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Possibility Thinking – A sine qua non

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I would like to start my blog with a famous story of two salesmen who were sent to Africa by a shoe manufacturing company. Both reach Africa to explore the market opportunities. Surprisingly, both present divergent perspectives on their market research findings, when they speak to their managers.While one excitedly looked at the opportunities the continent offered for developing the shoe business, the other one cribbed about the lack of opportunities, as no one wore shoes! For him, it was impossible to sell an unknown product to such customers. So here, one saw possibility while the other didn’t.

  • ‘Possibility thinking’ goes beyond ‘Positive Thinking’.

Whenever we hit the end of the road, we generally say, “I am stuck, what do I do now, to get out of this situation?” We begin to feel like victims. However, if we use possibility thinking, the same situation can have innumerable solutions.

HOW?

Possibility thinking is a simple practice – which I call ‘Walking Talking’ meditation. We need to prime our brain to use possibility thinking every moment e.g. when watching a TV show, I look at those aspects of the show which I can correlate to my outer world and question myself, how can this correlation help me improve my overall quality of life or to solve a problem that I face every now and then.

  • How possibility thinking benefited my friend?

Not only do I use possibility thinking extensively in my own life, but I also influence my family and friends to apply it at all times. Though, the concept is so simple to use, very few use it. It can be used as a self coaching tool and also an effective instrument for leaders to help their peers and juniors to break out of the rut.But for doing that we need to have a good amount of knowledge to connect the dots to culminate the random thoughts into possibility thinking.  This way, it becomes our new way of life.

My dear friend who is an educationist was once narrating an incident about her mobile data possibility thinking story. Her usual internet usage is restricted to wi-fi which is easily available in her office and home. But on few occasions, when she couldn’t book a cab, she realized that it was important for her to have at least a basic mobile data pack. On enquiry, her telecom service provider offered her the cheapest Rs. 150 data plan which in her case was of no use.

She wanted a data plan which offered her flexibility and convenience of using it whenever she needed. With this question in mind, she went to the store.To her surprise, after little resistance, the customer care eventually offered her a reshuffle plan which allowed her to use internet only when she needed it. Though some part of her data plan still remains unutilized, but she is happy. She had found a possibility!

  • Seasoned professionals also forget this simple practice:

On the professional front, I met a Senior Human Resource professional of a leading MNC in Mumbai. She was really frustrated with her new junior who was taking undue credit for work done by her. My coaching session started with me asking a very basic question, “What actions have you taken to resolve this issue?”

As she was going through an emotional turmoil, her thinking had become foggy. She had got into victim mode! She had not thought of any possible steps to resolve the issue. I then asked her, “Do you send status updates of the work you are doing to your boss?” I never expected the answer to be in negative, especially from a seasoned human resource professional like her. As she was not updating her boss regularly about her contributions; her boss obviously ignored her work in the organisation.

  • Task master to a friend:

A senior auditor who works with one of my clients was labelled as a fault finder by his colleagues. After my session on possibility thinking; instead of finding faults he actually teamed up with procurement team to find alternate fruit vendors to save on the organisational expenditure on procuring and servicing fruits to employees. He initiated this just to test the efficiency of the concept, but both he and the organisation were eventually benefited because of this exercise. People see him differently now – A fault finder converted to a solution provider.

In a nutshell, we can say, “Possibility thinking is a tool which when effectively inculcated in our day today life will definitely help us to get out of the rut and think creatively.  We will always feel motivated and thus see enhancement in our overall quality of life.”

By  Dr.Niloufar Aga

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Changing Paradigms of Leadership

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Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_JohanSwan’>JohanSwan / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

In the recent Leadership summit organized by MCCIA in Pune, we had eminent speakers share their thoughts on the current business environment and structure of the organisations. They also shared various tips to lead the business to success.

We are living in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and ambiguous) world where today becomes yesterday and we can be taken by surprise. There is a complete paradigm shift, and hence it is quite possible for the organisations to lose relevance if they don’t adapt fast enough.  Following are the key pointers that were touched upon in the summit:

  • Current Business Environment:

Today’s business environment has changed from complicated to complex. A complicated environment can be correlated to a game of chess where we have limited opening moves. As the game unfolds, the possibilities of potential moves increase. Hence, the players gradually get prepared for the future uncertainties.

However, a complex environment is like a game of snooker where every stroke is full of uncertainties and innumerable probabilities right from the start. Hence, a leader needs to address this disruptive world with a more comprehensive approach.

Aftermath of recent surgical strike operation on the Line of Control is another example of VUCA. Once the strike was carried out, it was difficult to predict the possible counter moves from the opponent, leaving no scope for planning a programmed response.

