The Making Of A Leader…Part 1

In a life where I straddle two worlds, the corporate/business world (fetches my bread, butter, jam & cheese) and the world of armed forces (upbringing, passion & love of my life), I have always looked at what best practices can be used from both to lead a better life.

Having worked with human resource management teams in various organizations, implemented and imparted training at different levels to employees, including leadership, I have always felt the corporate world can learn so much from a military leader.

Military Leadership & Corporate Leadership

“I will never quit. My nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to fight my enemies and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.”
― Marcus Luttrell, Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL.Mil leadership

Leadership is both similar and yet so different in some aspects of the military & corporate. An army officer starts imbibing leadership traits from a junior level and these skills get honed at every level, in every post he/she holds. The precepts and practices of the military leadership world over are almost common. They all promote & implement the same value system – lead by example, know your job, value team spirit, complete loyalty to the organization, importance of moral & physical courage & the capability to take decisions. 

Geoffrey Webb in his article “5 Things You Could Learn from Military Leaders” puts it succinctly and says these are the aspects missing in most corporate organizations.

  1. Developing Junior Leaders – developing evaluation/judgemental skills in junior leaders is critical. As a result, they are empowered to take initiatives & flexibility in making decisions through decentralised execution. This builds the right attitude & skills required to cope with an ever changing environment. This is missing at the junior levels in a corporate environment, in most organizations.
  2. Leverage Leader’s Intent – planning is everything, according to military leaders. A platoon, unit, brigade, division & corps in the military is very clear about the intent of their leaders – purpose, key outcomes & desired results. Followers, therefore get an opportunity to adapt, develop & succeed in accomplishing their on ground goals. Very often, this kind of alignment between organizational & self goals are often at a conflict in the corporate environment.
  3. Organization of Tasks – number of teams & missions are not equal in the armed forces; specific teams are created for specific achievements. However, standards are universal and the men are trained in a way that they are able to operate globally, irrespective of where they are. In contrast, the focus on high degrees of specialisation in corporate organizations, compartmentalise employees & does not enable them to multi task or even build multi functional capabilities.
  4. Use of Operators as Trainers – imparting training in the armed forces is the responsibility of the operators, and, not the human resource department as seen in the corporate world. In fact, what corporate organizations term as human resource functions are skills in – built in every officer right from day one. Man management is the bedrock of the military.
  5. Mission First Always – mission of the military & its leaders is of foremost importance. It supersedes personal interests as the very ethos of the organization is to serve the country & its people.

Military In The Corporate

leadership-and-leaders

A lot of the leadership training we see in corporates today find their origin in the armed forces. Military organizations have been in leadership development training much earlier than the corporate world. The military operates in a highly uncertain environment, involving high risks. To deal with & work in such an environment, men & women in uniform are trained in a way that ensures 24/7 readiness & commitment to deliver. Similarly, business leaders must be schooled & groomed in adaptive leadership practices to survive & succeed in the increasingly unpredicted business climate.

Leadership effectiveness in the military is totally evident because the personnel have actual leadership experience, especially in crisis situations. This prepares them in a more concrete way to handle staff, consult, analyse or strategize. A 22 – 26 year old leader in the armed forces gets an opportunity to lead around 100 – 120 persons in crises, which basically exposes them to several aspects of leadership skills, grooming them for various contingencies. This experience  – building very rarely happens in the corporate world, thus, giving an edge to young military leaders over their corporate counterparts. In some cases, these young officers (short service commissioned officers) have moved out of the armed forces and have become immensely successful as authentic leaders in the outside world.

Building Mindful Leadership

In a world that is increasingly focusing on the self, it is only in the armed forces that we still see a semblance of leadership of integrity. The leaders that are trained & groomed in the military can be termed as authentic leaders – leaders who are genuine in their intentions and understand the purpose of their leadership is serving their country & people, and, not their self interest.
Military-Leadership-Quotes-Wallpapers-3

 

 

Reading…A Lost Art

One of the biggest joys of my life…curling up on a comfortable recliner, rain pelting outside or snowing outside (depending on which part of the world I’m in), a cup of tea…and a book that engages me completely. I forget the world then!!! Image

I grew up with books around me…my parents encouraged me to read a wide variety of subjects. My father, a voracious reader himself was very happy to increase my pocket money when he realised that I was spending most of the money on books & music. Books helped me transport myself to a different world all together. What David Ulin says makes a lot of sense to me…“Reading is an act of contemplation, perhaps the only act in which we allow ourselves to merge with the consciousness of another human being. We possess the books we read, animating the waiting stillness of their language, but they possess us also, filling us with thoughts and observations, asking us to make them part of ourselves.” 

This possession by the author is so all encompassing that it has shaped many a lives. Definitely mine. I remember a conversation I had with my father, when I had read Mario Puzo’s “Godfather”. So influenced was I, that I declared in front of him, “I think joining the Mafia is a great career option. I would like to become someone like the Godfather”. An officer of the armed forces, my Dad’s reaction was great…”how do you think it will sound when people say daughter of an army officer is the new Mafia don?”

