Making Of A Leader…Part 2

Men make history & not the other way round. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. – Harry S. Truman

Leadership is not merely a term or designation. It is the driving force that makes people work not only towards a cause or goal, but also for themselves. Leadership cannot have a single definition, it should not have have a single definition. One size cannot fit all here. What we must look to identify are leadership traits & principles that enable in creating a leader.

Elliott Peterson in his article, “Improve Employee Relationship with Ideas Borrowed from the Military” talks about 13 traits that are the bedrock of leadership.

  1. Judgement  M_Id_339213_Indian_Army
  2. Justice
  3. Decisiveness
  4. Integrity
  5. Dependability
  6. Tact
  7. Endurance
  8. Bearing
  9. Unselfishness
  10. Courage
  11. Knowledge
  12. Loyalty
  13. Enthusiasm

Principles of Leadership

Principles of leadership are basic guidelines explaining how a leader will apply/implement the above mentioned traits. World over, the armed forces follow certain basic leadership principles. First principle is to know oneself, learn & constantly seek self improvement. Second principle is to know your soldiers and look after their welfare. Third principle is to ensure that the assigned task is understood correctly, undertaken, supervised & accomplished.

A Successful Military Leader

A corporate leader can learn a lot from a military leader. Korn Ferry International, a global executive search firm has researched & written about “Military Experience & CEOs”. They share statistics that show the average tenure of a CEO with a military background is 7.2 years as opposed to the tenure of a CEO without a military background, that is 4.6 years.

  1. Building a Personal Relationship – a leader in the armed forces knows the members of his unit up close. He/she knows their personal backgrounds, their potential and also how they will react given a situation. It is his/her duty to motivate the unit members & improve their performance; be it physical tests, exams they have to pass or overall knowledge acquisition – the responsibility lies with the leader. This can only be done if there is a personal rapport between the leader & the men. A corporate leader can imbibe the same tenets and understand the team he/she is leading. Very often, in the corporate world business & personal lives are so strongly compartmentalised that leaders don’t even know where the team member lives.
  2. Decision Making – Taking decisions and taking right decisions at the right time is one of the most important tasks of a leader. Both, easy & tough decisions have to be made by a leader. The decision to choose the right people for the right task; the right strategy to implement for the desired results; decision to delegate correctly and the quick, timely decisions so as not to miss the opportunities presented. Every officer of the armed forces is schooled & groomed for this. Unfortunately, our education system does not allow for this. Hence, one of the biggest handicaps of corporate leadership is the ability to take decisions; taking right decisions at the right time is a step way, way ahead.
  3. Mission First & Always – in the armed forces everything revolves around the mission at hand. A leader there is driven by the mission he is striving for. The focus is completely on the mission. He/she has to follow orders to complete the mission while fulfilling all other responsibilities as a leader. There is complete alignment within the unit at all times and at any cost. End result is completion of the task on hand. Corporate leaders struggle to get the alignment in place – the main reason this happens is as leader, they fail to understand how to manage the personal & career aspirations of their team members.
  4. Evolving Right Strategies – A leader’s decision can be made right if he/she uses the right strategies. To evolve a right strategy one has to use the acquired knowledge, experience, observations and analyse them. As a leader it is critical to communicate the strategic intent & enable others to act upon that intent. This is specially critical in crises situations. Very often in the corporate world, while grooming the second line, they are not mentored or coached to build strategies for various situations. A lot can be learnt from ‘war game’ activities conducted in the military.
  5. Communication, Feedback & Response – a well established communication & feedback process is important for any unit/team to function effectively. Participation in the communication process & response enable to build understanding among all stake holders. Asking & accepting feedback is also a very important part of strengthening team bonds. One thing every military leader I have observed, leaves the operational implementation to experts in the field and doesn’t pull rant there. For example, a soldier handling guns will know the intricacies of the gun and his platoon commander will take his feedback regarding guns.
  6. Present at the Right Place – being present at the right place at the right time is something a leader will have to learn & develop. It is always assumed that a leader will have to lead from the front always. Not necessarily so. There are occasions when the leader will be effective wherever there is a difficult situation or a crisis or friction. The right place will depend on the priority of what has to be achieved at that moment.

