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To become a Wholesome Leader, invoke the power of ‘Shakti’ within you!

These are complex times. Uncertainties abound and change has become a veritable norm. We’re swamped with data and analytics and yet, ironically, decision-making and hence leadership has become more complex. And complex times demand complete, Wholesome Leaders, don’t they? Gone are the days when a sharp mind that could access data, crunch numbers and decipher patterns from it, in order to make purportedly logical decisions, was considered a good leader. Today that same left-brained, logic-data driven leader, who was risk-averse, will be seen as a Partial Leader, unfit for these times!

Data - analyticsEnterprises of this era are caught in so much flux in terms of technological change, societal churn, changing attitudes and priorities, cross-cultural challenges et al. That’s why they demand more ‘Wholesome Leaders’ who can:

  • Lead from the front
  • Think out of the box easily
  • Take calculated risks when needed
  • Display emotional intelligence while building meaningful relationships AND
  • Continue to grow the business

wired brain

Now, that’s a tall order for most leaders, don’t you agree? We’re after all, wired differently and conditioned to stay on the left side of things, so to speak. The right side (pun intended) has pretty much remained dormant. No wonder then that most leaders find it difficult to rely on and utilize their Head-Heart-and-Guts* simultaneously while leading their functions/ teams/ organizations. Going by the definition of Dotlich-Cairo-and-Rhinesmith*, they are NOT the ‘Whole Leaders’ that today’s global enterprise desperately needs. Mind you, this applies to both men and women leaders who’ve not yet invoked the power of Shakti within!

Hindu mythology, Paganism and many ancient religions, backed now by Astro-physicists and Quantum Physicists, state that the primal source of all energy that gives life to our Universe is feminine in nature. By that we must understand that it is life-giving, emotional (if we may use that adjective) and instinctive.

shakti

This Shakti or the divine feminine force/ primal energy, exists in each one of us but it is conditioned to remain dormant or under-utilized. Our industrial evolution in recent centuries has necessitated it to be so, don’t you think? So what can we do as leaders to wake this Shakti from her slumber and goad her to unleash her full potential in her full blossom?

1)      Heart-first: Easier said than done isn’t it? From childhood, we’re trained, almost brain-washed into believing that ‘using the head’ meant improving and becoming a better achiever. Now we’re increasingly expected to suddenly ‘think from the heart’ and learn to ‘Manage and Lead’ people and teams ‘from this heart’! What if decisions are taken with a strong emotional foundation with full empathy? Isn’t that why and how meaningful bonds are made? Suddenly colleagues, peers and subordinates are all part of one big extended family that thinks and feels for one another.

heart-first

Even though such relationships are volatile in nature, they’re more likely to last the distance than say a negotiation-based, head-first relationship, usually built in the corporate world. As leaders, we must, therefore, learn to be open about our feelings and transparent in our communication.

This change can happen only if leaders are encouraged, from a very early stage of their career path, to openly and confidently show emotions and demonstrate heart-based decision-making.

2)      Instinctively decisive: When was the last time you, as a leader, had an intuition about something occurring? Doesn’t happen often, right? More importantly, that intuition would have likely been brushed aside as a frivolous thought by that all-weather-ally, Mr. Rationale! Again, this is an after effect of academic and social conditioning. The Shakti-power inside is actually the force that gives us gut-feel, intuition, premonition, call it what you may. Believing in this manifestation of Shakti and honing this quality is becoming invaluable to leaders across sectors and levels, in today’s uncertain times. After all, we’re not always privy to robust and indicative data and analysis that will help us take apparently correct decisions from the head. We cannot wait for all info to arrive on our desk either, can we?

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From an early stage, if leaders are encouraged to take gutsy, instinctive decisions, every now and then, it is bound to become a source of immense strength at a later stage when the stakes are high. Mind you, failures are bound to happen but the rewards in the long run are much higher because they’re likely to develop a keen eye to see opportunities that don’t seem to exist.

More importantly, by that time, these leaders will more likely get it right than wrong because taking gut-feel-decisions has become second-nature to them! Such leaders will not be risk-averse and will seem to find innovative ways out of sticky, almost impossible, emergency situations in business.

