Digital Democracy: Decisive and Doable?

The higher step in an organizational setting would be to usher in total organizational democracy through digital means. Every leader may, in such a system, have both the right and responsibility to seek feedback from the members. Would such a radical system wherein leaders are elected by subordinates lead to loss of authority to execute? Would it force leaders to downplay people performance issues and reward members irrespective of performance just for the leaders to stay in position? The answers to these questions may depend on the level of maturity in an organization, and the periodicity with which such leadership elections are held. There could also be other less disruptive or threatening options to the classical organizational hierarchy and power system, such as a collegium system of leadership selection. However, as typically intellectuals are involved in organizations, responsive and responsible electoral systems are probably better.

The ultimate step in a virtuous digital democracy is to elect national representatives through digital processes, anytime it is required. A more practical and intermediate step would be to create a huge national governance portal, in all national languages, wherein citizens can post their likes and dislikes, convey their issues and seek solutions, and provide feedback and ideas. With the biometric based Aadhar gaining ground and newer end-to-end encryption technologies emerging, it should be possible to ensure authenticity in the digital feedback. A huge data analytics infrastructure would, no doubt, be required to support this but it must be viewed in the perspectives of generating higher level employment. Organizations, society and nation would derive greater value through better leadership and citizenry with mutual accountability.

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Leading India to Growth with Equity through GLAM: The Generic Leadership Accountability Model

India needs leadership, in all its facets to become economic superpower, driving economic activity through industrial and business ventures and generating employment. The word “leadership” is rather freely used in contemporary times, and is conferred even on professionals who are at best managers of status quo. Even more worrying, leadership is seen as synonymous only with driving growth of the enterprise, without a view on a larger purpose. An article in a journal talks of six guiding principles for leadership, the first of which is that smart leaders are those who are committed to double-digit revenue and profit growth! The other five principles relate to delegation, risk taking, strategy articulation, grassroots ownership and stewardship. None of these is beyond the minimal common expectation from a leader.

Driving growth is a key facet of leadership but mere firm level growth need not necessarily contribute to national development. In the context of India's socio-economic profile marked by lack of access to even minimal services for an overwhelming proportion of population, an industrial and business model that is predicated upon only growth would be inadequate. Rather, industrial and business leaders must focus on growth with equity. Driving growth with equity requires leaders in the true sense of the term. Leadership is working successfully under multiple constraints and fulfilling multiple objectives simultaneously. The cornerstone of leadership for India, Inc is therefore growth for the country and equity for all the stake holders, most importantly the common man. The Generic Leadership Accountability Model (GLAM) drives India's equitable growth through ten relevant native leadership principles of accountability.

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Like IAS, IES, IFS etc., Needed: Indian Directorial Service (IDS)

India has several thousand listed joint stock companies. Assuming that these board managed companies require 5 to 7 independent directors each (based on an average board size of 10, with 2 to 3 members being whole-time directors and 2 members representing investors) there is a gigantic requirement for 25000 to 35000 independent directors to guide and manage these listed companies. If one superimposes the need for such independent directors to contribute effectively to the affairs of the company through industry knowledge, strategic guidance, operational oversight and risk management as well as audit and compliance, the job of independent directors becomes a fulltime job with specific skill sets. The problem is not confined to private sector alone; several public sector companies also face the problem.

If the Government of India and India, Inc are serious about making the boards truly perceptive and powerful bodies with independent directors making a distinctive knowledge cum practice based contribution to the functioning of the boards, major structural and systemic changes in the institution of independent directors are called for. There are three aspects to this: (a) creation of a dedicated all-India talent pool for independent directors (b) making the independent directors truly independent and empowered, and (c) integrating the independent directors in the strategic functioning of the company. These objectives can be fulfilled by the creation of an Indian Directorial Service (IDS) on the lines of the famed Indian Administrative Service (IAS) which creditably runs the Indian government.

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