Building Authentic Leaders in the System

The visible corporate leadership failures in recent years globally, have screen-shot-2011-02-04-at-11-20-37-amdeeply shaken public confidence in business leaders. We see leaders placing self-interest ahead of the well-being of their organizations.  A look at social media posts and informal surveys show that there is a leadership crisis globally with politicians, media, finance, and business leaders getting the lowest ratings. “Far too many leaders have been selected more for charisma than character, for style over substance, and for image rather than integrity.” says Bill George, a Harvard Business School professor. 

Leaders do not fail because of low Intelligence Quotient (IQ); they fail because of low/no Emotional Quotient (EQ). It has been observed that failed leaders seem to lack an awareness of themselves, their actions & the resulting impact on their surroundings. Deeper motivations are not understood, fears & earlier failures are not accepted & primarily these cause leaders to lose sight of their of their values, especially when they are under pressure to sustain their success. In some other cases, leaders who lack self-awareness get enamoured by success and its rewards – money, power, and recognition.

chetwode mottoThe emergence of a new generation of authentic leaders is vital and must happen at all levels of society to rebuild the trust deficit experienced by customers & citizens alike. A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the quality of his actions and the integrity of his intent. In the end, leaders are much like eagles… they don’t flock, you find them one at a time. That’s what the armed forces teaches and that’s what the rest must learn.

Home Is A Person & Am Finally Home!

After my last post I have received comments and calls from people with whom the words resonated. I also had a lot of people query me about one point in my blog – “I don’t find my relationship with my partner/spouse as it was before, there is no common ground, how do I get over the boredom in my relationship, we don’t know what to say to each other, etc etc”   I'm home 1

It is unfortunate, but, true. Most couples face this at some point in life and they really don’t know what to do with each other. The children flying the nest brings home this fact in a more hard hitting manner. This is where couples have to make the extra effort if they want to sustain their relationship and nourish it with a different kind of love. Love is not just about finding the right person, it’s about working with them to create the right relationship – working with them in different stages of life to nurture that relationship. For it is the truth, as we move from one stage of life to another, our relationship also changes. Therefore, the way we manage that change is fundamental to how our bond strengthens with our partner.

Always make time for each other.

In every relationship, it is imperative that we make time for each other. It doesn’t matter whether you & your partner are in the same city or not. Always make time to communicate with each other. Neglect based on lack of attention damages relationships far more often than anything else. There’s nothing more vital to the bond you share with someone than simply being there for them.  Too often we underestimate the power of a thoughtful question and a listening ear that’s fully present and focused.  Although it’s a simple act, it may very well be the most powerful act of caring on that particular day for your other half.  IMG_185610755141423

When we pay attention to each other we breathe new life into each other.  With frequent attention and affection our relationships flourish, and we as individuals grow stronger.  This is the side effect of a good relationship – we help heal each other’s wounds and support each other’s strengths.

Bottom line:  I put in effort & stay in close touch with what’s going on in my partner’s life – communicate openly on a regular basis.  Not because it’s convenient, but because he is worth every bit of it. 🙂

 

Ending the day together.

Over a period of time, we all develop our schedules and time tables. Most couples create individual routines and forget to include their IMG_73268588016637significant half in that. What I find endearing about my man is that he waits for me to finish my last chores for the day and then we spend time together. It could be watching the news or a movie or a sport on television, play a game of scrabble or quiz, read something together. Then retire to bed at the same time. There’s something cozy about sliding under the covers together, talking about what happened during the day or what’s on the list for tomorrow.

Bottom line: this is a routine that helps us bond over music too…both of us love to listen to music before falling asleep. 🙂

 

What’s common to you both?

It’s important to keep your own hobbies when you’re part of a couple, of course, because you want to stay true to yourself and not change your personality. It’s also very important you and your partner can cultivate common interests without changing who either of you are, and it will make your relationship stronger as a result. I love reading and writing, which are typically solitary hobbies, but my partner doesn’t hesitate to grab a book and sit next to me on the couch.