  • Proposed Organisational Structure:

Now the question arises, what should then be the structure of today’s organisations?  The earlier organisational structure had a committee approach with no intermeshing of departments or key groups. An organisation with compartments will soon lose its relevance. The old businesses with a conventional approach have either vanished or are finding it difficult to survive in today’s world of disruption. Models of the past like reductionism, super specialization and core competence may not work in future. Thus, need of the hour is to have shared awareness within various groups of the organisation and a fluid understanding.  Role of a leader is to lubricate the system to reduce friction.

  • New Leadership Styles:

Following are the leadership styles that were recommended by the speakers in the summit:

  • Tenacious: Flying against the storms will help overcome any situation.
  • Nurturing: Nurture one person at a time to make future leaders not followers.
  • High flyer: The ability to fly high and swiftly come down will help leaders be adaptive.
  • Wholesome Leadership: A combination of connecting with the inner self and expanding the leadership context outwards to embrace the whole planet. A model of Shubh Sankalp (good intentions) and Shubh Laabh (successful end results) is recommended.
  • Leaders should have the ability to see things differently, be imaginative, build the culture of speed and trust, know behavioural science and have tolerance for ambiguity.

Such leaders will sail the organisation through all the uncertainties and lead it to new heights.

  • In a nut shell:

In the VUCA world, leaders need to be able to take fresh and divergent perspectives and yet be able to reach a shared understanding. Remember, it is a complex world; we need to choose our battles carefully and take up one thing at a time. Recruit the best pilots and trust them to fly your best plane. Connect to inner self to draw the positive energy. Build bridges to people through emotional trust and lead with prudent balance of empowerment and governance.

By Vivek Yatnalkar

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Why Wholesome Leadership is Needed in a World of Disruption

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The external environment for an organization today can be confusing, simply because things change so fast, making it difficult for leaders to get a handle on them, and take the right decisions. This used to be called VUCA – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous, but these days I prefer RUPT – Rapid, Unpredictable, Paradoxical and Tangled.

When the world is RUPT, you can be sure that someone will DISRUPT! Someone will come out with a completely new paradigm, possibly a product or service so revolutionary that it leaves everyone else behind.

The only way to survive in this RUPT world is for us to be the ones who DISRUPT, find new paradigms and solutions that will be relevant in the future.

Organizations that couldn’t do this fell by the wayside, even one-time giants like Kodak, who didn’t see the impact of digital photography on their business, or Xerox, who couldn’t match the competitive costing of Canon.

Today, there are even more revolutionary and far-reaching changes affecting the business environment. The reality of today has caught up with the science fiction of only some years ago. An example is a ‘medical tricorder’ in the Star Trek TV serial, where many medical parameters of a person could be gauged by a single device, and that too, remotely. Today, the technology exists for this to be possible.

Those companies will survive that will be able to continuously deliver value to all stakeholders.

It’s clear that everything will be disrupted, the only question is ‘when?’.

So how can the leaders of today navigate this disruption and create organizations that flourish in the future? I will share two key concepts that are very valuable in this context.

The OODA Loop:

A model created by Col John Boyd of the US Airforce, who’s considered the ‘father’ of the F-16, the OODA loop was defined for combat flying, but is so relevant to business. OODA is an acronym for :

  • Observeloop
  • Orient
  • Decide
  • Act.

Before we see how it applies to business, let’s understand it in its original context – combat flying. If I’m a fighter pilot, I need to constantly see what the enemy pilot is doing with his aircraft. I need to observe closely, and in 360 degrees. Then, based on the moves he’s making, I have to orient my thinking very fast, and, with the help of my thinking, knowledge, intuition and creativity, I must evaluate my options. Next, I need to outsmart him, and decide on what would be the best course of action for me. Then of course, I must act based on my decision. But in the meantime, he has moved as well, and once again, I must observe his moves – that’s why OODA is a loop.

Let’s see how OODA applies in our world of work.

Observe:

We need to observe how the world is changing, and our perception needs to be accurate. But perception is not a simple thing, it’s a complex thing, because you can see the same thing in many different ways. You may have to look beyond the obvious, and a lot of good entrepreneurial practice comes from good observation.

What’s happening in your field of work? What will be the impact of high speed communication, such as 4G, or of the Internet of Things (IoT)? Can you find new ways to offer value to your customers, before competitors do? We need to observe culture, values, technology and cost structures to find the answers to some of these questions.

Orient

When you observe in 360 degrees, you may gather intelligence about many different types of development and changes. Now the challenge is to integrate this knowledge, and orient yourselves as to what your choices are. This is the time when you need to innovate and connect the dots, using creative thinking, and even your intuition.

