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On Leadership

R Jayaraman

Author: R Jayaraman

Date: Mon, 2016-08-22 12:54

WhatsApp is an active platform, perhaps the most active one, amongst the modern day public platforms – Facebook, e-mails, blogs, LinkedIn, linked out and whatnot. You keep getting messages which you may not have asked for. Many people take pleasure in forwarding. In fact, Whatsapp has a given a whole new meaning to “forward" which was once a much reviled function, witness the many “forwarded" emails which would be deleted without any fanfare. WhatsApp has changed all that - it has shown how a “forward" can make sense and be a source of pleasure and information. But that’s not what I want to blog about just now, that will be another blog.

One such message I got today from an old friend of mine. He wrote: Lord Rama was a leader, so was Krishna. Rama led an army of monkeys from the front. He himself was a great, mighty warrior, and he directed his forces to do what he had in mind. The monkeys, being not very intelligent or skilful, were happy to be led and followed him to victory. But Krishna was quite unlike Rama. He refused to get into the war, was not known for his prowess as a warrior although his Narayani Sena was a mighty and much feared force. He declared that he will only advice and guide whoever wants to be. Duryodhana decided Krishna’s army was far more valuable than the person. This could be a case of quantity over quality. Like the Boeing company’s famous slogan: Quantity – we can count, but quality – we can count on.

In the war, Krishna provided inputs, guidance and also revealed his famous Bhagavad Gita, an exposition on the importance of a way of life. In this case, the Pandavas and Kauravas were neither monkeys nor ordinary human beings, but evolved souls who were skilled (at the world class level) and learned, competent and mighty, and it fell to Krishna to provide only strategic inputs and action plans. These are perhaps two extremes of the myriad types of leadership styles that are available to leaders to follow. How does one choose? The short answer is -- depends.

Do leaders really choose a style or is it inborn and innate to the person? Did Krishna train to be a strategic advisor? Did Ram Charan or Vijay Govindarajan or CK Prahlad train to be strategic advisors from their birth? Did they know that they will be thought leaders in this key sphere of organisational activity? Not really. It evolved over time, but there has to be a mutual fit – between the style and the individual’s talent, attitude to life, aptitude and circumstances.

Take the case of Mahatma Gandhi. Was he a born leader? No. The fateful train journey in South Africa turned a till then docile lawyer into a firebrand rebel. This side of his character is totally missing in his great work in India. He had embraced “ahimsa” in India. This was a big change. He also was a leader who did not ask to lead from the front. He was pushed into the leadership role, into which he settled down well, and, over the years, excelled. He became the platinum standard of leadership.

In totality he can be called the best leader the world has ever seen. He did not have the might of Rama but he made the mighty British bow before him. Unlike Rama, he did not lead from the front, but people liked to be led by him, they asked and wanted to be led by him. Leadership was thrust upon him. To his credit he lived upto the expectations. A lesser mortal would have folded up. Which means that he had the talent, the attitude and the aptitude, the circumstance was of course waiting for him. Like Krishna he was not a “strategist" with a deep knowledge of life and its mysteries. He was a lawyer by profession, a self taught man about Indian philosophy, the shastras, the puranas, the vedas, the upanishads. However, his homilies were down to earth and understood by a population which wanted to hear him say those things. One could thus conclude that Gandhi was in between Rama and Krishna.

In conclusion, leadership is a many splendoured thing. It can grab you when you are young or when you are not so. Gandhiji became a leader only in his later years, well beyond middle age. Narendra Modi has become a national leader at a ripe age of 60+. Narasimha Rao was close to 70 when he led the country into the modern league of nations. It can grab you whether you are rich or poor. Gandhiji was a rich barrister. But leaders like Narendra Modi, Vallabh Patel, Tilak and Lal Bahadur Shastri were all born in poor circumstances. And we can go on thus.

WhatsApp is sure a great source of thoughtful apps.