Fortunately for us, we do share a lot of common interests – travel, music, genre of books we read, board games, crosswords, quizzes, golf. He isn’t very fond of getting into the pool, but, does so only because I enjoy it. I learnt all about football including certain terminology and nuances of the game, which he claimed women find extremely difficult to grasp.I only had to show him that women can learn whatever they set their mind to, especially if a loving partner is involved.

Bottom line: I made the effort to learn about some of the sports he enjoys because it gave me chance to reciprocate what he did for me & continues to do for me. 🙂

 

Actions speak louder than words.

When you love someone you have to act accordingly.  They will be able to tell how you feel about them simply by the way you treat them over the long-term.  IMG_71679248329286

You can say sorry a thousand times, or say “I love you” as much as you want, but if you’re not going to prove that the things you say are true, they aren’t. Sometimes just words will not be enough. I have always used a combination of things to show my man that I really mean every emotion I feel for him. I have surprised him for his birthday, brought him unexpected gifts, whisked him off on a date just like that, sneaked up from behind to hug him while he was working hard on something. It’s important to learn what matters to your partner and work on it. This is more so with regard to certain existing relationships in your partner’s life.

Bottom line: walking hand in hand, occasionally exchanging a hug during the day (whenever work permits), doing a “weather” check once a day, sending a loving message  to each other…we do all these things…now it comes naturally to both of us. Yes, it definitely adds zing to our more than two decade relationship.

 

Socialize together.

Chances are most of your friends are in the same age group as you, give or take a couple of years. Over a period of time, while the kids are growing up, moms & dads tend to have a separate social life and find it difficult to in later years to  accommodate each other’s friends. One ofI'm home 2the common binding factors I have found with my soul mate, is that we have treated our respective friends as common friends. My friends are his friends and vice versa. As a result, our social evenings have invariably been with a lovely mix of people that we both know.

To this I have to thank our upbringing also. Both of us have not seen our respective parents go partying without their significant half.

Bottom line: when I treat his friends like mine & vice versa, we just increase the set of fantastic people in our lives. 🙂

 

Open up…especially in trying times.

We all go through highs and lows as individuals. Let your partner in when you are in your dark corner. I tend to share even the smallest of things with my partner. I don’t expect him to solve my problems or fight my battles for me…however, he faces them with me, supports me when I go through my crabby moods because of those challenges. Most times, we all just want somebody who understands, accepts and becomes a sounding board. relationships1-250x250

Allow your partner to stand by you. No false heroism that ‘I can do it on my own’. When you stand there with all your insecurities and vulnerabilities, you also give the space to your partner to share his/her own challenges. Always remember, sharing is mutual, never a one way street.

Bottom line: I share because it shows my man what I am feeling and I also get to hear the words “I love you” more often that way… 😉

 

More than just looks.

It’s true when grown ups say looks fade away, it’s the character that matters. When you fall in love, sure, looks make a difference. But, that’s not enough to sustain the relationship. I recollect reading somewhere, infatuating yourself with someone simply for what they look like on the outside is like choosing your favourite food based on colour instead of taste.  It makes no sense.  It’s innate, invisible, unquantifiable characteristics that create lasting attraction.  There must be common ground in your interests and outlooks on life.

In the journey of life, when you go through the rough & tumble, it’s not looks that show the strength of your partner, it’s what’s inside. Just as we all have our preferences for spicy food, chocolates, mint or cinnamon flavours, we also get attracted to certain characteristics of people. Sometimes it’s even the scars your soul shares with them that reels you in and creates the very platform that hold you together in the long run.

Bottom line: “no one gets me the way you do” these eight words became the bedrock of our relationship. The day my partner said this to me, I knew we had reached a level of understanding in our relationship that will sustain anything.

 

Little somethings of everyday life.

