Leadership Lessons from my Co-founders (Part III)

[ This is a double series overlap. Day 5 of my “One Day One Blog” series and Part III of a series I started in August 2016 where I share the lessons of management and leadership I learned from my fellow co-founders, on their respective Birthdays. You can read Part I and Part II here]

Happy Bday, Jikku!

As children, we have heroes that we aspire to emulate. They may range from a powerful, yet earnest and righteous Superman to the more cooler Ironman. For all our hero worship and adoration, we may well have changed loyalties to keep with the times and even forgotten our idols as we get busy with growing up. You know… dealing with the wicked world all by ourselves.

However, every once in a blue moon after we think we have given up on idols from the fantasy world we left behind as we got older, we come across someone who inspires us to be better than what we are. Who sets such high standards that we feel compelled to exceed the limits we set for ourselves so that we may feel that we are in the same league as them.

I have seen this phenomenon happen at Fourth Ambit. From the senior management to the young intern, people cringing for even considering the possibility of compromising on values because this phenomenon has shown that you can live without ever compromising on the value system.

At Fourth Ambit, we call this phenomenon Jikku.

Today, as we celebrate his Birthday, I look back at the past 5 years filled with excitement, passion, craziness, fights, tears, victories and what stands out is the number of things I learned from him.

Work Ethics — not just a fad

A few years back when we started off Fourth Ambit, I attended a workshop. The speaker eulogized at length about startup culture. The importance of freedom to innovate. How corporate norms like working hours and dress code should not be even present in a startup world.

What the man did not touch upon was the work ethics that one needs in a startup. You can be a student startup or a startup co-founded by four people who have all worked for nearly a decade but the one thing that remains true for both is that you have embarked on a journey with no road map.

The only life jacket you have with you is your ability to work. Work with discipline; work with a focus on quality. I have seen the average person who believes that he or she can work hard. But you don’t know what hard work is till you have seen Jikku.

No one, and I mean no one works as hard as Jikku.

When he leads a team, I have never seen a team member mention unfairness in terms of workload because no matter how much you do, he always does more.

Integrity, thy name is….

Remember all those old world ethics ( which our generation and the next may only get to see in movies) — where the Hero says, “My word is my bond” and even the enemies accept that?

That is Jikku. It may be a promise to a customer; a commitment to the sales team on delivering a certain feature for the platform — if Jikku says it will be done, it will be done.

I have seen CxOs of his previous organizations welcoming him with a warm hug, when Jikku meets them even after half a decade ( and knowing Jikku, he would not have done any of those “keep-in-touch” thingies) — only the highest levels of integrity and character inspires such long lasting impressions in people.

Jikku is really bad with names. But no one who has worked with him ever forgets him or his name.

Team management — The devotion he inspires in his team

Now, this devotion is not blind faith. I have seen him earn it from Day 1. He is one of the toughest taskmasters I know. But he is fair. And his people know that he is always fair.

Whether it is a helping hand to a team member whose family member is ill or someone struggling for money due to a family emergency, Jikku will be there to help out.

As with any startup, we have had our fair share of turbulence. During some really tough times, we have had teammates who decided to stick with us when they could have found better opportunities elsewhere. We extol their loyalty to the company. But I know that loyalty is inspired by this man.

If Jikku is reading this, by now, I know that I would have managed to thoroughly embarrass him. Humility is another layer he is born with. Even so, let’s move onto some lighter notes.

I called Jikku a phenomenon in the introduction.

While we recognize that this phenomenon occurs once in a thousand years, we feel obliged to equip you with the necessary guidelines to navigate one, if it ever crosses your path:

  • This phenomenon breaks the time-space continuum ( ok, not really but it sounded nice, rt?) — If you wish him Happy Bday via any social media channel in 2015, he may revert with a “Thank you” in 2017, completely unaware that the said wishes came in 2 years back
  • An individual’s name is one of the outer layers of “ego”, your sense of self, rt? And he absolutely does not believe in “Aham” or Ego…… So your name might be Sneha and he might call you Swetha and will be completely perplexed as to why you haven’t responded or why you continue to glare at him. But you forgive him these “Ghajini” moments because he may forget your name, he will never forget you when you need a helping hand.
  • Do not even bother starting any conversation with “ Do you remember” or “If you recollect”… It is always better to start the “story” from scratch. On the plus side, you can say the same joke multiple times and each time, he will laugh at it as though hearing it for the 1st time.

He says that I am the one who gives him a bad name by sharing the stories of memory lapses worldwide — I guess I have just proved him right :)

While Shyam and Rahul were my friends before we became business partners, Jikku was 1st my business partner. And then he transitioned to being a friend; then earned the love and respect due to a big brother by his actions ( though he is younger to me in age) and then he moved beyond that. He is someone who symbolizes values that are so important to me, that if I ever face a moral dilemma, he is the beacon I turn to. Correction. He is pretty much the golden standard for integrity to anyone who knows him well.

Happy Birthday my dear friend!

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Friends, this is the Day 5of my odyssey to write one blog EVERY DAY for the month of May 2017. “One Day, One Blog

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