Leadership Litany


The world today has lost Nelson Mandela and I write this edition of my blog as a homage to the great departed leader who embodied everything that is required of leadership and more. If there is one overarching lesson to learn from his life and other leaders in the same league such as Mahatma Gandhi, Leadership didn’t make them but they made Leadership. They evolved in their human qualities raising the bar on every dimension of life and constantly pursuing the path of Innocence to Excellence.

Leadership Can be Taught only by Nature

I find the question whether Leadership can be taught as ridiculous. Leadership is not some alien characteristic that descends from outside and sits on a person as a halo. It is in fact a combination of a person’s emotional and personal response to stimuli that stems from deep within to situations and circumstances. The teacher here is nature that helps every human to be one with its five elements (Air, Ether, Water, Fire and Earth) as it sustains life, urging the human being to learn and emulate those principles through the five senses (Feel, Smell, Taste, Hear and Sound).  It also teaches that Leadership is not uni-dimensional and that it is manifested in every action of a human being; not just in any one field of specialization. So we have to be respectfully tuned to nature and be willing to receive the teachings that no university or professor can ever impart.

A Leader is always at the Center

Contrary to popular imagery, a leader is never in the front or in the corner or anywhere else. A leader is always in the center. They are constantly mobilizing and rallying themselves around the cause of what is impeding the progress of the people around them. They don’t demand following and they don’t dictate the course of any path. They essentially form a discourse that becomes a guiding point for people to seek a direction. They are great at asking questions more than giving answers. In that they are child like in their enthusiasm of having discovered a new way to play with any resource that is available to them at hand. They don’t think that only a branded toy from Toys ‘R’ US will make them happy. But at the same time, they don’t discard a nice branded toy that is given to them either.

Growing from within

They seek growth from within and what this means is that their actions are born out of conviction. They are not easily led by trends and fashions. They don’t compete. They create competition. They are innovators. They passionately believe in what they do. They don’t pretend. They admit their mistakes openly and seek alternate paths. They never stop for they don’t have a destination. Life is a continuous journey for them. They are prepared to adapt to the different scenarios that come along the way of the journey. Their inner belief is their strength and risk assurance. Their equanimity sees them through success and failures and their resilience helps them wake up to every sunrise and see the potential in life.

Leaders see diverse points of view from a common lens

One doesn’t know whether it is a curse or a boon. But leaders without exception lead a very miserable personal life. Firstly, because they do not distinguish between the private and the public as they evolve. Their focus and their decision making doesn’t allow them the conventional wisdom of self preservation and therefore the choices they make hurts them and their families emotionally and financially. Their time cannot be divided and therefore it becomes very difficult to manage personal expectations; not just with family but also public who seek to get closer and have all their attention. Rather than seeing this as a negative, one needs to learn from this that leadership is at once a selfless penance or discipline that merges the private and the public. Leaders are usually unflustered by how events are shaped in their lives because they develop compassion and empathy and are able to see diverse points of view from the same lens.

Leaders are never confuse others.  Their communication bears absolute clarity.

frogLet me conclude by sharing an Aesop’s Fable of the Frog and the Centipede which probably many of you have heard. The centipede was on his morning walk one day when the frog spotted him. The frog was this philosopher who began wondering how the centipede managed to walk elegantly without tripping on any of his hundred legs while he had only four and thought that was the optimal. He couldn’t contain his curiosity and so stopped the centipede and asked him about it. Now the centipede had never thought about it because managing with those hundred feet that nature bestowed upon him came naturally. But having the curiosity raised, he looked at his feet and then started to work around them as he attempted to walk figuring which came first and which the next. And as you can imagine, he tripped and could not proceed with his usual gait. Now the centipede was very upset with the frog. He said I had been doing this walk naturally and so have my entire fraternity with all the hundred legs all our lives and we never tripped. Now you ask me this question and I am a wreck. So please solve this problem and tell me how am I supposed to manage my gait with my hundred legs? Which feet comes first and which the next?  The frog said, he didn’t have an answer. All he did was become curious and therefore raise the question. What the frog did not tell the centipede was that, he was limited is his understanding of how a walk can happen only with the four legs that he had as opposed to the hundred legs that the centipede had. centipede 2

Leaders experience life and allow other to experience it as well. They learn from their and others collective experience and that becomes their point of their discourse. They are able to intelligently interpret the message that nature and life has to provide them for the explicit as well as implicit manifestations; enabling them to learn and Serve continuously to emerging contexts and challenges. 

About Subbu Iyer

Subbu Iyer is an Innovation & Transformation Leader as with 28 years of serving customers globally. He is currently the Chief Designer & Transformer at Energizing Innovation, an enterprise that is being founded to facilitate continuous growth in enterprises and as a consequence create societal wealth. The Radical Shift that this enterprise intends to employ is focusing on the Potential rather than the Performance of a business. He has been a serial entrepreneur and an intrapreneur in his past life, having founded Nihilent Technologies and Nandaki Systems besides being associated in senior leadership roles with firms such as Coopers & Lybrand, Cambridge Technology Partners, Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro Technologies and Steria.
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