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“Opportunistic” as a term is almost an anathema to society.

In the world of businesses, tapping into an opportunity is considered to be good. It is a symbol of an agile, aggresive and growing business organizations. But within an organization or team at an individual level carrying a tag of ‘opportunistic’ is still not seen in good light. Actually it is almost seen as a negative. Ask anyone in any of the companies – ‘Would they like to be terms as opportunists’ – I am sure very few hands will go up.

I have always been puzzled with this mindset.

Opportunities for a business (within and outside) emerge on a random basis as companies and individuals navigate through the plans, strategies, work and statuses. Opportunities can be identified during various interactions, which take place as business is conducted on a routine basis. These opportunities can be in any area such as

  • Talent leverage
  • Market opportunity
  • Customer relationship opportunity
  • Organizational correction opportunity
  • Innovation

A leader is one, who can identify these opporunities through various interactions in the business eco-system (within organization and outside of it).

Let’s take an example of Talent here to elaborate further. Usual way of identifying talent, creating new opportunities for the talented set of people and hence leveraging talent will be a function of some structured program/process, where a manager will observe the talent of different people in a team and then make a recommendation (or else take a decision to leverage that talent).

An unconventional way of identifying talent will be through the daily works and conversation. You talk to someone, you make an observation in a status report, you observe someone during a presentation, your attention is caught by someone’s enthusiasm – And you know right there – There is a specific talent in that person. Here being able to quickly create an opportunity to leverage that specific talent for higher/better benefits of the organization is an art. That ‘Art’ comes to only people, who have an eye for it. That ‘Art’ comes to people, who can carry an ‘Opportunistic’ outlook all the time. That ‘Art’ is a key attribute of a good leader.

The key here is – Wether people (read managers) identify these opportunities – and do something for their benefit or for organization benefit. A lot of people in a lot of organizations have conveniently exploited opportunities to highlight themselves or else gain favors for themselves. I believe these kind of people have gained certain kind of disreputation for the word “Opportunist”

In my eyes being opportunistic is a leadership attribute, which has traditionally been dusted beneath the carpet or else has been dealt with certain level of discretion.

What do you think?