I have found reading books in my formative years help me develop an amazing range of skills. Today, I find it necessary to share those with my readers…especially because I find a lot of people changing their reading habits. It seems that each new media invention—movies, radio, television, VCRs and DVD players, the internet—inevitably affects the way people read and reduces the time they devote to it. What feels different about recent trends is that the web is still so new, and it is evolving so quickly that few people are stepping back to look at how it is changing us. 

One of the first things I realised books did for me was to help me imagine. Every author I read has allowed me to create my own world! I laughed & cried with the Famous Five that Enid Blyton introduced me to; I have learnt about how Ayn Rand looked at the “murder of human spirit” in her phenomenal book Atlas Shrugged. Dan Brown in his Da Vinci Code took me through so many layers of Christianity & the world of symbolism. My imagination is fired with every book I read.

Books have helped me build my vocabulary & my knowledge  base. With every book I have read, I have gained more confidence to talk about a variety of subjects. I have been able to hold my own…and engage people in interesting conversations. This is a skill I find people not developing the way they need to. When I used to hire students from various campuses as part of the corporate hiring process, I found communication skills were sorely missing. How does one build communication skills – when you have confidence about what you are communicating. 

Before taking any action on anything, where did I seek for help and guidance? Reading is an essential way which helped me out. In today’s world, getting reviews and feedback from other people can make a big impact on your next decision, and the pros and cons of each choice. I read about how to cook a seven course meal; what is golfing all about; which place is nice for a scuba diving holiday…obviously all of them enhancing my levels of of information & understanding. 

The more you read, the more you understand one thing: the A to Z of a thing. Let me give an example here: reading allows you to learn more about crocodiles and their habits. That you need to be aware of places it usually lurks for, the purpose of staying away from being harmed or bitten. Or perhaps you can try by real life experience, in approaching the crocodile, to see what happen. It can also help you find out the truth of something, right? Reading also increases the understanding of the rules of life, in order for you to adapt, adopt and accommodate into the society better. To play well in a game, you first need to understand the rules well. 

Charles Eliot very nicely put it by saying, “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.” Image

We are becoming a society of people who rarely allow ourselves to slow down enough to think and contemplate. It’s difficult to spend time reading a book when Facebook and YouTube and last night’s episode of Lost are calling for your attention. It requires a strong will to force yourself to read something longer than a few hundred words.I respect David Ulin, the book editor of The Times, when he says it is becoming increasingly difficult to read these days…there is a lot of noise out there…and reading requires silence. To make books a part of us we need a certain type of silence, an ability to filter out the noise. Such a state is increasingly elusive in our over-networked culture, in which every rumor and mundanity is blogged and tweeted. Today, it seems it is not contemplation we seek but an odd sort of distraction masquerading as being in the know.

I have also found relationships flourish better when reading is a common passion between a couple, parents & children and between friends too. And finally, let me wrap up by saying three most important people in my life find me interesting, engaging and fun to be with only because I am armed with a library of more than a couple of thousand books. 

Go on…pick up that paperback, switch off the television & the internet, relax on a chair or your bed, a bedside lamp throwing its light on the pages of your book…transporting you into a world you create for yourself!!! Happy reading!!!

Understanding My Calling….

The past couple of weeks I have met a lot of youngsters…in the 17 to 22 year age bracket. It was as part of youth entrepreneurship workshop that I met them. Some were clear about what they wanted to do in life, a sort of road map, but came to the workshop to see if the network of people could help them further.

While talking to this enthusiastic lot, a thought that struck me over & over again was, I hope the dreams & clarity these youngsters have continues in their lives and they don’t let go. On the other hand, there were a lot many of them, who were seeking…seeking answers because they did not know what to do.

That leads me to write today about how do I understand my calling in life. How do I look for that elusive something…these are somethings that have personally helped me.

1. Deal with the present

A lot of us keep thinking only about the future…”what should I do when I am doing my graduation, post graduation or what kind of a job should I get or which company do I work for or what sort of business do I start?” While it is good to have a big picture first, think about what you will do today, to get to the big picture. Remember, people become fat one bite at a time, and we become adults one hour at a time, so what we do today matters.

2. Look, browse & shop around

Unless you try on the outfit, you’ll never know if it fits. Do the same with vocations, avocations, hobbies and skills. You’ll need to sample every flavor to know your true favorite taste. However, you need to be smart about this also…keep in mind your pocket and budget.

3. Go for odd opportunities

Look around people who have achieved what they want to achieve…whether it is a recognized person or an unsung hero…they have all done something different. Why be one among the herd when you can lead the pack… 🙂

4. Burn your plans

Life doesn’t go according to the blue print we create. Nobody’s life has ever…so why should yours? So don’t worry if you get off track. The track was imaginary anyway. It’s perfectly alright to get on to another track.