For instance, in my work in Learning & Development, I can see that 4G will revolutionize communication and connection. I can also see the new concept of Accelerated Learning, and I know that medical science is making rapid strides in the area of neurosciences. Can I integrate these seemingly unconnected developments and create the connection? Can I disrupt learning by providing breakthrough value through this integration?

Decide

You have used your creativity and innovation to identify the choices before you, now you need to decide which choice you make. Is it new product development, or a new services, or a new way to manage operations and costs, or delivery? What’s your chosen mode of disruption?

Act

Act on your decision. There are new and interesting ways to launch, such as ‘frugal experimentation’. In today’s world, you need to move fast. Before others even know what’s happening, you have already observed, oriented, decided and acted.

By Arun Wakhlu

 

 

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Carpe Diem Mumbai 2015- Highlights

At Pragati Leadership’s flagship annual event, Carpe Diem, the first speaker was James Brook, Co-Founder and MD, Strengths Partnership. James spoke on the “Strengths Based Approach to Leadership”.

Mr. Brook began his talk with thoughts on the strengths based approach to leadership development, and how it challenges the traditional assumptions of leadership. He pointed out that organizations are investing so much into leadership development, that when combined, these investments equal the GDP of a small country. Yet there are not many promising leaders out there today. This is because employee engagement is deteriorating.  An indicator of failed leadership would be the many scandals that are unearthed regularly. There is a lack of longevity in the process of leadership. All this suggests that the development is not working in the right direction.

James BrookHe went on to question the audience:  ‘Is it necessary for a leader to be well rounded?’ and ‘What makes a good leader?’

He threw light on these issues by saying that it is not necessary for leaders to be well rounded. Effective leaders like Steve Jobs for example focus on their key strengths and work on them. Not all leaders have the same strengths, but the best ones build on their strengths and conquer their weaknesses to move forward.

He went on to discuss whether leaders are always right and do they know it all, then went further to say that this is not mandatory. A good leader is someone who appreciates and inculcates the importance of strengths, gives direction, goes beyond the usual and engages every team member.

From a psychology perspective, he shared that strengths are innate and developed mostly during childhood but behavior is something that can be learned and implemented strategically.

He also spoke of two very important qualities of a leader:

  • Vision
  • Sparking Engagement

In conclusion he emphasized  that stretching strengths beyond the comfort zone will help a person to grow.

The second speaker, Arun Wakhlu (Founder and Executive Chairman, Pragati Leadership) spoke about “Exploring the Core Strength of Wholesome Leadership™”.

He commenced the session with his trademark ‘Namaste’, a traditional India greeting. He went on to emphasize the importance of understanding the kind of leadership that is needed for the good of the world, and the dangers facing the world not getting the necessary attention.

Arun Wakhlu“What kind of leaders, are needed to create a truly progressive world?” He questioned.

Arun went on to share that leaders who can inspire and energize, those who are fueled on passion and energy are needed. The one thing that is not given importance, is our strengths, this is the missing element that hinders our productivity on the path of Wholesome Leadership™. Two things that need focus are Context, ie., running a business holistically and looking at the bigger picture. The second is Consciousness, ie., living in the moment, taking each day and each opportunity, one at a time. It is pointless carrying the baggage of the past and anticipating the future, for our actions are determined on the basis of how we see things.

Arun raised the question “What are the effects of this ‘baggage’ on productivity?”.  A general consensus among the members of the audience was that it caused loss of energy, time and positivity.

Arun said that this realization would result in the leader being on fire! He went on to question, “Is it possible to put others on fire if you yourself aren’t on fire? There is no vitality in the motivation of others if you aren’t motivated yourself. Looking at it from the outside will lead to freedom and clarity of thought which in turn would lead to thriving innovation.”

According to him the problem lies in the attitude. He said, “there is no focus on, or nurturing of, strengths. Negative qualities are given more attention. Awareness which is ignored, is the deepest level of consciousness.”

He stressed on the concept of “Carpe Diem”, seizing the day.  “Seize the day” he said “as you never know what can happen to you tomorrow. “

He left the audience pondering with the parting thought, “It is all about taking calculated risks.”

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A Journey: From Street Child to Published Author, World Traveler

Amin Sheikh, Published Author

Amin Sheikh, Published Author

I recently got the opportunity to interview three leaders. As expected, each is a unique individual. However at heart, they are alike. One of these leaders is Mr. Amin Sheikh. The following is an account of our chat.

His hundred watt smile painted a happy picture, but as our conversation wore on, I learnt so much about Amin, some incidents tore me up while some made me laugh. His life story is no less than a movie screenplay, unfortunately it is very real.

