Kanan Jaswal's Blog on Leadership
Thursday, April 24, 2008
1. Law of Infinite potential: Everyone has got infinite potential and the sooner we all realise this the better it will be for us. The limitations that we have on our capabilities have not been imposed by God but by our wrong self-beliefs. So, if we decide to break free then perhaps even the sky is not the limit.
2. Law of Maya: Every thing changes all the time; change is the only constant. As they say, we do not step into the same river twice. In fact, we, ourselves, are also changing constantly; hundreds of our body cells are dying and others in similar number are born every second. Past solutions may not work for the present problems. We, therefore, have to look for a solution, not in our memory but in our spirit.
3. Law of Dharma: Dharma, by its very definition, holds, it sustains. Just as the dharma of fire is to burn, the dharma of human beings is to fulfil their needs by utilising their talents. So, acting in dharma one must know their needs and how to satisfy them using their talents. But one must not utilise their talents harming and injuring similar efforts by others.
4. Law of Karma: We reap what we sow, and there are no exceptions.
We, therefore, have to assume fullest responsibility of what we have
become and of whatsoever happens to us. The knowledge of this law empowers the hitherto weaklings struggling for survival to become beings of power controlling their own destiny.
5. Law of Yajna: First give and then take. In this exchange is rooted the well-being of mankind. If we just go on giving without taking anything in return, we are actually impoverishing the receiver. On the other hand, by affording a chance to others to give to us we empower them. But always give first and then deserve to receive.
6. Law of Yoga: Engage, but in a detached manner. For doing anything with some degree of success it is essential to be engaged in it; but by also having detachment we acquire better perspective and balance.
7. Law of Leela: Leela is God’s playfulness. And this law says that if we have the Upaya (Sanskrit term for method or know-how), our effort is effortless and becomes a leela. Lord Krishna had the upaya and was, therefore, could subdue the giant serpent Kalia and dance on its thousand hoods.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
This applies equally well to a new business leader. He or she is selected by the board of directors to produce results and not to dwell on the past, even if it is the immediate past. Also, blaming the predecessor, who is no longer with the organisation and is not in a position to defend himself or herself, can not be taken as a particular act of bravery.
Friday, April 18, 2008
- While managers are efficient, leaders are effective.
- Managers do the things right, whereas leaders do the right things.
- Managers take care of the bottom line, leaders build businesses.
- Managers ensure profits and the leaders continued profitability.
- Managers are for the short term, whereas the leaders for the long term.
- Managers climb the ladder and the leaders point out the right wall to place the ladder against.
- Leadership begins where management ends. And so on and on…
Managers, with the rarest exceptions, have with them teams of employees working to achieve their parts of the organisational objectives. And how can the managers get their teams to stay focused on the team objective and function at their most efficient level if not by leading them? Even if the manager has only one staffer with them, they have to act as a leader in relation to that staffer. To be successful, the manager has to be a leader, and a good leader at that.
I would, therefore, hold that the terms ‘manager’ and ‘leader’ are not mutually exclusive.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
I do not know what course of action she adopted but how would have I faced the situation had I been in her place (Case A)? Or suppose I was made privy to the decision but not told to keep quite about it (Case B). Or I too had only heard a rumor about the imminent closure (Case C).
Taking up Case C first, I would check up with the corporate office and if they denied any plan for closure, I would immediately advise the staff accordingly, restoring the peace. If, however, they confirmed the substance of the rumor, the situation would be as either in Case A or in Case B.
Now Case B, on the staff asking me about the rumored decision I would ask my superiors for permission to share the information with my staff. If I got it, I would confirm to the staff. If not, it would be Case A.
