Courage – A Leadership Essential

‘I’ve had my ups and downs,’ he says. ‘My fair share of bumpy roads and heavy winds. That’s what made me what I am today. Now I stand here before you. What you see is a body crafted to perfection.  A pair of legs engineered to defy the laws of physics and a mindset to master the most epic of splits.’Jean-Claude Van Damme

Volvo released a commercial ‘The Epic Split’  on Nov 14th, 2013, in which Jean Claude does an amazing feat – does a split between two Volvo trucks. The commercial brings out the precision of the Volvo trucks with perfect clarity. But to me, as an Executive Coach, what was even more fascinating is the feat done by Jean Claude.

As I studied about his life, the two values that he embraced from age 11 were Consistency and Courage. At the age of 11, his father took Jean Claude for martial arts lessons because he was physically weak. At the age of 15, Van Damme started his competitive karate career in Belgium. From 1976-1980, Van Damme compiled a record of 44 victories and 4 defeats in matches.The application and dedication to the sport has contributed significantly to an enviable Hollywood film career for him.

Jean-Claude  has struggled with substance abuse and mental illness for a significant period in his life. He had reached a point when he had strong suicidal tendencies. 1997 was a turning point in his life when started to pull things back to normalcy in his life.

As I read about Jean Claude’s life, I was impressed with the way he kept his singular focus on martial arts through his difficult times. This focus gave him the ability to deal with the other circumstances.

As leaders, do you have a purpose, which gives you direction in your life? “A man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder.” Rudder is the smallest part of a ship without which a ship is directionless. It takes courage to have a purpose and even more courage to hold on to this purpose through challenging times by consistently altering our mindsets. May we have more leaders like Jean-Claude!

Thought Leadership

 

Gautama Buddha, SriSri Ravishankar, BabaRamdev, JKrishnamurti, Paramahansa Yogananda, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Osho Rajneesh, Sathya Sai Baba, Srila Prabhupada of ISCKON fame – What common thread binds all of these big names – yes they are all spiritual gurus revered and followed by millions all over the world. Apart from this they have another amazing quality – their power to influence the thoughts of their followers – these are spiritual gurus whose kingdom far outreaches the geographical influence of any king or government stretching as they do from one corner of the world to the other. Their followers hail from diverse backgrounds – the common man, artists, politicians, world leaders, homemakers, children, drug addicts, the conscientious working man – the spectrum is really all encompassing.

As early as the 1920’s saw J Krishnamurti urging people to “reject authority particularly one that instructs you on thought”. The promise of freedom from thought instructing authority had thousands eating out of his hand!

These pied pipers of spirituality recognized many years ago the power of establishing the value of a thought or an idea in the minds of their followers. Vedanta, meditation, yoga, kriya, karma and dharma were tied together with the firm thread of “Thought Leadership”. Spiritual Gurus come and go, much like the flavor of the day, they remain in the minds of people for a while – what lives on is their power to influence the thoughts of their followers.

So what is “Thought Leadership”? It is the ability to sell an idea to a group of people – one does not necessarily have to have power, position or authority to display thought leadership. And the changes may not be initiated at the organizational level. The changes can be small scale at the team or group level. Thought leaders can demonstrate using a prototype or use logic and evidence to persuade people.

To be a thought leader a person must be the king of content – the stronger the content the lesser the effort to sell the idea – content, evidence and demonstrated usage will speak for itself. The credibility of their idea is the key to its acceptability. Thought Leadership is radically different from traditional top down leadership.

Let’s compare this to a journey – Traditional leaders define the destination, lay down the road map and sell tickets to reach there as well. Thought leaders on the other hand merely sell the tickets for the journey and allow people to get there on their own or with the help of facilitators, coaches and managers. They just promote a better way to get to the destination.

Thought Leadership ends when the target group accepts the idea. This is where the thought leader becomes a manager and starts to manage the implementation of the idea either on his own or with the help of other managers.

Thought Leadership requires a youthful rebellion and tremendous courage, bravery and conviction to charter new paths. Once a part of an organization’s culture Thought Leadership can add to the sustainability in the long term perspective. Folks go out there and break the mould..yet again!

Leadership – Sticking To Your Guns

Walt Disney needs no introduction. The famous founder of Mickey Mouse and co-founder of Walt Disney Productions was an influential thinker during his time. As a young boy, he developed a love and passion for drawing. The journey never stopped even after the setting up of the Walt Disney amusement park, where all his characters still enchant audience – young and old alike – even to this day.

Walt Disney was a man with high Emotional Intelligence – his strong leadership qualities were very pragmatic because of his understanding of the people around him. He believed that you should never stop dreaming, as it leads to the formation of new ideas and gives you a sense of purpose and direction. Though he suffered huge setbacks in his life, he had the courage to keep going on.

His story of struggle and success teaches us an important leadership lesson – leaders need to have the tenacity to chase a dream or goal. This is what will make a true leader stand apart. This person should be the motivating factor to urge his team on towards the finishing line. The leader should encourage others to make their dreams a reality.

