People Scaling: Leaders versus People Scalers

PeopleScaling by Reuben Ray

This is going to be quite a shock to many, but let me summarise by asking a moot question; do leaders matter more than People Scalers? To answer this question, we will need to define the two roles first.

Leader: A person who commands a set of followers.

People Scaler: A person who helps people grow in their paths.

Teams within organisations today are akin to a game of chess or a game of war. In both cases, while the strategy is chalked our by the leader based on situational jurisprudence, situations present challenges against which teams march forward. In this endeavor, it is not the leader alone who can define the path. In a game of chess, the placement of other pieces on the board by both the even and odd party decides the vacant opportunities to conquer. Similarly, in a game of baseball, cricket or football, the position of own team players vis-à-vis opponents isn’t completely in the leader’s control. This is also known as bounded rationality in dilemmas of decision making.

While Leaders can direct teams, not always do we run the scope to direct everyone due to communication barriers and the scope of time loss in the process. As in war, where the general and broad gameplan can be shared based on available information, the limitations can make a plan not work out as planned. As history tells us, be it a marketing strategy or a war strategy, the losing team didn’t strategise to lose. It is thus the aspect of situational command and skill level of every involved player that can make the difference between a win or a loss.

And this is where a People Scaler approach works!

At the workplace, teams are provided with tasks, the training to execute the task using ideal examples and the followup tasks to complete the circle. It is not possible for the Leader or Head to be present guiding the team at every step, leading to losses of opportunities often not spotted by the team players due to extraneous situational activities. Also key to note is that the Head also has a set of personal tasks & duties to execute beyond leading teams. Finally, every success does not belong to the leader alone, but also the team and its ability to manage situations. If every team is assigned learning as part of work with localized People Scalers who can involve teams in learning alongside working, working as an approach makes learning faster, more practical and more transparent to objective criterion. A failed process is easily spotted when learning is an equal opportunity compared to execution as a core objective. This is because the human mind does not record failures as passionately as successes. The tendency to ignore failures results in our inability to learn from them. If processes are carefully deconstructed to ensure zero scope to fail, the limitations of bounded rationality will be eliminated to a very large extent.

Interest vs Learning: The approach to People Scaling also highlights a primer to quality; the passion to learn. Often, we are not always interested to learn a particular subject. Consider maths. Most people abhor maths due to their disinterest in the subject itself. This of course arises from a deeper bias, but that’s for another article another day. But such a disinterest in maths does not mean a disinterest in other subjects. Specific interest or a lack of passion, often described in behavioral lingo as ‘Openness to Learning’ can be lacking, leading to learning gaps. Such gaps get spotted not using one-time tests, but practical everyday monotony of workplace exasperation. A People Scaling approach can highlight it and thus make the employee settle into other roles where the interest is aligned to the task.

Need to lead: One of the primary debates this article seeks to trigger is the real need for leaders any longer. While this may sound like dealing a blow to the role of leadership, it primarily challenges to concept and not the role itself. The concept of leadership is to be a pathfinder, today’s technological progress has resulted in tools which can simulate situations and ideal response using AI or machine learning to guide teams rather than the biased and limited rationality a single human brain can offer. So, while the lead can still be operating as a strategist and selector of options, as a guide and mentor, aka People Scaler, the leader can scale people within and beyond the team to larger fulfilment of long-term objective while the core concept of leadership can be better managed by machines. This, in my belief, will be a reality quite soon.

Need to engage: Beyond commanding teams, a leader needs followers. Today’s socio-cultural premises no longer see the leader as someone above or non-aligned to objectives. Be it the Major in the Army, of the football team captain, or the Business Head, everyone exists with similar core goals to be achieved collaboratively alongwith being a part of the process. A People Scaler can be a better engager of the team due to their indifference to command, but a keen sense of personal objectives one chances to scale. It is like a teacher or parent who is equally aligned to the other’s goals as it flourishes both. Hence the dire need to keep employees engaged and help find reasons to engage more prudent than mere rewards which lose efficacy in the mid-term.

Need to design: Achievements at the workplace are today more about constructing the right approach to deliver success rather than waiting for it to occur on its own. Designing strategies can be easy, but putting them into action means designing the tactics that would lead the dominos into effect. Having the right dominos stacked up requires the design to be wholly thought through and where every piece is aligned to the larger design and role. The need for every player to act their own role effectively and at the optimum speed requires a robustness of nurturing and scaling skills and attributes much before D-Day.

Need to win: Both the above factors put the strategies into action by winning maximum chances provided. The need to win however is observed more in the eyes of the leader than the team in a hierarchical structure. However, in a People Scaler approach, the leader is a seamless springjoint which takes the structure forward and higher by being an enabler. The People Scaler is a part of every effort as a team effort, rather than a leader’s need to command results. This ensures that the team not only is prepared to win, but feels equal pride in the winning as the People Scaler is a part and not just the lead in the win. With today’s generation eyeing recognition as a major factor for engagement, it becomes imperative that everyone is geared to take up positions in the absence of a co-worker or play vertically or horizontally in the need of the hour. The hunger to win makes the need to win more achievable. And hunger to win will only be in those who consider themselves capable enough irrespective of opposition because they can trust their ability to scale across difficulties.

Reiterating what I have mentioned earlier, I’m not writing off the role of a leader, which I strongly believe needs to exist; but perhaps as a People Scaler rather than the outdated concept of Leader. Do you believe countries need Presidents and Prime Ministers? This concept belonged to the era of Kings, but today the Senate or Parliaments can be enough to handle issues collaboratively and does not any longer need a single Supreme Leader to decide and deliver every decision, which often has been found to be wanting in multiple aspects. So does the CEO not need to be pushed and punished; he is a People Scaler of his team will do a better job strategizing for the next success while leaving decision making to the machines and Intelligence of the team (if they have been scaled well to understand the impact of their decisions) at work.

Till then, enjoy your Crown!

Author of Reasoning Our Choices and co-Founder, & a passionate Leadership Coach