At the age of 5, Amin was living in a slum with his temperamental mother, abusive step father and 2 younger sisters; he was forced to work in order to supplement the household income. He did so by working at a tea stall ferrying cups of tea back and forth between the stall and the customers. The tea stall owner too was temperamental and soon Amin learnt not to do anything that could instigate his anger. One day while delivering tea to a nearby factory, Amin tripped and fell, bringing the cups crashing down and smashing them to bits. In a moment of sheer panic, the innocent 5 year old decided it would be best to run; for returning to the stall meant he would be taken to task. He ran for a long time without looking back. That night, he slept at a railway station.

He continued to live at the railway station for 3 years and learned to beg or steal food. He also learnt how to fend for himself through few small tricks to sell things (such as a comb) or services (shoe shine). Amin tried returning home a few times but the abusive step father combined with a taste of the “free” life, as he calls it, prompted him to leave home each time. He made friends at the railway station and also travelled the length and breadth of the country free of cost, on the trains.

In those 3 years Amin faced the worst possible situations, physical and sexual abuse, forced drug abuse, instability, and many other atrocities. This also ensured that he lost his innocence at the age of 8 and was a cynic.  When Sister Seraphine of Snehasadan came to rescue him for the first time, he didn’t trust her and  in fact, pelted her with objects so that she would leave. However, fate was smiling kindly upon the boy and  Sister Seraphine persisted. A few days later, Amin went to live at Snehasadan.  He lived there for 8 whole years, and these were the most enjoyable and beautiful years of his life. There were hardships, there were rules, there were studies (which he disliked) and there was a time when he ran away even from Snehasadan, but he came back in a few days’ time.

Amin believes he first met angels at Snehasadan, they saved him and turned his life around. He went on to work with a newspaper vendor, then owned his own newspaper stalls and also washed cars for a living. With time, Amin saved up some money and learnt to drive, he also obtained a driver’s license. One day, one of his angels, Father Placie asked Amin to meet him at his office.

Father Placie told Amin about an employment opportunity with a man named Eustace Fernandes who needed a full time driver. Amin took up the opportunity without hesitation. His first impression on entering the house of Mr. Fernandes was that he had only seen something like this in the movies they showed at Snehasadan. Never before had he seen a more beautiful house and one so large. There were so many things, each with their own place, everything was clean and vibrant. Mr. Fernandes immediately hired him. Amin later learnt that Mr. Fernandes was a renowned artist, creator of the mascot for an extremely well known Indian dairy brand. He had a lot of visitors each day, friends and others. It was a lively home and slowly Amin became his man Friday.

Amin spent many years in the service of Mr. Fernandes and during these years he learnt English, and also received help from Mr. Fernandes to start his own transportation business. However, his calling came as a present, on Christmas day in the year 2002.

On being asked by Mr. Fernandes what he wanted for Christmas, Amin timidly asked if he could go along with him to Barcelona, where Mr. Fernandes’ sister lived and who he visited regularly. Mr. Fernandes thought it over and finally agreed.  In April, 2003 they flew to Barcelona for a vacation that lasted a month and half. Amin has flown to Barcelona and many other European cities since that first trip in 2003.

Amin Sheikh, the boy who ran away from his home in a slum at the age of 5 is now a proud owner of his own business, he owns 2 homes in Mumbai (one for his his mother and sisters; one where he lives by himself), he is a published author, having written his illustrated autobiography. His book has been translated into multiple languages such as Hindi, Marathi and French. Soon it is expected to release in 2 other foreign languages.

Amin has friends all over the world who help him on his journey to achieve his dream of providing employment to the underprivileged youth in Mumbai. He plans to open a café in Mumbai, through which he would like to connect these youth with the right employment opportunities. He is currently raising funds for this project. Through this café, he also wants to create a haven of equality where the homeless can be served along with other customers.

A leader in his own right, Amin has turned his life around, and wants to work towards helping other less fortunate souls who go unnoticed by most. His dream he says, is to change the life of at least one street child in his lifetime.

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Wholesome Leadership and Self Mastery

A Google search on  the word Leadership yields 113,000,000 hits. Leadership  is one of the most researched areas when it comes to business. Business touches the lives of almost all of humanity. Of the top 100 revenue generating entities of the world, more than half are multinational corporations. The power of Business for good is therefore huge.

Leaders in the world of Business have the potential to create positive breakthroughs for the entire planet. What kind of leaders do we need for this?

The leaders of today need to be different from the leaders of yesterday. Today, business can no longer  see itself as an isolated island dedicated  merely to the creation of shareholder wealth. Business Leaders have begun to recognize their larger role in delivering value to all stakeholders and preserving the environment for future generations. That is why hear about”Conscious Capitalism” which takes care of People, Profits and the Planet. We are also increasingly reading about  business leaders “expanding consciousness” in organizations.