5. Do not follow someone else’s dreams

Everyone will have expectations of us. What is my expectation of myself…is a question I need to answer constantly. You can’t please everyone, but if you do what YOU think you should, at least you’ll be able to sleep at night.

6. Blend your talent

All of us have a variety of talents, only if we allow ourselves to discover them. Mostly, we end up working on only one skill…and become a super specialist. Nothing wrong there…the only thing I can say is a person who has developed a variety of skills is far more interesting than the other! 🙂

7. Seek out people you actually like

It’s fun to work with people you like. Creating something different with a bunch of like minded people can be amazingly productive and satisfying…not to mention the fun part! I work my business with friends & family and we have a great time not only earning…also the relationships!

8. It’s ok to change your mind

Most of us decide on a career when we are in the age group of 18 to 20. We learn a lot things as time goes by…about the world & about ourselves. So, if you discover something different and want to work on it…please do so. It can bring more satisfaction & happiness. I changed tracks after 18 years of human resource related work. Today I have something more important in my life…time to spend with my family & friends because of this change. And am definitely not complaining about the money 🙂 🙂

9. Read, read, read…

Roam a library or a book shop frequently. Books have always been my best friends. You never know which book, author, or topic will speak to you from the shelves. You might just find what you didn’t even know you were looking for.

10. Spend time before you spend money

Invest in reading and talking and finding out before you put down a ton of money on a degree or a certification or a relocation. You might find that you don’t have to write a check to compose your future.

11. Your purpose & your job may be different

If you are working to support your family, they are your real bosses. If you are working to further a goal or idea, don’t let your paycheck (however plump it is) become an obstacle to it. Prioritize what you want in life, but, do not lose focus of the end objective.

12. Be genuinely uncool

Stick with what you love, even if others sneer at it. This is also referred to as integrity. We all tend to do things because our peers consider it cool…is that really what I want? What I want maybe be considered uncool, but if I am genuinely uncool, people will respect over a period of time.

The dozen pointers are things I have done myself in my life…so it’s easy to write about these. However, a couple of other lessons I have learnt in life…very few people are the very best in the world at anything. What helps me is when I do my best and push myself a wee bit more. Unhealthy competition with others leads to anxiety, collaboration leads to assets.

Today, everything I do in life is based on one question…”What I’m doing now, will it contribute to my epitaph or only my resume?”

Success…Mantra Or Recipe

I am writing after a while…all this while my mind has been pondering about the word “success”. Yesterday I spent time with a self made millionaire, who was asked by someone “What is the mantra for your success?”. The same question has been asked by thousands & thousands of people world over to a Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Azim Premji, Mukesh Ambani, Akio Morita, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Michael Jackson, Shakira, George Clooney, Amitabh Bachchan and others.

When I talk about success so passionately, a lot of my friends have told me that success means different things to different people. Sure I agree…my understanding is irrespective of what success means to you and in whatever field you achieve it, the recipe to achieve that success will be the same. Wouldn’t it?

That brings me back to the question…do successful people really have a recipe or a mantra that brings the success? Yes!!!  Yes, they do have a mantra or recipe. For me achieving success is like cooking a superb dish. The end result may be a simple dish, but the ingredients need to be in the right proportion. So what are the ingredients I am talking about? Let’s get to the kitchen of life…

To your pan of Passion, using the ladle of Positive Attitude, add the following ingredients. Mind you the ingredients are very BASIC 🙂

Belief – In order for you to achieve anything in your life – you have to first believe. You need to believe in yourself that you can achieve it. You must have faith in your goals and your path to that success. Once your mind is convinced that you can do it, nothing is impossible. Belief is the ‘mind and heart’ & ‘think and feel’ part of the recipe.

Action – Nothing moves until you do something. You belief alone is not enough…you need to act on that belief. However, if my passion is high, then my belief will move me to act. When you act upon what you believe, there is focus. And there is energy. That energy propels you to greater heights.

Skills – My passion, belief and action will come to nothing if I do not upgrade my skills required for my work. Skills are those tools that will help me move closer inch by inch, foot by foot everyday towards my goal post. In a fiercely competitive world, if I don’t increase my knowledge and hone my skills, what am I attracting? Not success for sure!

IntegrityIntegrity of thought & deed. Integrity to yourself and others working with you. Without this there is no credibility I can build for myself. Integrity will also tell that there are no short cuts to success. I have to find my path and walk on on it. Sometimes it will be smooth, mostly it is uphill. It is during those uphill walks, that my integrity will enable & empower me.

Consistency – The little waterfall did not change the shape of the rock because of it’s force, but by its consistent contact with the rock. Look at any successful person around you. What has worked for them is the consistency of action in their field. It could be a carpenter carving a beautiful chair or a musician creating music or playing an instrument. Relentless pursuit is what brings us closer to success.

Once this BASIC recipe starts simmering in your pan of Passion, then you need to add the right seasoning of Determination, Discipline & Dedication. Mix it up in a way that suits your life’s purpose and then you automatically have a purposeful life!!!

Here’s wishing you all a delicious day ahead 🙂 🙂 🙂