Thankfully, my son never asked me to write an essay for his homework and so was spared this ignominy. I can however cite many other reasons why my MBA was of no use!
My exposure to good leadership started when I was eighteen years old in a brand new sales job reporting to a young MBA from Boston University. This man was neither the boss nor the leader shown above but, a mentor. He saw something in me that tickled his fancy and asked his most successful sales person to take me under his wing to train me.
That Super salesman, let us call him SSM, took me under his wing literally as well as metaphorically and taught me things that have lasted as part of my personality till today. Two of the most significant things that have stayed with me and which wisdom I in turn, have passed on to innumerable mentees are: 1. Be very good in your job, constantly try to be the best among the colleagues and; 2. Build up a healthy bank balance and keep it growing.
At that impressionable age, I could understand the first maxim but, I had to ask SSM to explain why the second maxim was necessary. That wise old man told me that one never knows when one will come across a superior who will not accept or appreciate your ability and the best thing to do under the circumstances will be to quit and seek your fortune elsewhere. The bank balance will help you tide over the period of unemployment.
The second maxim succinctly explains leadership problems that subordinates face as, there will be different types of people in positions of authority and all of them need not be good leaders or even bosses, and could well be monsters.
Many other persons in authority came into my life and, three were particularly great leaders and mentors who ensured that I performed well and in turn became a good leader / manager. Naturally, I also came across many who were neither good leaders nor mentors but they gave me lessons on how not to be. I also had the amazing experience of working for some narcissists who come under a different category altogether. A book can be written about my experiences with those worthies but, I learnt a great deal from them too.
Early in my managerial career, I came across a formula that enabled me to be effective in managerial positions and something that as a mentor, I passed on to my mentees too. This formula is CCDO.
The first C is Connectedness. This implies good relationships with one’s superiors, colleagues and subordinates.
The second C is Constancy. Constancy in maintaining the relationships.
The D is for Dignity. Giving and demanding dignity in all relationships.
The O is for Opportunity. This implies the ability to provide opportunities to all connected with one to perform well and progress. Providing the opportunity would also imply providing the wherewithal to exploit the opportunity.
All the good leaders that I have come across in my life have inevitably shown these characteristics.
There is another important element that often comes into play in leadership and that is what I would call situational. There are people who provide great leadership under particular circumstances but fail to under normal circumstances. I am sure that my readers will readily identify many in their circles who feature this trait. The most famous of such leaders was Winston Churchill who was a great leader during WWII but flopped as one during post war peace time. I have come across many such individuals and as I write this, I am in touch with one particular person who is providing such leadership under totally unexpected conditions. Once the crisis is over, I am sure that this individual will revert to his earlier placid role in his circles and I would be very surprised if he would be comfortable in that role later.
An important element in leadership is the exercise of power. I refrain from writing on that for now as a book can be written on that subject alone. For those who are interested, one book that impressed me a great deal in my formative years and which also helped me exercising power effectively was and continues to be The Anatomy Of Power.
I hope that you have found this 2 on 1 Friday blog post interesting and I request you to go over to Shackman’s blog to see what he has to say on the topic that he has suggested.
My friend Rajinder sent me this observation by a WhatsApp message. Some of the bite in the message is lost as I have translated it from the original Hindi into English. My apologies but, my readers will find it as amusing as I did on receipt.
The Complete Man.
One who gets up at 5.00 every morning.
Makes his own bed.
Tidies up his room by himself.
Exercises every day.
Helps cooking in the kitchen.
Does not drink alcohol.
Stays away from night life.
Spends his time productively.
Reads something every day.
Goes to sleep every night promptly at 9.00 pm.
Every morning spends time in prayer.
Such a complete man can be found only in prisons.
Since I pass muster in all the qualities enumerated, I responded – “I am not in any prison.”
PS. The Complete Man is an iconic advertising slogan for a famous fabric /gents garments manufacturer in India.
My friend Shanker posted the following message on Facebook and I promptly copy pasted the same on my page.
My door is always open. My house is safe. Coffee & Tea can be on in minutes, and my dining room table is a place of peace and non-judgmental. Anyone who needs to chat is welcome anytime. It’s no good suffering in silence. I have food in the fridge, coffee and tea in the cupboard, and listening ears, shoulders to cry on and words to share. I will always be here…you are always welcome!!
This is an old value that has been lost to technology…a text, face-time or emoji is not the equivalent of making time for those we love or care about!
I promise to sit at the table while we talk…this is a value that we should bring back!! Let’s all bring it back!
Could at least one friend please copy and re-post.
The response has been staggering. I have posted many other messages on Facebook but, I have never seen such responses. As I write this post, there have been 44 thumb-up and heart emoticons and 19 comments. Five friends have also copy pasted the post on their pages.
The contents of the message must have resonated very well indeed with many people!
I had couple of friends visiting me some days ago and we had discussions on a wide range of subjects. Both are part of a group to which I too belong, which has monthly meetings where such discussions take place and, it was not unusual that it happened again.
One of the friends unfortunately has recently been having morbid thoughts. He is four years older than I am and has seen much suffering in his life despite having had a successful academic life. He has been exploring various avenues of living in some kind of seclusion in some old peoples’ home.
Among the issues that have been agitating him is the concept of “Right To Die”. He has lately been studying cases of euthanasia and has been wanting to carry out research on the subject among senior citizens of India.
He lives alone except to spend every Sunday with his only son, daughter in love and grandson. My other friend and I believe that his recent bouts with health issues like high blood pressure and insomnia has brought him to some morbid thinking. That is the reason he brought this topic up again to discuss and I was a bit impatient with him as, we had discussed this topic a number of times before and had concluded that he should seek help rather than live with some morbid thoughts of euthanasia.
I finally had had enough and told him that though I had come across many people from all walks of life with fear of death; he is the first and only one that I have come across with a fear of life. I bluntly asked him as to why he was afraid to live the full life allotted to him and enjoy it to the best of his ability.
He was taken aback but, quickly recovered and said that, that was the problem indeed. He was afraid to live the way he was living and would rather not. That insight has changed his attitude somewhat as he called me up earlier today to thank me for the insight. I again suggested that he seek psychiatric help and he has agreed finally to do that.