It’s the everyday stuff that makes life interesting or boring. All of it depends on how you and your partner view it. For us, our everyday stuff is exciting, expectant and exhilarating because we chose to make it so… yet, it’s also everyday stuff. Nothing new. We don’t beat around the bush when it comes to expressing – if you appreciate someone today, tell them.  If you adore someone today, show them.  Hearts are often confused and broken by thoughtful words left unspoken and loving deeds left undone.  There might not be a tomorrow.  Today is the day to express your love and admiration. I'm home 3

A great relationship with your partner is based on team work and communication – both are two way processes. I have figured out, the most important trip I have taken in life is to meet my partner half way through. Otherwise, I would not have been his partner. It really is a full circle.  The strength of a relationship depends on the strength of its two members, and the strength of each member in the long run depends on the quality of the relationship. Finally, we as two individuals, determine the quality of relationship we want to have.

Both of us have always believed that a relationship can never be 50:50 all the time. Most of the time one of us will be stronger than the other. However, yes, there will be times when both of us have to be strong together. As long as the two of us understand that, we continue to be happy and smiling.

Saying “I love you”, “good morning”, “good night”, “how was your day” all have a long term impact on the relationship. Like the old adage goes, you can never have too much of the good thing in life. These are all good things of life, which when shared with your partner, strengthens the relationship at a subterranean level.

Say the following line to your soul mate and mean every word of it…like I’m saying it now to my partner(he hasn’t heard this one before) – Walk with me… no questions are that tough, when you walk with me in the journey of getting the answers.

Bottom line: it’s easy to fight about stupid things. When I look at his photograph, think of all the great times we have had and continue to have…when I look at how our children adore him and dote on him…I know that there is no other person on earth I want to wake up with every morning!

 

 

 

 

 

Islands In The Stream…Forever In Love

“Baby when I met you there was peace unknown…” crooned Kenny Rogers with Dolly Parton. The song brought home a discussion some of us were having with regard to sustaining, long lasting relationships and how they have endured the test of time. There are many kinds of relationships and as many kinds of love nudging those relationships in the right direction. Our discussion that day was more on the nurturing of romance and what’s important in relationships.

The-secrets-to-a-long-lasting-relationship-quote  As the picture says, the secret to a long lasting relationship is all of the above…true. But, why would two people want to do it? Simply because of a crazy little thing called love! One of my favourite quotes (and I have a lot of them depending on what I feel at that moment) is “Grow old with me…the best is yet to be”. I want to grow old with the man I fell in love with years ago. For that to happen, we have to sustain our relationship on a continuous basis. All relationships need that sustenance…only then will they flourish, grow & mature like wine.

One of the questions that came up in that long discussion among friends that evening was, what can we do to sustain. Here is my two bit and I can say happily that my man & I both agree on these. In fact, putting some of this into action just came naturally I would say..and I know he will have a smile on his face as he reads this 🙂

In any romantic relationship passionate love is very important, but long-term couples also engage in deliberate acts of love that nurture their partner and their overall couple relationship. Love as a continuous engagement of the heart, body & soul, that includes how you love your partner and how your partner wants to be loved. For some people it may mean saying, ‘I love you.’ For other people it may involve changing the oil in the car. Love also means being empathic, meeting each other’s needs and supporting your partner when they need you. Healthy adult love exists when both partners are emotionally interdependent; meaning that both partners love one another, care for one another, desire physical closeness with one another, but respect each other enough to have their own identities as well. Tall order you would say…not really! Let me share something here, about my relationship. Both of us have our individual careers and have given each other the space to enjoy our professions. I have always been told to soar in whatever I do and he does give loads of encouragement to be the best. Now that inspires me to no extent…it pushes me to stretch and be better! Would I love him less or more for that? The answer is obvious 🙂

Loving relationships take effort…consistently and continuously. Its like growing a beautiful garden filled with greens, foliage, flowers, lovely soft springy grass and enjoying the fruits eventually on a regular basis. We also have to be careful about the weeds & pests that crop up occasionally. I don’t worry about them any more, because I know it’s a natural process. What’s going to make a difference is how we, as a couple, deal with it. Here’s what has worked for us!