3)      Strength from Spiritual Awareness: You have a divine, infinite core within you that is the fountainhead of potential. This core is essentially Shakti in all her splendor and glory. As a leader, when you are truly aware of this potential, you have invoked Shakti to guide and lead on your behalf. Think about it. Traits that can never be taught or acquired through rote or sensual experiences are actually the ones that will step you up from a good leader to a great inspiration!

resilience

We’re often taught about developing mental strength. Most often this is mistaken for being stoic, logic-driven, sans-emotion and almost brutally realistic, to use a cliché. True leadership strength springs from an awakened spiritual core or Shakti in blossom. When one has the ability to really think and feel from the heart and be instinctively decisive, one has truly developed strength to take on any challenge in work and life. Sudden mishaps, dramatic changes, road-blocks, startling course-corrections et al will then seem a happy part of this leadership journey.

If you’re looking for examples of such leaders who’ve truly lead on behalf of the Shakti within them, two names come to mind immediately – Mr. Narayana Murthy – co-founder and Chairman Emeritus of Infosys AND Ms. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw – Chairman and MD of Biocon. Sample these facts/ traits about these two leaders:

  • Both saw an opportunity to start something new and jumped in head-long, driven purely by their gut-feel
  • Both faced tremendous challenges, many unforeseen, along their growth journey but overcame them all through sheer grit, ingenuity and strength of will
  • Both lead organizations that are globally amongst the largest employers of talent and are known for the care shown to nurturing their teams

entrepreneurship

The list can go on but you get the drift right? The standout takeaway in invoking ‘Shakti’ within each one of us is the removal of fear and pre-conceived notions. This state of being essentially manifests as entrepreneurship in the business world. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to lead an entrepreneurial team that is led by Shakti at all times?

ardhanarishvara

In fact, wouldn’t it be wonderful to lead on behalf of Shakti by tapping into that fountainhead of divine feminine energy within?

Wait… did someone say the word ‘Man’ is contained inside the word ‘Woman’?

 

By Nandakishore Padmanabhan

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Inside every successful leader there is a child at play

Every leader would like to believe that he or she is exercising power that has been rightfully earned, in order to get work done for the best results. In the process though, there is an inherent tug-of-war at play between positional power and pressure to deliver better than before. The collateral damage of this clash is often borne by colleagues, peers, subordinates and sometimes, unfortunately, even family!

When the going is tough and the need of the hour is to step away from the beaten-path to make game-changing moves, most leaders are often found wanting. The ability to take calculated risks and back innovative ideas pretty much separates the great leaders from the rest. Somehow, these leaders seem to possess the curiosity, passion and the ability to demonstrate equanimity under all circumstances. They are also able to identify game-changing opportunities despite being involved in fire-fighting or overseeing mundane tasks. For them, there are no issues to be sorted, only opportunities to be sought and tapped. They are honest enough to state the obvious however bitter it may be and quick to applaud initiative and that gives them the clarity of thought needed to make quick, inclusive decisions. Their teams willingly back them since there is no second-guessing or sycophancy needed to perform and be recognized.

The million-rupee question is how are they able to do what they do? The answer may lie in an old Vedic dictum that prophesizes that a man can discover GOD within when he allows the child in him to thrive. Essentially, what the sages were trying to tell us is that being child-like at all times is the ultimate measure of evolution, however paradoxical that may sound. The famous English poet William Wordsworth also echoed this thought. But we’ll keep that for later. For now, we will see how this is true for business leaders as well.

So, what are those five child-like characteristics that a good leader should nurture and demonstrate, day in and day out?

1)     Be innocent: Yes, you read that right. However difficult it is for us adults to believe in the value of this trait, it is perhaps the most powerful among the lot that a child possesses.

innocent child

As a leader of a team or teams, one must be innocent in thought, words and actions. This is the foundation of trust. It doesn’t mean being naïve or gullible. Rather, it is a quality that defines authenticity and clarity. Communication is then a free-way without barriers and that opens up tremendous possibilities. Followers willingly speak their mind knowing fully well that their leader is genuine, non-judgmental and unbiased. Ideas begin to flow out easily, collaboration is a given and hence breakthrough business results happen!

2)     Be curious: Remember when you were a child and everything that happened around you was new and magical? In hindsight, we’re quick to dismiss that as ‘child-like curiosity’ but that is in fact an unmatched asset every good leader should possess.

curious child

You are then able to continuously and unwaveringly look for opportunities subconsciously. As a leader, you look for talent that is waiting to blossom, you listen to all, you see everything with delight and full involvement. It becomes a happy habit to seek, accept and celebrate ideas from anyone, whatever their position or role. Finding game-changing ideas is then an inherent talent and there is never a dearth of information or solutions when needed. What happens as a result? There is never a lack of motivation or passion and achieving results is a piece of cake!

