Saturday, May 17, 2014

On Leadership

Yesterday, a historic election result happened in India. For the first time, a non-Congress party, the BJP got a majority by itself. This is unprecedented, even unexpected. But the last 10 years Congress has provided insipid, corruption ridden, uninspiring leadership that has led India slip in all possible indices. On the contrary, the incumbent, Narendra Modi has turned his state over his 14 year rule into a powerhouse.

The leadership styles could not be contrary. I will not delve into the political nuances of it - since this is a blog on learning.

What is leadership? Some lessons for people in the corporate ladder and worklife and perhaps in life as well - since leadership lessons largely tend to be the same everywhere.

Leadership is being visible, being active, right at the front. Back seat drivers exist only in cars, not in leadership. It means, facing questions, talking, communicating.The Prime Ministers victory speeches exemplify this and his style of functioning so far - which is unlikely to change.

Leadership is staying in control - this is not about control like in control freak - but leadership is about not losing control. Staying on top of every situation.Not shrugging shoulders and claiming 'hun kee karan' like a victim. The bomb blasts at Patna during his rally and how he held is calm.
Leadership is about taking decisions. That often means, that some people may find some decisions unpleasant. But leadership is not about making everybody feel good. This quest of being good to everybody usually ends in disastrous leadership. You will be seen as a vacillating, indecisive and procrastinating. Modi had to move many old entrenched leaders as part of this campaign.

Leadership means, always, always, always doing the right thing - not what is easy or expedient. The latter is usually easiest when one is following the 'I want to be good to everybody' path. And that path is a myth. It does not exist. Doing the right thing takes guts. It means tough messages have to be given. And the best part of doing the right thing is that your team sees you as meaning well for the team. Do something expedient and there is a marginal short term gain, but a massive long term loss. This is well known - on many things, Modi has continued to do the right thing - without ever taking the easier path.

Leadership means showing faith in people. Letting the next level do what they are assigned to do. And if need be, following their instinct. The way Amit Shah ran his campaign in UP - he had a free hand - and the dissenters went whining to him - they were asked to shape up or ship out.

Leadership is all about connect. Many of his twitter followers got a personalised message for working with him. Yes, it was perhaps sent by a automated software, but well, he cared to send that. 

There is much more to be said and perhaps I will, as we see our Prime Minister start working through the many things that will come his way. But this much I must say - for the first time, we have an inspirational political figure in India, in our lifetime.

Yes, not everyone can be a leader - see our outgoing leadership. These are the people who are on vacations when asked to take difficult calls, do the easy things because the right things are difficult, spout spiritual quotes and do the exact opposite. Believe me, the nation can see it - and if the nation can see it, so can your teams.

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