Putting our relationship first: We make each other a priority. We communicate with each other. In this age of technology, we use it to the maximum and check on each other during the day. We make it a point to have date nights where it’s only us! If date nights can turn into date weekends then it’s even better. Undivided attention is what we give each other when we communicate.

Manage arguments: It’s absolutely ok to have arguments…it’s natural. We are only human, we are bound to have differences. It’s how we deal with those differences that will decide how strongly we sustain our relationship. We have our differences…but we strive to understand those & we make allowances for each other. I’m ok watching sports on Saturday or Sunday nights with him and he reciprocates by watching chick flicks with me when I’m in the mood!

Have a strong foundation: Our interests, opinions and experiences can change as we grow. But if you share the same core belief systems, foundationyou will have a platform from which to build a strong relationship. For us, as a couple, our belief system is the same. It has remained the same the last 25 years. This forms the foundation of the love and affection we have for each other.

Have fun in the relationship: Whether it is listening to Andre Rieu, going for a drive, shopping, scuba diving, dancing or even enjoying a glass of wine or single malt, we have fun. I can honestly say that I have the maximum fun when we are together. The truth is we genuinely enjoy each other’s company…we can talk about pretty much anything under the sun and laugh. We can laugh with each other and at each other…a healthy mix I would say. Statistics say that couples who laugh together stay together.

Dream together. Knowing what you both want out of life and working together to make those dreams a reality will strengthen the bond in your relationship, I have a vision board that includes a lot of our dreams. What makes this sharing exciting is it gives us glimpses of each other’s deeper ambitions. Visualising those dreams together and weaving our life’s story around them strengthen our feelings for each other. These dreams change over a period of time…earlier we dreamt about what we wanted out of life, today, we talk & visualize about our kids. Yes, their dreams are also an integral part of our dreams now.

Daily nice acts: It’s true the daily mundane things take over in every couple’s life. The only way to overcome this is when we perform daily nice acts for each other. One of the things that we have ensured is when we are in different cities, early morning and late night texts are always exchanged. Saying “I love you” to each other is equally important. Very often as we grow older in the relationship, we tend to not express this love, verbally and non verbally. A hug, a kiss, holding hands, cuddling all are critical to pull out the weeds and pests in the garden of love.

Sharing feelings and not thoughts: Most times couples don’t even get the meaning of this. Focus on what feelings you go through when both are having an argument, when your partner does something to please you or surprise you. Express your feelings then…it establishes a connect that can help build a stronger relationship. Let me share a secret with all you women out there…men do have a tough time getting this point across. We just need to help them a bit :). They may shy away initially,but, in my experience I have found that they do share eventually. Patience is the key here!

Embrace your partner’s individuality: The idiosyncrasies we once fell in love with can frustrate us today. Always remember…that is what attracted you to your man/woman in the first place. It’s important for our partner to be themselves. Here the three A’s become the pillars here – allow those idiosyncrasies, accept that your partner has them and adjust yourself accordingly. An early morning ritual of slippers, newspaper, a cup of finely brewed Orange Pekoe & reading glasses is what has become an endearing habit in my life. My reward for accepting this is I get to snuggle on the sofa and solve crosswords with my man.

Ask questions when you’re unsure or are making assumptions: All too often, we make up our own stories or interpretations about what our partners’ behaviour means. For example: “She doesn’t want to cuddle; she must not really love me anymore.” We can never err on the side of asking too many questions, and then listen to the answers from your whole self — heart, gut, mind and body. Equally important is to hear what’s not being said — the facts and feeling that you sense might be unspoken.

inspirational-quotes-3 (1)Creating a WE instead of two I’s: When practising all the above, we have been able to create space for “We” instead of two individual “I’s”. Two individuals can retain their personalities yet remain soul connected. In co-dependent relationships, each person sacrifices part of him or her self, compromising the relationship as a whole. When you are separate and connected, each individual “I” contributes to the creation of a “we” that is stronger than the sum of its parts.