 

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“Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice, and is never the result of selfishness.” -Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich Reading through this write-up on leadership, a quality that I need to mention about is that of sacrifice. I still remember what my boss at work told me about leadership, “Leadership is all about sacrifice and as you move up the ladder, you need to sacrifice even more. It becomes less about you and more about others.” Take the example of Mahatma Gandhi cited in the blog. He knew that sacrifice was the core of his leadership. The sacrificial nature of his actions is what I believe led many people to respect him as a leader. Gandhi believed in the teachings of Jesus Christ and hence the core of Gandhi’s principles were that of sacrifice. Without sacrifice one cannot transition to the position of leading others, placing others before one’s self. Look back to the achievements of great leaders across the world. Every one of their success is the result of sacrifice. Martin Luther King sacrificed his life for the goal of equality, Gandhi sacrificed his life for the freedom of a nation, and Nelson Mandela sacrificed for the revolution of his country. These are a few of many leaders who succeed in their life all because they believed in one word – sacrifice. Are you ready to start on the road to success? If yes, then let’s start with a little sacrifice.

Leadership has different dimensions. Few are born leaders where many develop leadership Qualities over a period of time. Arguably Lord Krishna was a born Leader which can be easily concluded looking at his childhood life, while Gandhiji probably had developed many of his leadership qualities during his lifetime. He evolved from an ordinary Lawyer to a most popular mass leader. Similarly Modiji has evolved from a very humble background of being Chaiwala to be the Prime Minister of India and probably one of the most popular world Leaders today. There are many common things between both these great Indian Leaders - one of the most common things is that their leadership development journey was not by design but it happened thro' sustained efforts of doing right things at right time and every time - both are great example to true Learners. Another most common quality between both is their emphasis on communication. Both are considered to be master communicators, although they have done differently and under very much different technological environment. Both are true believers and genuine examples of demonstrating leadership by doing the things themselves. Gandhiji used to say - "Be the change you want to see" and "My life is my message" Another great common quality is their connect to masses. They really understood pulses of masses and connect as being part of them. This along with high standards in personal life made them really credible mass leaders. Masses always see every political leader with suspicion in beginning - Integrity, honesty, commitment and true patriotism are minimum and most important Qualities that a Political leader must be able to demonstrate to be accepted as a mass leader - Both Gandiji and Modiji could genuinely demonstrate these qualities - this is most crucial and important success factor for them being the credible leaders. Another critical success factor for them was to have courage to do unconventional things Ahimsa, Non co-operation movement, Dandi March, Demonetisation, Surgical strikes, Swachch Bharat Abhiyan, Give up Program etc) - Each of these are great program with lot of passion, deep thinking and may be need of the time - but every program is a great example of sheer courage. So in summary, a successful mass leadership requires - Personal Integrity, Honesty, Genuine patriotism, courage to do unconventional things, Heart to heart connect with masses, innovative ways to communicate, sustained efforts to do right things every time and genuine commitment to ideas of self - show by example approach

A very different perspective added to look at personalities of Indian Mythology and History. Leaders do have unique view/ dimension to look at things, they think through the depth, taking all team members together, retaining objective of being together. Leaders are inclusive, open in communication and lead by example. They appreciate and respect thoughts from team and help team understand the big picture. A common thread between leaders from all walks of life is they have sold themselves for a bigger 'objective'...meaning there remains no difference between their personal objective and overall teams objective, They live for one goal and pursue it with courageous heart.

Leadership comes with the ability of connect & influence a Group for achievement of a vision. Every person has its own way of working which is also part of leadership on individual front. Extraversion has strongest relation to leadership. Leaders are trained over the period of time not born. If we take example of Political background on leadership then you can see different angle in Leadership & also different views of group. Hon. Pri minister Narendra Modi is one of finest leader in the world in current scenario. Influencing part of Mr. Modi has its Connectivity & Struggle in their over the period time & also the aggressiveness with the passion. Leadership grab the people without any bifurcation. We can take example of Maharashtra Chief Minister Mr. Devendra Fadavnis became chief minister at age of 45 & demonstrating leadership with people connect & if we take example of Mr. Rahul Gandhi is still in struggle period with different views on their leadership however this is also leadership with struggle period . If We take Leader struggle to achieve the Vision then We should see the former Pri minster Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee struggle to form the part with 2 MP in the LS & convert in to in 1999 for the formation government with National party. These struggle are long term struggle for the achievement of vision. Sometime Leader sacrifices their entire life for vision achievement. Leader’s behaviors are mainly Vision, Personal risk taking, sensitivity, extraordinary influence.