This  is manifested through outcomes like:

  • Creating a joyful and engaging environment at work
  • Valuing interconnectedness and working across interfaces in Government and  civil society
  • Stewardship of organizational resources and
  • Actively working for an area of social concern .e.g. environment, child rights etc

This sort of Leadership which is based on an understanding of our intrinsic “oneness” and “interconnectedness” is called “Wholesome Leadership” tm. Wholesome leaders actively deliver value to all stakeholders.

What does it take to be a Wholesome Leader? Leaders, irrespective of their industry, need to be good at creating a powerful vision, inspiring people to follow that vision, thinking strategically through various business options, adding value  through innovation, leading teams and people  and most importantly, being in integrity and acting as role models for  their teams.

As Wholesome Leaders, we also need to be grounded in “Self Mastery”. Self Mastery means  both being aware and in control of our attitudes, thoughts, preferences and mental paradigms. It is about the ability to see, understand your mind and its tricks. It involves understanding that we have tools and options for thinking , and having the discernment and awareness to know what to use at the appropriate time.

As  a Leader, it is only when I am helping myself that I am in a position to help and serve others. I can lead others only when I have first leant to lead myself. Self mastery is the ability to make the most out of your physical, mental, and spiritual health. In other words, to be the best you can be. As a result of your efforts, you will be able to help and lead everyone around you.  In order for you to change the world around you, for the better, you have to change yourself for the better, along the way.

As  Business Leaders, self awareness  helps in making the right business choices. Self mastery refers to mastery over self. Being in control of ones emotions, feelings and not letting preferences, biases and prejudices sway  one from making the right decision helps us in Leadership. Paying attention to “self” is the foundational step in Leadership. When we work at the “roots”, only then can we expect significant changes to happen in our behavior and our actions. Self-Mastery refers to these roots. When we nurture the roots,we will automatically get the “fruits” which is the  business outputs we  desire.

Self Mastery refers to a number of attributes that have to do with  self awareness and self management.Some of these are:

  1. Awareness and Presence: Being in the now, unblocking all that comes in the way of being fully accepting and present in the moment Awareness is the foundation for self-mastery. Awareness has its roots in the deep understanding of  life and existence. An aware and conscious leader would be able to see the reasons for a problem/challenge and make choices that look at  the larger picture. All situations in life are inter-connected. What we do in one situation has it implications in another. As situations are interconnected, so are human beings. Being grounded in Awareness helps us to remain centered, calm, and see the oneness in all of life .Presence comes from Living in the now. Being present to the present moment helps us to develop the quality of “Presence”. This is not to say that one shouldn’t learn from the past or plan for the future. Remebering that the”now” is the only part of reality that we have to work on helps us to be grounded in awareness. Practices that help to build awareness  include meditation, yoga, reflection, practice of being in the now etc.
  2. Attitudes of Abundance: Attitudes broadly refer to the way we see things and consequently act on them. Attitudes refer to the mental models that we hold about ourselves, work and life. It is therefore abundantly clear that the attitudes and mental models that a Leader holds will shape not just her behaviour and actions but also impact the way she runs the organization.As a leader, if we consciously choose to see “Life and Business” as realm of possibilities, then we create a very different aura around ourselves. We think big, think out-of-the box and genuinely feel that “all is possible”. Along with this is the attitude of  gratitude and appreciation. This is well exemplified by the best selling book ”The Secret”.Attitudes of Abundance refer  to the attitudes that help us to build self-mastery. It is about being abundance inspired rather than deficiency driven. Working from an inner space of acceptance, appreciation and gratitude. This helps Leaders to attract abundance and positive outcomes through steadily held positive and appreciative thoughts. Thinking in ways that attract abundance is a conscious choice as a leader. It is not a matter of coincidence that “good things” seem to happen more to aware and conscious leaders.
  1. Courage and Audacity: Courage has been defined in many ways. It is deep faith in self and the universe and the conviction that life  will support what you intent to do. Courage is an attribute that we see in most Leaders. It may be a physical act or a business or people related decision. Having courage and relentless faith enables  a leader to tread  the pathway where others would hesitate. Having courage does not mean that there is no fear. Courage is persisting despite the fear. Freeing oneself from the outcome, helps in reducing the hesitancy and also the fear. As a Leader, when we live and demonstrate courage, we would  take on large audacious  goals for our organization, live in integrity with our values, work and hire people better than ourselves, develop people to take on our roles, speak up when things in the organization are not aligned with the values. Without demonstrating personal and professional courage, a Leader would not be able to be effective.
  2. Living out ones Values: Self mastery would be incomplete without a deep awareness and alignment with ones values. A wholesome leader reflects and is clear about  his/her value system – what they hold dear and for which they are willing to stand up. Living out ones values is  a indicator that the Leader has the capacity, conviction and the courage to take the tough road to  success. There would no compromises on Values. Taking tough decisions is  a test of self-mastery.