Finally Case A, my sympathies with the staff notwithstanding, I would not go against the order and would have to tell them that there was no truth in the rumor. But after that it would be difficult for me to continue in an organisation which was not transparently honest even with its own people. I would plan an early exit.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
How I wished that she had not mentioned the efforts of that particular group because my organisation had business dealings with it and was one of the sufferers when the group went back on its commitments, aggregating more than 200 million US dollars, to the banking system. The banks had proof of massive diversion of money but the ever slow legal machinery proved to be a reliable ally of the group. The professor looked a little shaken by the disclosure but she had already gone too much distance on the road to consider the futility of the journey. Her love for corporate social responsibility stayed.
I am not at all against the idea of corporate social responsibility but my definition of the term is different from the one generally accepted. For me it is not twisting the arms of the government to wrangle long term tax concessions; it is paying market price for the land to set up an industrial unit and not securing the government’s help in acquiring cheap scarce farm land much more than what is required. It is manufacturing by the most resource and energy efficient method, fully treating the industrial effluents before releasing them in the water streams, and using state of the art machinery to minimise air pollution. It is paying market wages to the workers, not retrenching them at the first sign of an industrial slow down, and not embezzling their provident fund. It is meeting all contractual obligations to suppliers, buyers and bankers. It is not steam-rolling over the interests of small investors. It is following and respecting the law of the land. And yes, after that and only after that, building and running schools for poor children, or, for that matter, maintaining public parks near the factory building and organising polo matches.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
It is a very tall order but not for the leaders who are thinker-visualizer-doers, who set examples for others by their conduct, who live the welfare of their people and who communicate from the honest depths of their hearts.
Monday, April 14, 2008
But in today’s world of high ambition and success orientation would a similar adherence to personal values, even when they are in conflict with the accepted behavioural norms in the organisation, pay? Not really, and it did not pay me even then in terms of advancing my career prospects. There is a payment, however, in the form of an increase in self-esteem. One is able to stand erect with head held high and look the world in the eyes, is this in itself not reward enough? There is also a hope, howsoever fond, that the others too would follow their example and not compromise any more their personal values for narrow short term gains.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
The leader should select two or three much younger members of the senior management team and expose them to higher and higher responsibilities in a planned way, guide them when and where necessary, and coach them into thinking as the top person. The leader would let them compete against one another, and when the situation so demands, also cooperate with the sole objective of delivering the organisation’s better performance. After enough inter-departmental experience and having further honed their strategising and people skills the heirs apparent would be in a position to fill the top slot when the vacancy arises. And then the organisation would carry on under a new leader and with fresh vigour.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English gives out ‘moral uprightness, honesty, wholeness, soundness’ as the meaning of the word ‘integrity’. It is one of the dictionary’s shortest explanations of a word’s meaning; more was not needed perhaps because every one knows what this word means. People are very much familiar with the concept, they may not be practising integrity themselves but they can make out easily if the other person’s conduct is of integrity or not.
Integrity is the foundation on which the edifice of leadership is built and without it, naturally, leadership collapses. High credibility of a leader is the outcome of their integrity. High credibility, in turn, gives rise to better, sometime even unquestioned, acceptance of a leader’s decisions among the followers and motivates them no end. They would be more likely to believe that those decisions are for the benefit of the team and the enterprise, and that they would advance their true interests. Further, team building is not an effort for a leader having integrity because fairness in treating each member of the team, which is one of the pre-requisites of building an effective team, is a hand-maiden of the leader’s integrity.
Finally, any one having high level of personal integrity but average conceptual, technical and people skills can be a great leader but the reverse is not true. Some one without integrity can yet lead by pandering to the baser concerns of the followers but they won’t deserve even a footnote in the book of leadership.