3)     Be stubborn: Throwing tantrums and not letting up till they’ve got what they wanted is but a natural thing for children. They are masters at the game and seem to find newer ways each time! More importantly, they seem to possess an inexhaustible reserve of stubbornness no matter how big or small the need. This is what driven leaders also possess in abundance.

stubborn child

But being stubborn does not in any way mean being unfair and demanding to the point of being overbearing. The stubborn child is able to extract what it wants by being persuasive, friendly, lovable and convincing. As a leader, if you are able back your instinct/ gut-call, to fix your mind on a goal and go after it like a stubborn child, you will discover that the team will come around to supporting and collaborating with you to achieve it. 

4)      Be forgiving: Remember those silly fights with mates that never lasted more than a few seconds? Remember how easy it was to swear never to speak again and get back to noisy banter, fun and laughter? Well, if you are a leader, you must be forgiving by nature. You might have set very high standards for yourself and hence reached where you have but that should not make you demanding and unforgiving towards subordinates and colleagues. It could also be that your role demands superior standards but that should not mean failure or mistakes are unacceptable.

forgiving child

After all, we’re all humans and we’re bound to falter now and then, right? If you can forgive easily and caringly, your Emotional Intelligence comes through in such a way that peers, colleagues and subordinates begin to trust and love you. More significantly, the idea-ramans in the team will never hesitate to share their latest idea or suggestion which could prove game-changing!

5)     Be playful: Yes. Let the child in you play at work. Never take yourself, your role/ designation or what you do, too seriously! Remember the mischievous child, always ready to play a prank or two, never hesitating to diffuse an angry moment with monkey-faces? Well, that child is needed all the more, every time you climb the corporate ladder towards greater leadership.

playful child

The playful leader enjoys every little event, celebrates those inconsequential successes and applauds merrily. More importantly for the organization, this leader handles so-called pressure situations with an unaffected gaiety that is infectious! Playful leaders manage to convert work into play for everyone in the team and that transforms organizational culture like nothing else can!

Did you find resonance with these traits? Do you still have doubts about actually practicing these in real life? Well, all you have to do is observe closely the shenanigans of children at home and if possible, participate in their fun! William Wordsworth suggested that ‘The child is the father of man’ in his famous poem ‘The Rainbow’ and indeed there is so much to learn from children that Leaders would do well to take their little ones more seriously, don’t you agree? You never know – the next BIG idea might just come from your child’s silly game or innocuous comment! Better still would be for you, the leader, to rediscover, nurture and unleash the child in you to lead the way… So go ahead! Be child-like and play!

By Nandakishore Padmanabhan

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The AHA Moment

A few days back, I had the privilege of being hosted at the Taj Vivanta. By now, it has become a common perception that Taj properties take service to a different level and benchmark the same. With Vivanta, that wasn’t the case. They went one better.

The team takes pride in what is defined as the ‘Vivanta moment’ – a unique, often unforgettable experience for the guest that is a signature to the particular property. As a guest these experiential ‘Moments’ have stayed with me long after I checked out.

They ensured quite a few of these moments during my short stay! From personalized name-tags ready before guests arrived to spectacle/ lens-cleaners given on arrival, one feels special right from the start! A wall-décor made using only spices to uniquely flavoured ‘breath-freshener’ sorbets at their restaurants… the experiences wowed me.

I gathered that all of their properties try and create new moments regularly. Imagine the enthusiasm, drive, creativity, collaboration and passionate ownership required to do this!

At Pragati Leadership, we often refer to this as creating and delivering the ‘AHA moment’ to our participants during our interventions. When the audience profile, needs and expectations are understood and catered to in the design and delivery of the program, such moments tend to happen in the natural flow. As a measure of our own effectiveness, we try and create one ‘AHA moment’ in each program. The idea is to not ‘play to the gallery’ and get momentary wows but to actually catalyze a change in attitudes, skills and knowledge. That is when there is a far-reaching impact for both people and business perspectives and it becomes an AHA – Moment for all!

However, the Vivanta experience got me thinking about what it takes to continuously create such impactful moments that become cherished memories in every walk of life. How can we create such moments in our daily lives for families, our children and our spouses? Can we do this on the spur of the moment, for guests or for complete strangers? Can we create such moments at work for our colleagues and customers? The key, I believe, is to create such moments for ourselves first, as often as possible, so that it becomes a habit… and that’s when memories get created!

By Vivek Yatnalkar

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