Where do we start learning the secrets of self mastery? If you accept things around you, without demand, you already have taken the first step. There are two important factors here.

  1. Once you accept people, and situations, for what they are, you won’t waste time and energy with frustration. This causes inner frustration, emotional turmoil, worries, and depression.
  2. Once you change yourself, through positive self mastery, the world around you will change for the better, without much effort on your part.

Self-Mastery is an ongoing journey for a Leader. At every stage in the Professsional Life of a leader, he/ she needs to work on themselves at the foundational level to go to the next level of capability and effectiveness. This is best done by working at the roots of  awareness and building the self-understanding  to mature to the next level. Building skills and competencies comes at a far later stage. Business Leaders who understand this mature into effective leaders early enough. Unless one can lead oneself, one can hardly lead others. As the Gita says ”Atha Raja,tahtha praja” (As the leader,so the people).

About the author: Anu Wakhlu. View Anu Wakhlu’s video profile.

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Developing a Second Line of Leadership

Leadership is ultimately about developing other leaders. There are many qualities of leadership that we seek in our leaders that are highly valued e.g. Integrity, Business Acumen, Power of Vision etc. These are certainly important. However the primary task of leadership is to develop other leaders and therefore build organization capability for the present and the future.

The role of a leader is to create successors for their role and that of other critical roles in the organization. However, in most cases this is the one aspect of the leadership role that receives inadequate attention. At the organizational level too, this remains an area of challenge.  In a recent study conducted by Bersin and Associates for over 700 Human Resource and Learning and Development Managers- the number one challenge they all stated was “filling gaps in the leadership pipeline.” And yet there is overwhelming evidence that organizations who have a depth of leadership deliver better business results! In another study conducted by Hewitt Associates (TCFL – Top Companies for Leaders study), a clear co-relation was identified between building leaders and achieving significant business targets.

Companies are realizing that building leaders and developing potential successors for critical roles in the organization is of strategic importance for the organization’s growth. Indian companies have started putting this on top of their strategic people initiatives. In the same study it was also found that five of twelve companies that have robust practices of developing leaders in the APAC region, were Indian! These included organizations such as ICICI Bank, Aditya Birla Group, Infosys, Wipro and Hindustan Unilever Ltd.

The role of developing leaders from within is the responsibility of three broad stakeholders:

  1. The CEO and the Board of Directors: The role of most CEO’s is to grow the business and ensure operational excellence. What attracts their attention therefore in most cases is the strategic planning process, future growth prospects, operational optimization etc. The role of the CEO in building leaders is often delegated to the Human Resource/ Learning and Development functional head. And yet, this is probably the most important aspect of the CEO’s role: building the human capital for the organization to grow and flourish. The role of the CEO is therefore to be the catalyst and champion for Leadership Development at all levels. This would start by personally identifying and developing as many potential CEO candidates for his/her role. It would then continue by offering opportunities to these candidates to learn, excel and grow in their exposure to the business by personal coaching.Similarly, there are very few Boards who would have the agenda of CEO and senior Leadership Development as part of their regular Board agenda. In cases, where the Board asks for reports on the Leadership Development as much as they ask about profitability and strategic alliances, the agenda of People Development gets a firm footing in the company.
  1. The role of Human Resource/ Learning and Development Function: Development of Talent and specifically development of leaders in the organization is one of the critical areas that the Human Resources and the Learning and Development Function of organizations needs to pay attention to. It would start by identifying Leadership Competencies for the present business as well as the future. People across the organization would then need to be mapped on this. Interestingly while most organizations do have a competency framework, most of the time this is limited to functional competencies or then soft skills. Clear leadership attributes and behaviours are not always identified.Then an integrated Leadership Development framework and programmes need to be institutionalized and implemented. It is very important to make this a business initiative and not just an HR initiative. Interventions for developing leaders need to be done at all levels in the organization. This would ensure that the leadership capability for all gets enhanced. This would then result in better leadership band-width in the organization. Special programmes for high potential/ emerging leaders also need to be run as accelerated leadership development programmes. These would need to have opportunities for the leaders to experiment with new business opportunities/ challenges beyond their existing roles.Internal Coaches and Mentors are helpful in developing internal Leaders since they can support and accelerate the process of tacit knowledge and experience sharing. The Essar Group in India has based their entire Leadership Development initiative on the practice of Coaching and Mentoring.
  1. The role of Individual Leaders: Each Manager and Leader in an organization needs to own their role of being mentors and people developers for their respective teams. In our own experience of working with over 1,00,000 people in over 600 organizations, we have experienced that when line managers assume the role of HR managers of their own teams, they are able to develop leaders for their functions. This can happen when People Development and Leadership Development are seen as their primary role. Getting results is a by-product of this primary role. Such leaders need to do so by paying attention to processes like the Performance Management System and by recognizing its importance in tracking both the potential and performance of their team members. Similarly they should be interested in the competency building and the training and learning initiatives for their teams. They could sit with their teams prior to them being sent for training and clarify their expectations. After the training, they further need to track the improvements the person is making on the job and give constructive feedback. Such Leaders should also spend time with their team on a one on one basis, coaching and supporting their colleagues. They need to ensure that the team has exposure to new concepts and best practices of similar industries, so that they are familiar with the external environment.They need to be passionate about their roles as “People Developers” and spend more than 50-60% of their time on this aspect of their role. Delegation will ensure that they are building capability within their own function.

