Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Leading

19/08/2008

Today marks the first day of my new life. I feel grateful to my organisation where I served for so long till yesterday and got to learn so much. I seek blessings of the Almighty and good wishes of all … all in my life. I know I already have it – only seek continued shower of the same.

The first thing that strikes me today is – “ Leading without a Title - a tag line I had read a few days back on Robin S Sharma’s blog ( Have you read his book “ The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari “? - awesome - very inspiring and to me, made all the sense! That perhaps made me introspect about my life goals a lot more sincerely. That was about 2 years back.) .

Now that I am without an official position, I understand what he is talking about .

Here I am reminded of a couple of stories.

Story 1

Seen that small documentary of Naseerunddin Shah on Star Fishes ? ( We were shown this as a starting point to an Organisation-wide internal communication drive, named “Parivartan”. )

The film shows an Ocean, with all its might and majesty, roaring with tides and throwing every moment with each sea-wave, a huge number of star fishes out of the water onto the sandy seashore, from where the starfishes can not make their way back to the water and eventually die .

However, here is this young boy, who runs everyday along the seashore and picks up starfishes and throws them back to the water – as many as possible for him – to save them.

An inquisitive observer asks the boy : Do you think you can really make a difference to the situation ? How many starfishes do you think you can save this way, even if you run your whole life ?

Obviously, the number of starfishes being thrown out by the ocean tides every minute far far outnumber what one person can save by manually throwing back to the ocean and who knows, how many are actually surviving the tides even after being thrown back to water once ?

The boy replies as he throws one starfish into the ocean : It made a difference to this one !! ( pointing his finger to the one which was just thrown into the ocean and was swimming into the deeper ocean !)

I am sure, the message is loud and clear.

Leadership is all about making a difference to someone else, to some situation in the environment, which, you think, should not remain the same.

It does not matter whether the difference you make is small or big. If you are truly concerned about a situation, make a difference by your personal action – without worrying about the fact that you can not make a total difference to the situation. Does not matter if the boy could not save all the starfishes affected. It is important to note that by his positive action, he could save at least a few starfishes out of thousands about to die, and that it did make all the difference to those few, who were saved by the boy .

Many of us get cowed down by the sheer enormity of a problem and do not even take the first step towards the solution,thinking that solving the entire problem is not within our personal control. We fail to appreciate that even a small difference in the desired direction eventually leaves the situation better than what it was and it is small differences by one or many, which eventually add up to a big difference !

So title or no title, you are a leader if you make a difference to the people around you – to your surroundings. That boy in the story did not have any title !

Story 2

A temple was being built and it was the dream of the builder to make it not only just a place of worship, but a sculptural masterpiece. A visitor to site under construction once came across three sculptors, carving out similar statues to be installed inside the temple for beautification.

He asked the first sculptor, who was apparently struggling with his work : “why are you making this statue ?” The reply came : I earn my livelihood by making statues. No wonder – he was not enjoying his work and the quality of his work was not upto the mark .

The 2nd sculptor was apparently happy with his statue, and said : I like making statues, this also gives me my livelihood. Here is a person, who derives pleasure out of his work and also understands its importance for him. No wonder, the statue created by him was very beautiful .

The 3rd sculptor, who was engrossed in perfecting a statue that he had already completed, replied : Oh , I am building the temple ! No wonder, he was passionate about his work and his creation was splendid and the best of all .

Just reflect ! For the first person, carving the statue was just a means of earning the livelihood. It does not matter to him, whether he enjoys his work or not. He was just a cog in the wheel. Obviously, a product of such disinterested work can at best be just ordinary. For the 2nd sculptor, it was a lot more than just being the means of livelihood ; it was also his source of pleasure . So, his creation was beautiful.

But for the 3rd sculptor, it was something entirely different – he took his work as a part of the bigger picture – the temple. For him, everything he does needs to be perfect, so that the temple they are building also comes up perfect – as visualised. This is what true leadership is – when you can see the bigger picture much above your specified role and work towards being a part of it .

S.o.o ? True leaders feel themselves as part of the whole picture, and unleash their best potential . Anyone, who contributes to the whole – with the whole in view – is a leader , title or no title .

[ Sorry … can not remember the source for giving credit. I have a bad memory for the exact manner in which stories are told or who the storyteller was. But whenever I read such stuff, what gets imprinted in my subconscious is just the essence . Anyway, I am thankful to the original storyteller for this which brings out lucidly how each of us in the society, each employee of an organisation can be a leader in one’s own right - title or no title .]