Finally, there’s no fairy tale formula for true love. It begins and blossoms with partners committing and recommitting to each other, both in vow and in action. As Mark Sharp said, “Long lasting true love is when two people make a commitment to each other and choose to act in ways that sustain their feelings for each other and their connection to each other over time.”

 

 

Being A Parent…Being A Friend

A question that I’m asked frequently by a lot of people – what kind of a relationship do you share with your children? I often find it funny that parents ask me this question. What am I supposed to answer…I share a great relationship with my daughters.

I was pondering this question as I was recovering from a bout of viral the last couple of days. It struck me that the people who have asked me this question aren’t very sure about their own relationship with their children. I am no one to sermonize others on bringing up kids…I have had my fair share of doubts of being an effective parent versus a good parent. However, I have to thank my daughters, Urvashi & Urmila for endorsing time and again that I managed to be both on different occasions… 🙂  Parenting1

The thought process continued and it reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend who also has teenage children. My friend summarised our chat very effectively and I’m sharing some of those pointers here. Even if it helps one parent out there, I’m happy!

Communicate Easily & Freely: I have noticed kids respond to communication in any form. This is a process that must happen from birth. Communication means sharing. Very often parents expect their kids to come and talk to them, but, rarely share what is on their mind. Of course the child must be at an age & in a position to understand what the parents are sharing. This communication changes as the kids grow from childhood to adolescence…what’s important is to keep the process going on.

Allow Questions: I have been working with the youth on different projects. While addressing a batch of college students recently on their participation in the nation building process, I had the opportunity to interact with students and faculty. As usual, I noticed the faculty pushing the students to ask questions as soon as the talk was over. And, as usual, the students hesitated to ask questions in public. I don’t blame the students here. As a society, we do not encourage our young ones to ask questions. Children must have the liberty to ask…if we as parents are incapable of answering their questions, it is not the fault of the child. It is our problem…we need to find the relevant answer to satisfy the question.

Parents, go back to your own childhood…how many were encouraged to ask questions? What a child can’t receive, he can seldom give later in adult life. Parenting2

Encourage Decision Making: Both my daughters were encouraged to take decisions from their primary school days relevant to their age. The pros and cons were explained and they were told the consequences of not taking a decision. Even in adult life, most people are scared of taking decisions because they want their decisions to be right. My question to such people – if you don’t take a decision, how will you know whether it is right or wrong? Allow your kids the luxury of making their own decisions. They will automatically take responsibility and ownership for it. And even if it turns out to be a mistake, so what? Haven’t we made our share of mistakes in life?

Allow Them Their Mistakes: I have noticed parents constantly cautioning their children about situations, people, relationships in life. I understand that as parents we do not want our children to go through rough times, get cheated, ragged, bullied. Tell me, how much will you protect them? One day, they will have to face the world on their own! Then what? Children brought up in that environment have a warped sense of life and end up thinking that the world owes them everything. While as parents we know, that is a far cry from the truth.

Share Your Story: a lot of kids grow up thinking their parents are super heroes in the initial years. And then the teenage years descend on your off springs and their view starts changing. Erma Bombeck (one of my favourite authors) says, “Have you any idea how many children it takes to turn off one light in the kitchen Three. It takes one to say What light and two more to say I didn’t turn it on.” That’s what teenage years do. One thing that stood me in good stead was sharing my teenage years with my daughters when they had “curious” questions. It helped them to know that their mother had gone through similar experiences in life. I was declared “normal” by my kids… 🙂

The worst thing I could have done was to have a “holier than thou” approach in front of them…Jane Nelsen very nicely puts it, “Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first we have to make them feel worse? Think of the last time you felt humiliated or treated unfairly. Did you feel like cooperating or doing better?” Parenting3

Finally, it’s not just children who grow. Parents grow with them. I have grown with my lovely daughters. As much as I wait to see what they do with their lives, they are also watching me to see what I do with mine. While I tell them to reach for the stars,  the moon & the sun…I am reaching for my own stars, moon and the sun!!!