Leadership Development would require leaders to be supremely confident of themselves and their capability. Only leaders who are secure and focused would want to develop other leaders in their own functions and teams.

Organizations that are led by wise and visionary leaders and are supported by a proactive and credible Human Resource/ Learning and Development function create a cadre of leaders who promote building the leadership pipeline from within.

About the author: Anu Wakhlu. View Anu Wakhlu’s video profile

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Advaita and Wholesome Leadership

As we look forward to the start of a New Year, I feel a sense of both satisfaction and excitement, and write this blog post to share certain key insights with readers. I believe that these insights will help us to define new paradigms of business, that are based on treating people and communities with respect, sustaining our environment and serving the common good. The transformational power of these new paradigms will mean that it becomes possible to co-create joy, peace and wealth for all on Earth!

The reason I want us to start thinking and working in this direction is because I believe that the existing theories of business are no longer serving individuals, organizations or society as a whole. On the one hand, businesses are under pressure to improve profit margins and reduce costs, while on the other, all kinds of waste – of resources, opportunities and energies – is allowed to continue undeterred. Individuals within organizations suffer from the effects of high stress at the workplace, as well as a lack of engagement. This leads to a feeling of being cut off from their personal power and the expression of their natural talents and gifts, and even depression in extreme cases. The business environment demands constant learning and innovation, but opportunities to relate, converse and exchange ideas freely are getting scarce. We see many cases where organizations function without a sense of responsibility and cause environmental damage or contribute to corruption in society.

The new paradigm that I visualize is based on the concept of Wholesome Leadership, and assimilates the principle of Advaita, which is an ancient teaching (Vedanta) from India. Understanding and adopting these principles can help to build leadership that functions in an integrated and holistic manner, caring for people, the planet and profits. We can develop leaders who have a systems perspective …. greater breadth and new ways of seeing and responding to the challenges that life and business is throwing up rapidly at us. This also calls for understanding the interdependence, complexity and connections not just in organizational life, but in social, environmental, technological, markets and political landscapes as well.

Such a unifying and integrating paradigm is the paradigm of Wholesome Leadership.

Wholesome Leadership is leadership coming from a space of Wholesomeness. Wholesomeness is a space wherein all notions of ones limited self (or “I”) have dissolved. When we define ourselves in any limited way, we are not wholesome. We then “see” our capacities and potential in limited and bounded ways. This also limits our perception and thinking.

On the other hand, if we know ourselves as “that which sees everything and cannot be seen”, we are unable to define ourselves in any limited way. All notions of who I am are dropped. We let go into the silent space of the witnessing Awareness and all boundaries of my “self” disappear. This is ‘Wholesomeness’. It is also about being one with all of life. (When we are none, we are one!). Wholesomeness is the dissolving of all limitations and being one with all of existence. All seeming divisions and separations (which come from the mind) are transcended. Being Wholesome means being one with the indivisible, peaceful and unchanging reality which contains (and is) all things. We can also see Wholesomeness as a space of balance, freedom, joy, peace, love, compassion and gratitude. It is the space of pure Consciousness or Awareness which is the source of all values. It is non-duality.

Leadership that “happens” from the loving and creative space of Wholesomeness is “Wholesome Leadership”. Living a life based on a deeply lived experience of Wholesomeness is the foundation for being a Wholesome Leader.

Wholesome Leadership is leadership that emerges from being fully present in the “now”. It is spontaneous and creative. It is instrumental in unfolding wholesomeness in other people. Wholesome Leadership is about initiating action on things that one deeply cares about. It is leadership for the well-being of all.

