. Getting inspired from a young leaders like you, and very interestingly, if there are leaders like you coming up vibrant and promising, we dont really have a leadership vacuum, though.
    Rightly mentioned, that leadership vacuum has more than simply intellectual conquest and academic quality. But well speaking so generally, and being in one of the institutes in India, i feel strongly that academic degree, and academic quality counts first in everything. In Bhutan, we cant expect so much because till 12th or may be even in college level, students are given everything by faculties, and we end up simply by-hearting books…not learning what actually is the content of the book. i found it difficult and my friends here do face similar problems. We lack behind in presentation skills, interactive sessions..and all in all, Bhutanese feel not so comfortable with the fact that we are asked to do things on our own and it is judged based on our competitive approach to the subject and creativity. Indians never are complacent of things around them, they endevour to create more for themselves by themselves which we lack in Bhutan in many Bhutanese Of course its now a different story to tell after being in the Institute for almost four years now.
    Coming to the point of leadership vacuum, the investment should start from school. Students should be asked or even our education system should be in such a way that Students do more interactive activities, competitive exercises and do more self-discovering studies. I think that would guarantee at least a good civil and public servants in later stages, and eventually a good leaders. Let the well tended buds turn into a beautiful flowers of tomorrow.

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