Friday, April 11, 2008
By the very nature of their job the leaders always have to be optimistic. When the going gets tough, members of the team look up to the leader to devise a way out and if he* himself shows despondency, it will spread like a contagion to the people being led and the whole venture can then just fold up very quickly. For the success of the enterprise it is, therefore, essential that the leader remains on top of the situation – good or bad – and always has a plan of action. But it does not mean that the leader has to keep flogging a dead horse and be hopeful of riding it to the destination. When even after concerted efforts an approach does not seem to be working, he is realistic enough to find merit in abandoning it and go for the plan B. Rob Linn and Rich Ottaviano, both leadership trainers of international repute, have recently said that the leader has to be “rigidly flexible”, i.e. rigid about the objective but flexible in the approach to it.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
McClellan, of course, proved to be a star non-performer, but had been a great fighting general, would that justify
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
A natural corollary to the golden rule for human behaviour, ‘Do unto others as you would done unto yourself’, is ‘Don’t do unto others as you would not done unto yourself’. If all our leaders put this corollary to practice they would be entirely worthy of their exalted positions and this world be a much better place for their living in it.
Bosses of today sometime ago had their own bosses, or even now they have. So, like any other mortal they must have disliked and hated many of their boss’ acts of commission and omission. It could be hogging the credit for the junior’s commendable work – the extreme being – and I am not here just imagining things – the case of publishing their junior researcher’s work under their own name and winning Nobel Prize for that, blaming the junior for below-par performance though they themselves neither gave unambiguous instructions nor allowed any attempts to seek clarity, that they looked down upon the subordinates as members of some sub-human species, that they took the lion’s share of the bonus granted to the department, that they encouraged a coterie of yes-men around them, that they were not trustworthy and did not trust those not part of the coterie, that they gave themselves an exclusive right to speak to the press about the organisation’s achievements even if they had the special gift of putting their foot – sometimes both feet – in the mouth every time they opened it to speak.
Now that these people are bosses in their own right, all they have to do in relation to their juniors and subordinates is to remember what they hated in their boss’ behaviour and then not to behave like that. By becoming the negative of their boss’ negatives these thoughtful bosses would score high positive marks as effective leaders.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Today even the junior most members of the organisation think, and rightly so, that they are important and that they can make their unique contribution to the organisation’s well-being and have, therefore, a right to be heard by the powers that be. They may not be able to enforce this right and that makes them disengage themselves emotionally from their leaders. As a consequence, the team spirit takes a beating and the organisation suffers.
All this can be remedied easily if the leaders stop being dismissive about the capabilities of their juniors and subordinates and encourage them, instead, to voice their opinions and make suggestions for better running of the organisation. They should then put in place a system to capture those suggestions, vet them, and finally to implement the worthwhile ones from among them. Further, a communication channel to the top, it could be a dedicated email or voicemail box, should be provided for the people to be able to raise, anonymously, reasoned criticism of the leaders’ decisions, actions or work styles. And if sufficiently cogent case had been made for that, the leaders must change their ways and, of course, if they think they must defend themselves they can take their case back to the people by using the top-down communication system that already operates well in the organisation.
People are an organisation’s and its leader’s real asset, and empowered by a bottom-up communication culture the value of the asset would enhance incalculably.
Monday, April 7, 2008
So many years later the friend was still appreciative of the great gesture made by the boss in admitting his mistake and apologising to a subordinate. I also praised the big man because he was able to rise above his ego; I said he was brave, he was sagacious. But was he sagacious? Almost immediately I had a doubt whether he really deserved that compliment. Sagacity would have been to admit his mistake and apologise to the friend at the next morning’s meeting where all others, in front of whom he had treated my friend petulantly, were again present. Hurting some one publicly and expressing contriteness in the private can make the wrong-doer feel a little better, it can also assuage somewhat the hurt of the wronged but no way it could and should be termed brave or sagacious. It is just like scandalising some public figure on the front page of a newspaper and then the next day at the lower right hand corner of the sixth page expressing regrets about the mis-reporting.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Compare this to the scene in India – in the world’s biggest democracy, no political party, and they are umpteen in number, is yet familiar with the term ‘intra-party democracy’. Candidates for the state and general elections are chosen by the parties’ respective high commands comprising of one - yes, just one – to ten persons. Ordinary members of the political parties are simply not trusted to choose the candidates. Every now and then the Election Commission makes suitable noises on its constitutional obligation to promote intra-party democracy but is easily satisfied with the sham elections the political parties stage for its benefit.