“The key to happiness is having dreams. The key to success is making your dreams come true.” ~Anonymous

Leadership is About Effective Handling of Change

Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights. ~Pauline R. Kezer

Change is an inevitable part of life. But it is not easy to either change or to deal with change. There are two important factors for effective change: First, our perception of the situation and second, our attitude to embrace rather than resist the change. In short, change should first happen inside each one of us.

Let me narrate an interesting story…

It was Pete Gray’s dream to play baseball in the Yankee Stadium one day. At the age of twelve he was an excellent right-handed pony baseball player and represented his school in the game. And then one fateful day his dreams came crashing down…….

While doing chores on the family’s Pennsylvania farm, Pete slipped and fell off his father’s pickup truck. This completely crushed his right arm without which it was virtually impossible to play baseball. Anyone else would have given up their dreams but not young Pete!

The Adidas ad says, “Impossible is Nothing” – a slogan that Pete entirely embraced. He taught himself to bat, bowl and field with his left hand. His speed, strong throwing arm, and excellent athletic ability allowed Pete to perform this miracle quickly enough to be a solid, dependable outfielder.

Against all odds, by the 1944 season, the one-armed outfielder had a batting score of 333, stole 63 bases, and won the League’s Most Valuable Player award. Baseball fans were astounded!!!

One year later, in 1945, the one-armed outfielder, Pete, achieved his boyhood dream when his team, the Browns, played against the Yankees. The Browns defeated the Yankees, and Pete played a major role in his team’s victory.

As Robert E. Quinn rightly said, “One key to successful leadership is continuous personal change. Personal change is a reflection of our inner growth and empowerment.”

Perhaps that is why Gandhiji said, “Be the change you want to see.”

The Leader Who Bought the Ferrari He Wanted

The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born — that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.
Warren G. Bennis

Am I a leader? Am I a good leader? Am I an excellent leader? This question should be asked many times everyday by a person who is in a position of influence as leaders are not born but they are made. It is a conscious choice and an intentional journey.

Everyday we are confronted with decisions like – “I am so tired and I would like to sleep for an extra 10 minutes.” But this would mean that you will be late for the meeting that you had scheduled with your team.

Your internal dialogue continues…… “The team knows that I was with the client till midnight so they will understand. However, this is not something I will or should tolerate from anyone else. So I better get up now and leave for work at the earliest.” This is an example of making an intentional decision; an example of being proactive rather than reactive.

This situation sounds simple but has long lasting implications. An excellent leader is predictable, reliable and consistent. These simple, everyday decisions made with the intention of performing the action that is for the highest good of all are what makes an excellent leader.

It is the constant soul searching and scrutiny of your actions that will put you on a path of continuous improvement. So, in my opinion, what makes an excellent leader different from a leader or a good leader is his/her ability to take three actions: One examining your actions, the second is increasing the difficulty of the yardstick you are comparing your actions to and the third is taking immediate corrective action.

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.
William A. Ward

Integrity – The Stronghold of Successful Living

As a Soft Skills Trainer and Executive Coach, I believe that training would be starkly incomplete without touching upon the importance of Integrity in one’s life. It is the foremost value essential to success in all that we undertake. The essence of integrity is beautifully summed up in the quote by Don Galer, “Integrity is what we do, what we say, and what we say we do.” All of us at some point in life would have come across individuals with unswerving integrity, from whom we feel inspired to act according to the code of ethics and conduct. Peter Scotese once said, and I quote, “Integrity is not a 90% thing, not a 95% thing; either you have it or you don’t.” It is better to be known doing right, rather than be known for having done something wrong. Always remember that you judge and rate yourselves by what you are capable of doing and achieving; but the world judges you by what you have already done. So it is a lot better to live an honest life with integrity. For starters, it would be useful to follow a thumb rule: the test of real character lies in what you would do if you would never be found out. Success comes more easily to the person who treads upon the path of righteousness and goodness. It gives a sense of peace and spreads good-will all around. It needs to be inculcated very consciously into one’s life. Whenever you are at crossroads and in doubt about how to proceed in a particular situation, think about the following 3 questions: 1. What do you say? 2. What do you do? 3. What do you say you do? If the answer to these 3 questions are all the same, then you are one giant step closer to the success you are aspiring to achieve.

Success Is Failure Turned Inside Out

Winston Churchill was to have quoted,

“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm”

This attitude is an important characteristic to possess if we aim at success in all that we do.

At the workplace it may sometimes seem impossible to keep your chin up through all the stress, pressure and the effort to balance life and work. It is an accepted fact that on some days at work, you may not be able to be as productive as you would like to be. The causes can be many. But the point here is that you should not be put off by failure. When the clouds of doubt cloud your vision, do not succumb to it. Instead keep endeavouring.

Always learn to derive enjoyment while on your path towards success, since it is equally important to make the journey an enriching one. After all, life is a culmination of experiences from which we teach the next generation on how they may live their life in a balanced manner.

Always be motivated to think and act positively. After a while you will find that being positive and motivated comes naturally. During our Soft Skills Training sessions in Motivational Training, participants learn to deal with setbacks and strive forward with a positive mental attitude.