WhatsApp messages have been a source of inspiration for plethora of blogs on the internet. Taking a leaf from one of the forwarded WhatsApp messages the author has put forth a brilliant explanation on the types of Leadership. What is more interesting is the choice of characters by the author for comparing and explaining the leadership traits. Mythological characters – Lord Rama and Lord Krishna were perceived to be the leaders right from their birth. They were born into royal families and expected to lead the kingdom and rightfully so, given their inherent leadership capabilities. Lord Rama led the team of monkeys to success from the front, whereas Lord Krishna chose to be the strategist and mastermind behind Pandava’s victory. Availability of skilled and competent resources, time for planning and execution, and the circumstances would have made each of them select their way of leading the teams. I agree with the author that there is not one style of leadership, it always depends on various criteria. The leadership traits in a person may not always be innate, it can be acquired through permutation and combination of talent, willingness and variety of circumstances. Take the case of leaders around us who were common people at one point, they were not born with silver spoon. Be it Mahatma Gandhi, Narendra Modi, Abdul Kalam and the likes, they are all self-made. They emerged to be successful leaders through the test of time. They definitely had that quality in them, through which they could establish connection with people; they had a belief and they worked hard towards it; they had the right attitude, which was loved by their followers. No opposition could ever stand against a personality with such characteristics. This proves, we need not be of a certain type to be a leader. Anybody with the right mix of attitude and belief can unleash leadership skills at any point of their lives and be an inspiration to the world.

I believe everyone is a leader but only few become great leaders. What makes only few of them great leaders? When we look back we might have experienced great leadership qualities displayed by ordinary people at different instances at the same time few people might have displayed these qualities every time and everywhere. Second kind of people are those who inspire us by their actions. When we think of such people few names which make the list are Subhash Chandra Bose, Vallabhai Patel, Indira Gandhi, mahatma Gandhi and many more. Each of one them lead with excellence, they did everything right and made many people realize their potential. During the freedom struggle, many of these leaders inspired many people to renounce and fight for country’s independence. They had a sense of purpose and pursued them with vigor always pushing the contours into unknown. Subhash Chandra bose lead an armed struggle against British, Gandhi followed an ahimsa or non-violence, vallabhai patel used a mix of force and negotiations. Each of them had the courage to push the boundaries and go into uncharted areas consciously. On occasions they also learnt from their actions and corrected the way forward. All of them lead with modesty all the while thinking about the bigger sense of purpose of making country independent. These leaders didn’t thrust themselves upon others but their small actions at various stages of life have influenced their rise and acceptance among-st the masses The traits displayed by these great leaders have remained same only the context has changed. All these traits are taught to us or experienced by us but only if we can nurture them, then everyone one of us can become a great leader. Everyday each one of us daily spend our time performing different chores of life as an employee, Son, Father, Husband, Friend, customer etc. All these instances are opportunities to nurture these great qualities and become a better person which automatically enables us to become a good leader to emulate.

