Kanan Jaswal's Blog on Leadership

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Leaders make their followers feel a foot taller

Some two decades back I, a young man myself, met a young bank manager, whose chairman had become a legend. Only due to his great stewardship that bank had started giving regular jitters to my bank, the State Bank of India, the hitherto unchallenged master of the Indian banking scenario. After the preliminary niceties we found ourselves talking about the ‘big man’ and I remember asking the bank manager if he had ever met him. He said he had met him, not one-on-one but as a member of a group of young managers. I then asked him to describe his chairman in one sentence. The reply was that it was difficult to describe ‘that man’ in one sentence. On my persisting with the request, he said, and I quote, “In his presence we all felt a foot taller.” I have read somewhere that there are about four hundred fifty definitions of leadership, and recently I had the presumptuousness to add one of my own to the number, but I feel that this thoughtful observation describes a leader most aptly.

Some people are born great, on some others greatness is imposed, but rubbing that greatness onto others you come in contact with is the sign of true leadership. Only a person absolutely confident of his own great worth can afford to arouse greatness around themselves. Compare this to the sorry spectacle of leaders surrounding themselves with pygmies to profit from comparison and if a pygmy is found to add even half an inch to their height, they are promptly banished to a permanent oblivion.

Real leaders empower the members of their team, they discover their own greatness in the greatness of their colleagues. And the others, to whom this personal trait does not come naturally, can learn to make it their own. Let me assure them that it would be entirely worth the effort.

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