This then is the very essence of success – the more we keep persisting despite setbacks and failures, the more chances we have at succeeding. Remember what Thomas Alva Edison said,

“I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work”

Are Leaders Born Or Made?

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

Leadership is an inherent ability that empowers the individual to lead and inspire others. The question that has been surrounding leadership is – are leaders born or made?

My firm belief is that there lies an inherent trait within every individual – a latent fire which when fanned, has the capacity to burn bright. It is definitely at the hour of need that a leader emerges. History is bountiful with stories of great individuals who have rose despite their circumstances and made sweeping changes. We now remember them with pride and reverence. M.K. Gandhi, APJ Abdul Kalam, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln and Mother Teresa are a few of my favourites, but there are many more who have stood firm and led others through the right path to achieve what they believed in. It is through these exemplary individuals that we reconfirm the fact that the impossible can be made possible. It is a re-emphasis to the fact that anything can be achieved with a willing mind.

The best thing for all who are wondering how to emulate these people are concerned is through practicing leadership qualities in all that we do. In the Leadership Training conducted by MMM Training Solutions, we focus on one of the first steps towards achieving this – teaching participants to take accountability of theiractions. This is one amongst a number of leadership traits that maketh a great leader.

If there is a threat to survival, our basic instinct directs us to save ourselves. And we do this by any means possible. The same sense of urgency must be present in all that we do – we must endeavour to give our best efforts into what requires our attention. Ofcourse, they would be days when you feel tired. Take rest if you must, but return with increased vigor and focused determination to work on your task.

“A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader, a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.”

Recall instances in your life where you have led – either by example or by effort. These may be smaller or larger instances. These instances may have created a tiny ripple, or they may have brought about a sea tide of change. Whatever be the case, relive the instance in your mind. Recall how you reacted in the situation. You may be surprised at the manner in which you chose to act in that instance. Savour the moment, and resolve to live with the same ideals hereafter.

Whether leaders are born or made, the quality needs to be nurtured in order for it to reach maximum potential.

Health Is Wealth

This article is second to a series of topics that was previously covered in the MMMTS blog. Like the previous one that was covered (The Pursuit of HappYness), this furthers upon a talk given by Mr. R. Gopalakrishnan, Executive Director – Tata Sons, who had addressed the youth present at the Indian Institute of Management, a premier MBA institute of India.

In today’s fast paced corporate world, everyone is in a race with time – deadlines have to be met, clients need to be satisfied and performance has to be at its peak; in the process the most vital aspect of existence is neglected – one’s health.

Furthering Gopalakrishnan’s view, I am of the opinion that it is imperative that young working professionals need to take extreme care of their health, especially in the first 5 – 7 years of their career. This is the time when habits – good or bad – get developed and sustained. During the early working years, a proper regime of exercise and diet can do wonders to health in the future. At the same time, this is a period where the greatest neglect of youthful health occurs. This is when normally active people become sedentary workers, alcohol becomes the social pre-requisite, cigarettes become the nocturnal wonder stick and rich food becomes a common parlance.

As much as youth is the best period of one’s life, it is important to remember that it adheres to the old adage: What you sow, so shall you reap. If you neglect your health on the grounds of non availability of time, the repercussions will be long term and detrimental. The criticality of an irresponsible lifestyle is generally undermined by the person.

Do not convince yourself that your health will be everlasting without proper care. Optimistic as this may sound, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Never keep away from a healthy lifestyle on the grounds that you do not have access to facilities or that you are addicted to detrimental substances to gain relief from the stresses of a professional career.

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

– An excerpt from ‘Leisure’, the poem by William Henry Davies

I urge all youngsters – the youth of today and citizens of tomorrow – to find joy in taking care of their health and maintaining a responsible lifestyle. Moderation is the keyword here – excess of anything is good for nothing.

“So many people spend their health gaining wealth, and then have to spend their wealth to regain their health.”
– A.J. Reb Meteri

I wish you a happy, healthy and wealthy life.

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

I recently read an excerpt of Steve Jobs’ Commencement Address that was published by the Stanford Report dated June 14th, 2005. His closing lines revealed an amazing idea of inspiration in me.

Jobs credited the birth of this caption to a publication called The Whole Earth Catalog. This magazine was synonymous to today’s Google and other search engines – and according to the founder and CEO of Apple and Pixar Studios, it was “idealistic and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.” When this magazine rolled out its last publication in the mid 1970s, the back cover carried a picture of an early morning country road. Beneath it were the words: Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

At the first glance, this catchy caption would not make much sense to the busy internet reader. But when I gave it a few seconds of thought, the idea dawned onto me. Firstly, it essentially means that we should always remain restless for knowledge. Secondly, and more importantly, it means never to be proud – we should always be under the impression that we do not know much. This feeling would in turn further fuel the thirst for knowledge, whereby we constantly persist in attaining it.

It is a well understood fact that knowledge is like an ocean. It needs to constantly wet the shores of your mind and bring wisdom. It is like oil to the lamp that burns bright on a dark night. With the knowledge we have, others should be able to light their candles.

Ever endeavour to acquire knowledge.
Never fall into the bottomless pit of know-it-all.
I encourage all of you to: Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.