Tag Archives: Entrepreneur

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 organizations 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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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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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?

images

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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Creating the GOD Company

There is divinity in every enterprise, Big and Small. I will go so far as saying there is GOD in every enterprise! Did you just raise an eyebrow? Let me explain. Spiritually speaking, if GOD is in each one of us and we’re but HIS manifestation, shouldn’t there be a more powerful version of HIM in a collective enterprise that has energies working together for a greater purpose (or at least trying to!)?

God-adam

If the infinite supreme that we refer to as GOD is all-pervading and all-inclusive, then by the very nature of HIS being, enterprises of all sizes are necessary and deserve to co-exist within HIM and as manifestations of HIM. There is a natural, self-regulatory balance that is achieved because of this. It is then safe to deduce that the measure of the enterprise’s success and how long it lasts is then defined by how much or less of HIM is in the fabric of their being.

BVM

Metaphorically speaking, therefore, every sustain-ably successful enterprise has three gears working together, endlessly, without friction, feeding into each other’s ceaseless motion forward: Generators, Operators and Destroyers, GODs for the acronym-lovers. Why do we need them and how do we go about surrounding ourselves with these manifestations of the ‘holy trinity’ in good measure? That is the name of this game called life or business or both, since one is the other, right?

Generators: These persons are the natural creators/ ideators/ initiators. This is their Swadharma – their natural wont, inclination, their destiny if you will!

brahma

These are the Brahma manifestations that come up with ideas, create the concepts, identify opportunities, fathom projects/ products etc. that pretty much define the collective enterprise. They are the architects not burdened by logic or reason whose minds can see endless possibilities, the very engines of change and initiative. They give life to the collective. BUT, they are not almighty by themselves.

In expending all their energies on the aspect of Generation, they unconsciously seek out others who can maintain, nurture, preserve, incubate, monitor, moderate etc. in order that their creations do not die. They NEED Operators to complete their task and in a sense complete them! The irony, of course, is that Generators more often than not, despise Operators!

hands of god

Think about it – Generators are free-thinkers who despise rules, hate micro-management, are annoyed by processes and deplore routine. In effect, they despise the very character of their bête-noire Operators and yet cannot thrive without them! Is this a problem? Nope – it is in fact a God-sent opportunity! Read on…

Operators: They are the nurturers/ protectors/ guides/ mentors/ managers/ leaders et al. This is their Swadharma. They are the Vishnu manifestations that nurture ideas, give shape to concepts, execute and ensure project completion.

Vishnu

They are the ‘Managers’, if you please, who can appreciate the brilliance of creativity and yet excel in working with logic and reason.  Their minds are focused on ensuring prosperity and abundance, while being pragmatic and fair, without getting swayed. In effect, they nurture the life of the collective and balance change with continuity. BUT, they are not Almighty by themselves either…

While they use their energies on this aspect of Operation, they consciously seek out others who can finish, close out, stop, and destroy etc. in order that the created leave the stage after their lifespan, to make way for the new. They NEED Destroyers to complete their task and in a sense complete them!

blackhole

As irony goes, they too despise their Yang-halves, the Destroyers! After all, if one is naturally inclined to preserve and nurture, one will therefore hate the disrupters, naysayers, the critics, the tough-task-masters, the finishers if you will. Yet, they cannot thrive without these chaps! And therein lies our other God-sent opportunity…

Destroyers: These are the disrupters, critics/ doubters/ the skeptics/ the tough-call-takers/ the closure-specialists/ the devil’s advocates if you please. It is their Swadharma.

Shiva

They are the Shiva manifestations who know when it is time to pull the plug, kill an idea, stop a project, phase-out a product, ease out a resource, disrupt an entrenched process etc. They are unaffected by the creative genius behind a creation or the perseverance that nurtured it. They are neither driven by emotion nor by logic. They are the change-agents who decisively influence the course of the collective’s journey. BUT, they are not Almighty by themselves.

While exhausting their energies on this aspect of Destruction, they actually seek out Generators in order that creation can start again.

bigbang

They NEED Generators to complete their task and complete the trinity, even though they hate their ilk! It makes sense doesn’t it? By nature, if they are adept at disrupting, they must abhor the ideators, the creators, the dreamers who made those things in the first place!

OK. Point made and well-taken I hope. Now imagine the perfect collective enterprise that has somehow managed the perfect mix of Generators, Operators and Destroyers, who are working with and seemingly against each other, in a symbiotic manner. They could have managed to achieve this by having an eco-space that encourages each of these manifestations to blossom individually as well as collectively.

Questions

How could this have happened? In HR parlance, we can hazard to guess that their ‘self-defined KRAs’ demanded that Generators actually seek out and bring Operators who can nurture their creativity, into the Collective. Similarly, Operators are expected to find and bring in Destroyers who can put out their outdated projects and disrupt the cruise-mode. Finally, the Destroyers are mandated to hunt for Generators who can create anew post their disruptive actions.

Net-net, there is a self-sufficient eco-system that looks after itself and its talent needs! They are all leaders in their own right, working autonomously yet collaboratively as stakeholders. This three-way yin-yang, if you can imagine it, is naturally self-balancing, fair, self-feeding and sustainable, destined for equitable success, don’t you think?

3yinyang

Can you visualize its in-built, self-check mechanisms because of the very opposing natures of the three forces that drive it, like conjoined levers or gears, a smooth, flowing three-petaled Yin-Yang?

And then there is the aspect of balancing the G-O-D that is within us! It is safe to say that all three qualities Generator/ Operator/ Destroyer are in some measure inside each one of us. The challenge is to nurture and allow these manifestations to express themselves at the right time and in collaborative response to the expressions from our colleagues. That will also mean an inherent respect for the G-O-D in the other person and awareness at all times. It is possible isn’t it?

mysterious

Now do you believe you can help create a GOD company within your existing set-up or even outside of it when you start your next entrepreneurial venture? Well, what are you waiting for my dear fellow manifestation? Godspeed!

By Nandakishore Padmanabhan (with inputs from Vikas Bhatia & Aanchal Sethi)

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