Where are We in the Leadership Journey?
After having seen a bit of this stuff, people commenting about my looming grey hair, and having hit 40 this month, I take the privilege to pen down my thoughts. These might be very specific to a certain set of my experiences but can be extrapolated for reflection. As you read through this as a leader, if you’re able to say YES to at least three of these, then you have might have crossed a huge chasm between leadership and reality — IMHO. This post is not for soliciting likes, so don’t worry about hitting those buttons, it is for all of us to introspect and reflect.
#1 — Are You Out of the Box with Yourself and Others?
There’s a great book here that I would recommend to everyone reading this blog post. It’s called leadership and self-deception. Make sure to get copy of it today. The essence of this book is this — if you are in the box with yourself, then it will be difficult for you to understand the ‘macros’ to lead people to greater success. In some cases, you might be in the box with a few people and not with others, but that still would limit the growth, progress and superior performance of you and others.
What does ‘being in the box’ mean? It literally means you live, work and react as if you are trapped in a box — without any knowledge of how your team members or others feel or think. Reason — mostly a result of massive insecurities and a feeling of lack about what you bring to the table. Result — you do or say things without any knowledge or foresight of what the ‘reactions’ would be, thereby completely paralyzing organizational performance and bringing down the morale of your team members.
Think of it like a doctor in the ancient days who had no idea about the root cause of a widespread disease, and was treating only symptoms. He was in the box, treating the disease only at the surface! A lot of this is personality driven, and I see a lot of young leaders and entrepreneurs still in the box. But as you grow in grey hair, the winds of change are essential. How — open up, think outside your insecurities, and treat the team as an extension of you!
#2 — When Others Fall, Do You Rise and Pick Them Up In Lieu of Falling Even Lower?
After the recent political debates, this probably is quite clear. When others are rolling in the mud, probably fighting their own battles, what’s your role as a leader? It is to figure how you can help reduce the mud fight and get your team mates out of there. Why — so all of you can get some ‘real work’ done. There might be known and identified motivations for some of the team members to bring you down and roll in there, for sure! But, you cross the chasm when you decide to bring the broom and clean that up!
Most noise and organizational drama comes to life because people have the natural tendency to keep rolling and putting more mud on each other. Result — people unable to tolerate each other, creating long meeting wars, backstabs, failed and delayed products, and lost revenue.
I am sure you’ve seen this before. When a few kids decide to be destructive and the other kids follow suite. At that time, the parent police needs to control the damage — correct? Here, why don’t we make our own minds police this behavior trend by being ‘mindful’ of the repercussions of such mud fight. Not good for anyone in the end and sways everyone away from the larger objective.
#3 — Do You Put Others in Front of Yourself?
You might have heard this before, leadership often demands you to come out of your comfort zone and think of others more than yourself. It is putting everything you’ve got at stake to ensure success and happiness for the other person. It is making yourself and your family uncomfortable for bigger organizational goals. This might include less money, less convenience, less everything.
Quite Gandhian in its principle but a clear path for good leaders to bring the right impact. Why — because selflessness and giving brings an undefined strength and courage. A strength which will in fact help you be always outside the box and take the high road — #1 and#2.
In the real world, a relationship between a mother and child probably is the only way I can explain this. A mother raises her child with absolutely no expectation and with only one goal — to see a smiling face. No amount of money can buy a mother’s love and no amount of agony can take it away — you’ve heard that right? And that’s why, it’s a special privilege to be a mom — to be the driver of that constant variable! In an organization, an iota of this selflessness can help everyone in the organization tremendously to grow together.
#4 — Are You Vulnerable?
Although often quite ignored, a leader who is vulnerable is human. This person is not afraid to project weakness and share deepest fears. This leader will look to the team for answers in times of trouble and will depend on expert opinion from their team. This leader will realize that they are not complete without their team and can never lift even a needle alone.
It takes great strength to be weak and vulnerable, to show tears in your eyes, and to extend a hug when things are going wrong. This moral cement is a result of deep experiences. Same experiences that drive the ‘all in’ mindset drives the ‘I am nothing without you’ mindset.
So to say, Houston, we have a problem, is not easy as easy as it may sound. To say, yes, we can, in times of crisis and march hand in hand with your kith is leadership in its true essence. To say ‘I have a dream…when you still haven’t figured out how everything will pan out in the face of externalities requires guts.
#5 — Are You Fearless?
Last in the line here but never the least. Are you fearless in your approach? This comes when you believe in your s…. and are often less worried about the results. This also comes when you love what you do and are less concerned about the ‘benefits’ and accolades such as titles, power, and money surrounding the result.
This also comes when you understand — situations, people and yourself to some extent and you are ready to take risks with all threeJ. And most of all, this comes when you have seen life and its situations — up, close and personal and gained the strength to deal with it. This also comes from a fundamental mindset of ‘letting everything go’ without holding on.
The fear with being fearless is that you might become overconfident, haughty and vain about yourself and overestimate your capabilities. Believing that you are the next Steve Jobs, you might end up causing some collateral damage to people around you.
#6 — Are You Watching from the Sidelines or Are You Center Stage?
Leaders are found back stage. They are fixing the make up and tying the laces. They are making sure there’s water for everyone to stay hydrated. They are sitting in the economy class, at the back of the plane. They are silent when there are too many people talking. But there is power in what they do. There is radiance in their eyes. And when they talk, everyone is speechless.
They command not by giving orders and being authoritative, they command with love, silence and vulnerability. But their demeanor inspires action. Their ways inspire followers and their presence inspires respect.
Now, Your Turn!
All the leaders out there, I would love to hear from you. Please tell me how you scored here. Be true to yourself since you are the judge. And, if you got even 3 of these down, you are a leader in spirit and being. And, that’s what counts. If not, there’s work to do but life is Work in Progress, isn’t it? And there’s always opportunity if we are willing to learn from it.
So what kind of organization and family are you building, tell us?
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