Dr. Jyothi from the School of Management Studies, Hyderabad Central University, invited me for a talk we have been long discussing - on leadership. I think, now, that it is perhaps the one key line of thought that students need to get exposed to - of leadership and its true meaning. Our future depends on it. This was a two hour talk - and given below is its gist.
If things were to change drastically in our lives in the next five years, what should we do? I am not merely speaking for us who are in this room alone. I am speaking for society, our country as a whole.
What do we want to change?
The partial list as provided by the students - Poverty, Caste, Corruption, Communal differences, Gender inequality, Terrorism, Environment, Animal abuse, Cleanliness, Education system, Politics, Traffic.....
Lovely stuff. Full of ideals and values.
Can we change things? Do we have the power?
How can these changes be effected? How can we influence our lives, our futures in 5 years? Can we? (The initial response was a sad - NO! and I don't blame the kids for that.)
Though it may appear like an uphill task, you should say yes, because we do have the power to change things. You have the power to change things. So lets look at how we can change things. In 5 years.
Who will change things for us?
Who will change things for us? The government? Our leaders? But what can leaders do if they start an initiative like Swachh Bharath but people do not carry the work forward (after the initial selfie rush). The only way we can change things is when all of us start showing the leader in us - in small ways. If the Prime Minister does it for all of India, we need to take leadership for our room, our home, our college, our university etc.The only way is for each of us to assume leadership positions.
Why can't we do it?
But can we take leadership positions? Are we prepared to assume leadership positions? Are you ready?
You are not. Nothing has prepared you to lead yet. Someday we hope to, but not now.
So you find yourself at a disadvantage.
Do you think it might help you if you understand leadership?
Two big questions - Is leadership important at all? Are leaders born or made?
(We agreed that the leadership is important. It is the one thing that can make a difference.)
How should the ideal leader be?
Let's list leadership attributes of the ideal leader. Clarity, contains group energies, shows the way, sets expectations, leads from the front, operates with optimism and enthusiasm, has long term perspective, believes that humans do good, is action oriented, plans carefully, executes plans, finishes job, empowers, loves, brings the best out of others, enthusiastic, is fair, has integrity, is warm and full of humility, leads by example etc
Are we ready to take leadership positions now?
What does leadership require you to do? In simple words - in needs you to take responsibility – 1) for yourself and 2) for others.
We may feel we are not yet ready, that we are not yet good enough to influence the world. Let's see how some others are making a difference to the world.
Let's watch a video on youtube of Sean Stephenson – The prisoner of your mind.
There are no excuses really for us not to do what we can in our lives, in that small area of control. First one must understand that leadership is not about taking - its about giving.
Leadership and its phases
Let me quickly run you through leadership and its phases as I see it. Remember, we are troubled by the lack of leaders in our society. We need more good leaders, more role models that we can follow, our youth can follow. What we have today in our society are untrained leaders, those who have either been thrust in to those positions or who have somehow seized them. These are what I call insecure leaders and they have one big problem - they will not be secure with secure leaders around them. They will promote only insecure people as leaders and mess up the system further. So we need to figure out how to make insecure leaders into secure leaders and also understand how to be a secure leader.
Insecure leaders are leaders only because they have a position and the authority that comes with the position. But being insecure people, they do not take any responsibility. They have authority but you take no responsibility for it. Instead they worry about how to protect themselves and further their own interests. In this case, the team suffers badly. The state, the country, society suffers.
These are all of us. Ordinary people with no position. People like you and me, the sweeper on the road, These people have no authority, no position but they can assume full responsibility if they want to and make a difference. We discussed the stories of a lady who stopped a boy who was going on the wrong side of the road and made him turn back and join the right side, a happy go lucky tea boy who made tea times full of energy and excitement for all of us at the bank, the story of the starfish beach from Chicken Soup series. Then we shared a few stories from Rashmi Bansal's book 'I have a dream' - of Bindeshwar Pathak and the Sulabh success story, of Harish Hande and Selco, of Super 30 and the daughter of a rickshaw puller who cracked the IIT, of Kejriwal and the RTI, of Goonj and Anshu Gupta. How one person with a dream achieved so much with no power or position. This is what we want the students to practice now - personal leadership - in small ways to affect a change in whatever area they wished to impact. By practising personal leadership you understand the discipline, the compassion, the responsibility and commitment required to set things right. This is the first step to becoming secure leaders.
If you practice personal leadership you can grow into a secure leader. Here you can use your position position with all the responsibility and use it wisely, use authority to make the changes you want to see. You will facilitate change, transfer ownership and empower the group, you will help others grow, you make others feel secure.
How to be secure?
We can be secure by accepting our limitations - of what we know and what we don’t know. Insecurity comes from hiding what we do not know and behaving as if we know.
How to practice Personal Leadership?
1) for yourself - using your power to better your place or position
2) for others - using your power to help others better their position
All you students must find your own ways to change the world. List 25 acts you will do to make a change. Recognize your power to make a change, Do the act, think ahead and do it everyday
My prescription for young Personal Leaders
Do daily acts of Personal Leadership
Form groups, teams, organizations
Share your progress on social media, inspire others
Start making one small change a day