And then which political party in India will tolerate a challenge from within its own ranks to the candidature of the wife of country’s ex-president (read ex-prime minister in the Indian context), its star alumnus? In the country where three persons belonging to one single family, no doubt illustrious in many ways, have ruled for a collective 38 of its 60 years of independence, there can not be a Barrack Obama. Hillary Clinton is unfortunate that her husband was the president of the United States and not the prime minister of India.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Who loses in the bargain – the leaders and the organisations they happen to lead. The yes-men are immune from all losses, in fact they extract maximum price for their unflinching support, in the form of undeserved favours at the cost of the organisation. But I would not waste my breath in condemning the yes-men; they are too low even for that. What is really condemnable is the so-called leaders’ sense of insecurity which makes them ignore and deny any sort of criticism and seek solace in the adulation of the yes-men.
These leaders take no time in turning nasty and dangerous to their own organisation or nation, if that is unfortunate enough to be led by them. But Hitler won’t have become the Hitler, Germany and the rest of the world suffered immeasurable losses at whose hands, if the people around him had the courage of not saying “Yes” to him every time, and he won’t have had to shoot himself in the end dying a dog’s death. And this applies to all other tin pot dictators who were similarly lionised by their spineless cronies and before they met their well-deserved doom.
It is, therefore, the bounden duty of each right thinking individual in the organisation (or the nation) to expose the yes-men and if need be to confront the leaders on the reasons for their need to have such lowly creatures around them. And if the leaders still refuse to take the wake up call, they ought to be thrown out with the mass of yes-men clinging to them.
Friday, April 4, 2008
I would add here that even the so-called born leaders have to sharpen their leadership claws and learn new tricks (not in a derogatory sense!) continually to become a leader of some substance.
Finally, I would say that the world is big enough to accommodate leaders of both types – born or moulded. In fact, about seven million true leaders are needed, one for a thousand people, and the supply runs short of the demand by at least a couple of millions. Since we can not leave the gap to be filled up by the accident of birth, all of us who are concerned have to take it upon ourselves to be a worthwhile leader and to develop many more of the same ilk.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
After a quiet dinner I would ask the team to assemble in my room. All of us eleven would then sit in a circle, holding one another’s hands. Sitting like that we would softly close our eyes and meditate for fifteen to twenty minutes just being aware of the hands in our hands and not consciously thinking about anything. After this exercise in cosmic bond building I would tell my teammates to let bygones be bygones and to take care of the remaining four days’ play in the best possible manner. We must play ball by ball, while bowling and fielding, it should be our endeavour to get a wicket on every ball, failing which to deny the opponents a run, failing which to restrict the number of runs scored off that ball. While batting, the effort would be not to get out on that ball and then to score as many runs off it as possible without taking undue risks.
To end the meeting I would tell them to think as a team but give their best individual performances so far, it is only times like this which verily test a player’s mettle and character. The task before the team is daunting but not impossible, had not the Indian team beat the world champion Australia in the 2001-02 Calcutta Test after conceding a follow-on, thanks to VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid and Harbhajan Singh, all also members of the present team? And if despite the players’ best efforts the match is lost, let it be; we would lose the match but not our honour.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
So, what held true for perhaps the greatest leader of the second millennium is valid for lesser mortals and lesser leaders – a ready sense of humour not only makes the task of leadership appear less onerous but also provides to the leaders an escape route out of a contentious situation, in which they sometimes find themselves.
And here is a tip even for the most humourless leader – if they really want to cultivate a sense of humour they should learn to laugh at the jokes cut by their followers, and before that create an atmosphere in which the followers felt secure enough to cut a joke in their presence and sometimes even at the expense of the leaders themselves.