Navigating the Modern Workplace: How to tell a leader from a con-artist

Navigating the Modern Workplace: How to tell a leader from a con-artist

As we deal with an ever-changing professional landscape, many of our career journeys lead us to startups or small, individual-centric organizations

Somi DasUpdated: Friday, September 22, 2023, 11:17 PM IST
article-image

As we deal with an ever-changing professional landscape, many of our career journeys lead us to startups or small, individual-centric organizations. These spaces span diverse industries, from ed-tech and infotainment to food, travel, and fintech. The allure of expressing our talents and creativity in these new frontiers is undeniable.

In 2022, the Economic Survey shed light on a compelling trend within India's startup ecosystem. Over the past six years, startups, particularly in the Services Sector, have experienced explosive growth, with a staggering 61,400 startups officially recognised as of January 10, 2022. This surge in entrepreneurial spirit is further exemplified by 44 startups achieving unicorn status in 2021, a testament to India's burgeoning innovation.

Simultaneously, a burgeoning consulting market has taken root, with individuals running firms from the comfort of their own homes. This trend implies that many of us will work under young, ambitious bosses eager to attract investors and shape work cultures.

Today's prevailing zeitgeist is encapsulated by the phrase, "apna kuch karna hai" (I want to do something of my own), signifying the collective aspiration of the young and impatient. However, not everyone will embark on entrepreneurial ventures, and many will find themselves working for these emerging companies on the horizon.

These young, impatient leaders are driven by the desire for rapid financial gain and hold the reins in setting the tone for workplace culture. As you consider joining their ranks, it is imperative to distinguish between authentic leaders and con artists. Some individuals in this space are solely driven by the intention to amass wealth and deceive investors, employers, and consumers, with little desire for actual company growth.

Numerous internet videos offer glimpses into the toxic work cultures that some startups foster. Unlike established corporate setups with clear rules and regulations, organizations led by individuals who have gained respectability through personal brands and hard work often lack such frameworks.

So, how can you identify whether the people you work for are modern-day leaders contributing to India's growth or con artists capitalizing on the startup trend for personal gain, with no intention of advancing their companies or your career? They may be adept at speaking the startup leadership jargon, so it's essential to discern the difference between visionaries and opportunists.

Here are some key differentiators:

Alignment: True leaders prioritise alignment. They assess your alignment with the company's goals before hiring you. They inquire about your motivations, creating space for your goals and ambitions. If they fail to do so, it may be a red flag. Leaders who are looking to utilise and discard you won't invest in ensuring you're a good fit.

Transparency: Authentic leaders are transparent about their plans. Ask about their five-year vision and their investors. Are they forthcoming about their financial sources, or is this information shrouded in secrecy? Reputable investors should be publicly known or readily accessible in common knowledge.

Values and ideology: True leaders have a vision and value system. Con artists lack ideological purity and are singularly focused on financial gain.

Workplace culture: Leaders prioritize a healthy work environment, while con artists may run their organisations through intimidation and exploitation.

Accountability: True leaders take responsibility for their decisions and actions, and they encourage accountability at all levels of the organisation. They acknowledge mistakes and work towards rectifying them. Con artists, on the other hand, often shift blame onto others and avoid taking responsibility for failures.

Employee development: Leaders invest in their employees' growth and development, providing opportunities for skill enhancement and career advancement. They are genuinely interested in helping you grow. Con artists may view employees as disposable resources and may not prioritise their professional development.

Communication: Leaders maintain open and honest communication with their team members, fostering an environment where ideas and feedback are valued. Con artists may use communication as a tool to manipulate or mislead, creating a culture of secrecy and mistrust.

Ethical conduct: Leaders adhere to ethical principles in their business practices and decision-making. They prioritise ethical behaviour and hold themselves accountable to high standards. Con artists may engage in unethical or fraudulent activities, jeopardising the company's reputation and integrity.

Long-term vision: True leaders have a long-term vision for their organisation, focusing on sustainable growth and success. They make decisions that benefit the company's future. Con artists may prioritise short-term gains, often at the expense of long-term stability and growth.

Employee well-being: Leaders genuinely care about the well-being of their employees, offering support during challenging times and promoting work-life balance. Con artists may disregard employee well-being, pushing them to their limits for personal gain.

Track record: Investigate the leader's past ventures and their reputation in the industry. True leaders often have a history of successful and ethical business practices. Con artists may have a track record of failed ventures or questionable conduct.

In a world teeming with opportunity and innovation, it's essential to differentiate between leaders who can steer your career toward growth and those who are here solely for personal gain. Your discernment doesn't just impact the quality of your professional journey; it also safeguards you from falling prey to unscrupulous schemes that can not only waste your time but also inflict significant trauma and harm to your mental well-being.

(The writer is a mental health and behavioural sciences columnist, conducts art therapy workshops and provides personality development sessions for young adults. She can be found @the_millennial_pilgrim on Instagram and Twitter)

RECENT STORIES

From Anant Ambani's To Shah Rukh Khan, Brooches Are The New Wardrobe Staple

From Anant Ambani's To Shah Rukh Khan, Brooches Are The New Wardrobe Staple

Viral Post Sparks Outrage: Is The Marathi Manoos Being Alienated In Hiring Practices?

Viral Post Sparks Outrage: Is The Marathi Manoos Being Alienated In Hiring Practices?

Controversial Impact Player Rule In IPL: Game-Changer Or Flop?

Controversial Impact Player Rule In IPL: Game-Changer Or Flop?

Food Review: Mumbai's Sukoon Lives Up To Its Name By Offering A Peaceful Ambience Amidst...

Food Review: Mumbai's Sukoon Lives Up To Its Name By Offering A Peaceful Ambience Amidst...

Shyam Benegal’s 'Manthan' Returns To Theatres On World Milk Day

Shyam Benegal’s 'Manthan' Returns To Theatres On World Milk Day