Thank you for sharing your valuable thoughts on this topic Professor. However, I do have a contrarian view on some of the subject matter discussed here. Just like yourself, I too received a whatsapp forward last year on independence day where military historian General G D Bakshi through his book 'Bose: An Indian Samurai : Netaji and the INA : a Military Assessment' claimed that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's INA had more impact on British rulers than Gandhiji's non violence movement. Citing a conversation that took place in 1956 between the then British PM Richard Atlee and then Governor of West Bengal Justice PB Chakraborty where the real factors that led to the British quit India were discussed. One of the main reasons stated was the erosion of loyalty to the British crown among the Indian Army and Navy personnel as a result of military activities done by Netaji. Towards the end of this discussion, Atlee further revealed that Gandhiji's influence on the British decision to quit India was 'minimal' wryly. To understand Atlee's assertion further let us travel back in history to 1945 where the Allied powers Britain, USA had won the second World war and wanted to impose justice on the defeated armies including Netaji's INA that was put on trial for treason, torture, murder in a series of court martial which came to be known as the Red Fort Trials. These trials infuriated Indians serving in the British armed forces leading to mutiny by 20,000 sailors aboard Royal Indian Navy serving on 78 ships against the British empire, bringing down the Union Jack and chanting 'Jai Hind' slogans in Mumbai holding portraits of Netaji , INA forcing the British to join in by disobeying their orders completely too. There were similar instances of rebellion followed in Royal Indian Air force and the British Indian Army units in Jabalpur which left the British petrified. More so, with over 2.5 million Indian soldiers being decommissioned post World War II with only 40,000 British troops stationed in India at that time, the empire was largely outnumbered and thus was in no mood to fight the battle hardened Indian soldiers who were already inflamed and could not be relied upon further. It is under these circumstances that Britain decided to grant Independence to India, this is in no way to undermine the contributions by Gandhiji and other leaders as highlighted in your blog but to illuminate the significant role played by Netaji and INA in contributing towards 'Swaraj' in the public eye and not being dismissed merely in a few paragraphs of school textbooks. The time has come to revisit modern Indian history and acknowledge the leadership style that Netaji imbibed and exuded which was in its highest form i.e. 'transformational' as he not only idealized influence but inspired motivation, intellectually stimulated his followers and soldiers by appealing to their nascent patriotism even long after he was gone! Although rising early through the echelons of leadership, he was ousted from Congress leadership just like Rama but strategically rallied support from the Axis powers and British Indian Army in the cause for India's struggle for Independence akin to Krishna's leadership style viz. providing strategic advise, guidelines and devising action plans for pulsating victory. Therefore, Netaji can also be a leader in between Rama and Krishna who being from an affluent family just like Gandhiji was a visionary born to lead since a young age due to the grim circumstances prevalent (British Raj) back then. Netaji's leadership style is supreme example of indomitable attitude, talent, courage, conviction and determination in the relentless pursuit for India's freedom and liberty. He is a forgotten super hero who is admired, fondly remembered by current leader and eminent PM Narendra Modi even to this day.

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. Few are born leaders where many develop leadership Qualities over a period. Perhaps Krishna OR other God characters were probably born leaders but Gandhiji and Modi are not. The New generation leaders develop skills from their life time of learnings and adopt them. On one side, we are love Bureaucratic leaders because we expect them to do the thinking job and command us in right direction bit one side we want to work with transformational type of leaders who keeps us motivated. Leaders lead by example and this is something we see from Ramayana days. One of the article I read about Sundar Pichai clearly states that the new leader at times is mere Imposter. This is something he experiences at times and is really not bad felling. In fact it teaches him more. An important component of leadership is the willingness to be real—to admit not knowing, to admit fear, to admit uncertainty and doubt. I believe there is a time and place to be steady through the storm and be the grounding force amidst others fears and doubts—but I also think a range of both assuredness and vulnerability is what leadership is all about. It’s also what being human is all about. All this said and done, one cannot forget leadership skills of M S Dhoni. He has transformed the history of Indian cricket and keeps setting new team records. Even a book of 1000 pages will fall short to explain the leadership skill of Dhoni.

A true leader can be identified in any crowd. It is just the matter of opportune time when you recognize him. Every leader has a different leadership styles, some lead from the front and by example and some lead by wisdom. The latter is a strategist who knows how to make a situation where people will follow him to succeed and former is a fighter. Leadership is not easy, it is opinionating for people to follow. It involves huge stakes, credibility and responsibility to lead people. Rightly put by the author, Lord Rama and Krishna were true leaders in their own ways. Lord Rama had to stand and deliver whereas Lord Krishna had to sit and strategize. Both have their own qualities but the motive of both were the same, achieving the goal in a timeframe which was victory over evil. Leaders are born and can be made too, they can be trained however l differ from a leader who is forced into. According to me Mahatma Gandhi was not a leader he was a messenger of people of India. A true leader gives strength, courage and wisdom by leading from the front not just telling them to wait for the time to happen. As the word leadership starts with lead, it becomes imperative for a leader to take lead from others. As leaders are recognized from far the true leaders in our freedom struggle were likes of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Chandreshekhar Azad, Subhash Chander Bose and Sardar Vallabhai Patel with whom management can relate today. Everybody had a different style however assertiveness was the key. If we have to comment on leader of today I sincerely will give example of Mahendra Singh Dhoni who changed the meaning of leadership in the world of Sports. The style of leadership is a true sense of defining a case study. Like a soldier he carved his way to leadership and then calmly took lead and kept on delivering. He not only led but in the process, he raised the bar to share his wisdom and style with his team members. When he realized it is time for him to go he passed on his legacy to Virat Kohli which was the right decision to take Indian cricket to next level. He passed the baton to him, from an assertive leader to aggressive leadership. When it is required the most.

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