Leadership lessons from my Co-Founders ( Part 1) — “SBM” style of Leadership

One of my retirement plans is to learn organizational psychology. With this ambitious goal at the back of my mind, I often find myself observing personal interactions at inter & intra-team level; and also in different leadership roles.

Off late I have been observing the leadership and management style of the four co-founders of Fourth Ambit. I have learned a LOT from my fellow 3. Since today we celebrate the Bday of one of the co-founders, I wanted to share the lessons of Leadership I learnt from the man himself.

Things I learned from Shyam Bhaskara Menon — or, the “Paakara Menon” Style of Management, as I would like to call it ( sorry, only Malayalees would get the reference)

Importance of Humor in Leadership

“Humor is a vital tool of leadership,” says Dr. Gerald D. Bell, the founder and CEO of Bell Leadership Institute.

We crib amount Shyam’s sense of humour ( and I may pay dearly for admitting it here) but his ability to de-stress the entire team with his tragic PJs is simply amazing

A good leader needs to be exceptional in his communication skills. And humour enables you to deliver even unpleasant messages in a light-hearted but effective manner

Of course, he also contributes significantly, albeit unintentionally, to team building when the rest of us gather together to bash him up for his seriously bad jokes as you can see below

Be a Cheerleader for your team

Let me share a story that goes back 2 decades when all four of the co-founders of Fourth Ambit were batch mates in Govt Model Engg college. The year was 1998.

Shyam was always brimming with ideas and projects to implement ( and by projects I mean, anything that has NOTHING to do with engineering and everything to do with getting out of class) . That year, a bunch of us from an engineering college attempted something that was unheard of in the annals of a Govt Engineering college — we took part in a University Fashion Show. ( How a bunch of nerds won a fashion show dominated by Fashion Design colleges is a story for another day)

Our USP was that the entire show was based on a concept and the background narration played a significant role in this. And yours truly was chosen for this honour. Needless to say, 30 mins before we are ready to go onstage, I panic. A full-fledged, no-holds-barred panic.

Shyam comes and sits by me. He gives no pep talk, no jumping out of his skin with excitement ( which would have been keeping with his perona) but a very calm and reassuring “Dont worry, you are very good. You can do this”. Now coming from him that meant a lot. (A) because it was his pet project and (B) he had no clue how good or bad I would be as I had never done something like this before

Today, I still see Shyam cheering people on. His enthusiasm is always a shot in the arm for the ones who don’t trust themselves.

This is an incredibly important character in a leader. You sometimes just need to be a cheerleader and let your team take the centre stage.

Important of dreaming BIG

Ever heard of college magazine in a CD format ( yes, we were born in that era). Well, Shyam had the rare distinction of being the 1st college magazine editor in Kerala to launch a CD Magazine. His ideas are always grandiose — but what makes the difference is that he manages to realize most of them.

Shyam never does anything by half measure. If I had to pick one person who is responsible for my entrepreneurial journey, it is him. Shyam ONLY sees the big picture.

While the road may not always be clear, the Leader has to be able to see the big picture…be capable of having a vision that is larger than life. Be it conducting the very 1st Inter-collegiate Arts Fest at Govt Model Engineering College ( way back 2000 when intercollegiate was NOT the norm in Kerala) and getting 3 adults ( his co-founders) to quit their jobs and jump into this whirlpool called “Startup Life” , Shyam is the leader who chases the Rainbow and in my humble opinion, every organization needs such a Leader.

Happy Bday, Shyam!