Story 3

This is from one of the articles by Sharu Ragnekar, one of the renowned Management consultants.

Once he visited Amritsar, a few months after the Operation Blue Star .There was still tension in the air. After showing the important places of interest, his hosts took him to the Wagha Border. There are Indian soldiers and Pakistan soldiers on the two sides of the border. At sunset, both sides lower the flags and there is a drill. This is very interesting to see as the drills are identical on both sides of the border and looks like a mirror image.

When he visited the border, he saw on our side of the border a teacher with 20 students. She was telling them, “ When the flag moves in the evening, all of you sing Sare Jahan se achchha Hindostan hamara.. ” Curious, Ragnekar asked her what she was doing . She replied, “ It is my practice to bring a batch of my students here on the first day of every month so that they can see the moving flag and sing. I do it every month – although this month, this was very difficult for me.”

“ Why was it difficult this month ? ”

“ Because it is the Pay and Stay month. This is the time when teachers get transferred . If you pay, you stay; if you do not pay, you are transferred . I want to stay , so I had to pay . So my budget was very tight this month. When I bring a batch of students here, in case of 3 to 4 students, the parents say they can not afford to pay for the trip. Each such child costs Rs 10 to be brought here and taken back by bus. So there is an expenditure of about Rs 50 every month and this month, it was very difficult to spare this amount as I had to pay for not being transferred.”

“ When this is what is happening to you, why do you want the children to sing Sare Jahan se Achchha Hindostan hamara?”

She asked spiritedly, “ Who is going to improve India? I have not been able to improve India; you have not been able to improve India. I have no influence over the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister, but I have some influence on these children and I am going to use it . These children believe in me – so I bring them here, let them look at the flag and let them sing Sare jahan se achchha Hindostan hamara. When they grow up, at least some of them will be proud of India and try to improve India.”

Sharu Ragnekar observes that this teacher has the basics of management:

- She decided that her responsibility is to improve India.

- She identified that her main resource is herself, i.e. her influence over the students

- She experimented with her resource to achieve her goal .

I would like to add, this teacher is a leader, as

- from the problems in her own circumstances, she has taken a decision that things must change for better

- she is committing herself through personal action to bring about that change – in whatever way possible for her.

- she is able to see a goal, much bigger than anyone in her position would see,

- she is navigating through constraints – but towards the goal .

She is making a difference .

Mahatma Gandhi ( one of the best examples of leaders without a title ) once said , “ We must become the change we seek in this world .” Very true . Titles may support your efforts – but not necessary for leading in a true sense .

This much for now. The infinite perspectives of leadership will never cease to amaze me. I will keep coming back to this topic .

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mam,
Very good.! Today it is confirmed that posting at HRD, you had really enjoyed and I had enjoyed your leadership.

I will be visiting this blog.

Manasi

Anonymous said...

Mam,
Very good.! Today it is confirmed that posting at HRD, you had really enjoyed and I had enjoyed your leadership.

I will be visiting this blog.

Manasi

snigdha said...

Thank a lot Manasi. Honestly, Mumbai, Friends like you and our other groupmates, HRD and my assignments - all taken together have shaped me up to what I am today. Thx again.
Yeah,while leaving your comment , pl enter your name against Name/URL - so that it won't come as from anonymous- it would show " Manasi said.."

Anonymous said...

Leadership is basically leading to a different point from the current point, essentially a change, and has to be a development if we take leadership in a positive way. The field in which the leader is placed is immaterial as long as he makes the life of others more bearable and contributes towards making the life of others more fulfilling. I think he should be part of the answer to the eternal question-How to make the fellow beings a happier lot. He may be a motivator but not only a motivator. But I agree it is hardly possible to put all types under one tag. They are so different while all of them do the same- they lead. Thanx a lot for your appreciative comments on my earlier ones.

snigdha said...

Yeah ! I really amaze at visualising what this earth could be, if everyone starts thinking and doing this way - in their respective small areas of operation not waiting for someone else to take the lead !! Actually, leadership ordinarily pre-supposes followers - what I was trying to focus on in this particular article was another dimension of leadership which does not require others as such, rather one leads oneself in such a way that it eventually makes the others a happier lot.

ramesh c khadanga said...

about leading despite constraints i remember having read somewhere swami vivekananda saying - one who wants to proceed towards his goal after all the problems are over is like a man who stands near a river and tells to himself that he would cross the river after all the water has flown. - r c khadanga

snigdha said...

Always a pleasure to have your value additions, Khadanga sa'ab.