As we practice Wholesome Leadership, we see things happening of their own accord. This includes an experience of one’s bodymind “doing” things! There is an amazing sense of wonder as we witness this paradox of total inner stillness co-existing with intense goal directed action. A deep attachment to people and things co-exists with a supreme detachment. There is just a vast stillness, peace and a deep contentment which is undisturbed by anything or anyone.

Advaita and Wholesomeness

“Advaita” is Non-duality (“A” means “non”, “dvaita” means “duality”) or absolute unity. This ancient teaching (also known as Vedanta) from India, comes to the conclusion that there is no duality between the subject that knows and the object that is known.

Both Wholesomeness and Advaita refer to non-duality or oneness. Both are grounded in the principles of Awareness. Awareness is that which sees everything but cannot be seen …,the innermost witnessing essence which has no boundaries. Since Awareness has no boundaries (remember, it is the witness of all boundaries), everything becomes Awareness. This everything is the Whole all together as One.

Both Wholesomeness and Advaita talk about the feeling of joy, freedom, exhilaration, totality, health and harmony that come from living from this space of understanding and awareness. Wholeness is the union of all opposites.

A discerning reader might wonder why we need another label for Advaita when Advaita and Wholesomeness are exactly the same? To respond to this, I would like to share a small analogy. Electricity at 250 Volts and 50 Hertz is the same all over the world. However, the shape of plugs and sockets in different countries are different. If you try to use the plug that works in India with a socket in Hong Kong, it won’t fit in. So we need adapters which help the connection to become easy. The word Advaita is linked to Vedanta and to India. For many, it is also the foundation of Hinduism. While it is a profoundly universal and all-inclusive concept, it may prejudice some people and therefore may not be accessible to them. The word Wholesomeness on the other hand, is culturally neutral. It is a scientific term easily understood. It is our hypothesis that the business and scientific mind may find it easier to identify and relate with the notion of Wholesomeness.

Wholesomeness provides an excellent foundation for a new kind of leadership that would help us to meet the current and future challenges of Business. The principles of both Wholesomeness and Advaita are eternal, and grounded in the dynamics of the wholeness of life. I will keep sharing more aspects of Wholesome Leadership, its applications and benefits, on this blog. I wish each of you a very Happy and Wholesome New Year!

About the author: Arun Wakhlu

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Exit: Managers Enter: Intrapreneurs

Circa recent past: You’re an efficient Manager at a reputed enterprise. You enter office at 9a.m in full corporate armoury. You fasten your seat belt, focus on deliverables and get cracking. Before you know it, the clock has struck 5p.m. You shut shop and ride back home. This happens sometimes. Most other times, you’re clocking 10 to 12 hrs a day. And yet you hear the one thing you don’t want to hear your boss say – Give me newer ideas and innovations. You feel like chucking it all away and wish like hell that you were an entrepreneur.

Cut to the near future: You’re an Intrapreneur at a reputed enterprise. You enter office at a time of your convenience. You have two-three ideas for new products/ services. You’ve been given the financial backing, the tools and the team. More importantly, you’ve been given the freedom and autonomy to see your ideas through to fruition as though you were your own boss. And yet, you’re still an employee at a reputed enterprise and happily so.

Wondering what this is all about? Well, you just read about the latest phenomenon that is promising to revolutionize the way India Inc functions. We’re talking about Intra-Entrepreneurs, stylishly called Intrapreneurs. Who are they? An intrapreneur is any enterprising, passionate and driven employee who is full of ideas and result-oriented innovation. But that’s just the cake. The icing is the fact that this entrepreneurial employee is backed and supported by his employers to innovate and realise ideas for the enterprise.

Think that this a fantastic development? We think so too. Now take a moment and imagine the happy repercussions of this welcome change. Attrition rates will probably fall to negligible levels. Innovation will no longer remain on the wish-list of companies but become a way of life. Hierarchies will be dismantled to usher in open work-systems and banish that dreaded word –Silo from corporate jargon. And not to forget, the utopian idea of a work-life balance will become an enjoyable truth. The list of course is endless.

Why did we choose this topic as our very first blogpost? That is because at Pragati Leadership, it is our mission to transform organisations through wholesome leadership. It has been so for the past 25 years during which time some of the biggest Leaders have come to us for developing leaders within the organisation. Not because they’re in positions of power by circumstance or default but because they are there to lead by example. And they believe in what we’ve believed all this while – that every individual, team, organisation, society and civilization has infinite potential. Our purpose is to help in the expansion of that very potential in order to create a wholesome world.

 

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