Tag Archives: strengths

Carpe Diem Mumbai 2015- Highlights

At Pragati Leadership’s flagship annual event, Carpe Diem, the first speaker was James Brook, Co-Founder and MD, Strengths Partnership. James spoke on the “Strengths Based Approach to Leadership”.

Mr. Brook began his talk with thoughts on the strengths based approach to leadership development, and how it challenges the traditional assumptions of leadership. He pointed out that organizations are investing so much into leadership development, that when combined, these investments equal the GDP of a small country. Yet there are not many promising leaders out there today. This is because employee engagement is deteriorating.  An indicator of failed leadership would be the many scandals that are unearthed regularly. There is a lack of longevity in the process of leadership. All this suggests that the development is not working in the right direction.

James BrookHe went on to question the audience:  ‘Is it necessary for a leader to be well rounded?’ and ‘What makes a good leader?’

He threw light on these issues by saying that it is not necessary for leaders to be well rounded. Effective leaders like Steve Jobs for example focus on their key strengths and work on them. Not all leaders have the same strengths, but the best ones build on their strengths and conquer their weaknesses to move forward.

He went on to discuss whether leaders are always right and do they know it all, then went further to say that this is not mandatory. A good leader is someone who appreciates and inculcates the importance of strengths, gives direction, goes beyond the usual and engages every team member.

From a psychology perspective, he shared that strengths are innate and developed mostly during childhood but behavior is something that can be learned and implemented strategically.

He also spoke of two very important qualities of a leader:

In conclusion he emphasized  that stretching strengths beyond the comfort zone will help a person to grow.

The second speaker, Arun Wakhlu (Founder and Executive Chairman, Pragati Leadership) spoke about “Exploring the Core Strength of Wholesome Leadership™”.

He commenced the session with his trademark ‘Namaste’, a traditional India greeting. He went on to emphasize the importance of understanding the kind of leadership that is needed for the good of the world, and the dangers facing the world not getting the necessary attention.

Arun Wakhlu“What kind of leaders, are needed to create a truly progressive world?” He questioned.

Arun went on to share that leaders who can inspire and energize, those who are fueled on passion and energy are needed. The one thing that is not given importance, is our strengths, this is the missing element that hinders our productivity on the path of Wholesome Leadership™. Two things that need focus are Context, ie., running a business holistically and looking at the bigger picture. The second is Consciousness, ie., living in the moment, taking each day and each opportunity, one at a time. It is pointless carrying the baggage of the past and anticipating the future, for our actions are determined on the basis of how we see things.

Arun raised the question “What are the effects of this ‘baggage’ on productivity?”.  A general consensus among the members of the audience was that it caused loss of energy, time and positivity.

Arun said that this realization would result in the leader being on fire! He went on to question, “Is it possible to put others on fire if you yourself aren’t on fire? There is no vitality in the motivation of others if you aren’t motivated yourself. Looking at it from the outside will lead to freedom and clarity of thought which in turn would lead to thriving innovation.”

According to him the problem lies in the attitude. He said, “there is no focus on, or nurturing of, strengths. Negative qualities are given more attention. Awareness which is ignored, is the deepest level of consciousness.”

He stressed on the concept of “Carpe Diem”, seizing the day.  “Seize the day” he said “as you never know what can happen to you tomorrow. “

He left the audience pondering with the parting thought, “It is all about taking calculated risks.”



Organisations are much like humans. They grow, they forge and manage relationships, they play nurturers and yes, they want to live past a hundred. It would make sense for organisations to do another human thing – make New Year resolutions (beyond the financial goals they set for themselves every financial year!!)

Here are a few things that I would love to see organisations resolve to do, starting this year:

Focus on Strengths – Align people to roles where they can use their innate Strengths as opposed to roles where they are merely competent. This is what will move your organisation from “competent” to “Strong”.


At the very least, Employ a Competency based approach – Use Competency Based Interviewing (preferably in conjunction with Strengths instruments) and use Assessment Centres before promoting employees. The science will take the guesswork out of hiring and promoting, saving organisation the heavy costs that result from poor performance and rehiring.

Focus on creating “Interpersonal Wealth” – It’s a more equal world than ever before. Traditional

power roles don’t hold much importance any more. Employees are less intimidated by their bosses than they used to be. There is a plethora of options out there today.


Similarly, wives are not subservient to husbands and children are not to their parents (at least in the urban world). It is just not possible to pull rank, to get things done on the basis of hierarchy – there is no hierarchy. What is needed is excellent interpersonal skill – so good that it gets termed

“Intrpersonal Wealth”! From just getting along to forging deeper relationships to having enough personal power to influence outcomes, it is interpersonal wealth that will be responsible for making organisations thrive. The smart organisation will invest in helping their employees develop this because it will impact not only their relationships with their customers and peers but also impact how well they are doing in their personal lives. Just like some organisations are investing in…

The physical health of their employees – Repetitive Stress Syndrome, Carpal Tunnel, Blackberry

Thumb, Computer Vision Syndrome, neck and shoulder pain, Deep Vein Thrombosis, Insomnia, Stress, what not! The human body is more perishable a resource these days than it ever was! Mandatory Provident Funds and Insurance are not enough. Mandatory exercise and fitness levels, mandatory limitation on working hours, mandatory vacations, ergonomic seating, “optional standing desks” and counsellors in the office – there are some things that are being done by some organisations. Many more need to be still done by a lot more organisations. The definition of workplace safety too needs to be revisited.

Employee Engagement – For those organisations that are not measuring and improving engagement yet, please partner with organizations like Gallup, Mercer, Hay Group or us. It’s a vitally important metric and in an increasingly competitive and dynamic marketplace, it is set to become even more important. In fact, I would like to see it being discussed at shareholder meetings!

Ethical – We live in difficult times, corrupt times. Recent political events in India suggest that there’s a wave rising against (financial, if not yet moral) corruption. If this is a genuinely new India, it won’t be long before people start paying more attention to corporate corruption (eg. data manipulation or payoffs to obtain ISO or eSCM type of certifications; or corporate-politician nexuses). These are times to be exemplary leaders, to show other organisations and employees the way.


Environment – There are more reasons why these are difficult times. Industry and humanity are almost locked in a battle for our earth’s meagre resources – water, land, minerals etc. It’s an age where the words “more” and “consumption” are possibly heard more In conversations than “thank you” and “please”! No one knows the meaning of moderation or restraint (neither corporations, nor politicians, nor the affluent, nor the middle class, nor Phaneesh, nor Tejpal). In such times, it’s important to think about the impact of our actions on others now and on ourselves eventually.

We need to stop and think about how what we do affects those around us. Trees, tribals, minerals, mountains, seas, soil, air, water, fuel.


 CSR – Being responsible members of society. Ensuring the well being of the vicinity and the people we share this landmass with.Walking the path of the man who spoke of pursuing the greatest good of all.

About the Author:

Aman Zaidi, The author is passionate about employee engagement and facilitates a signature workshop called Creating Involved Employees


Pressure Points

“Run, run, run, run
You better make your face up in your favourite disguise
With your button down lips and your roller blind eyes
With your empty smile and your hungry heart
Feel the bile rising from your guilty past
With your nerves in tatters as the cockleshell shatters
And the hammers batter down your door
You better run” – Pink Floyd

When the cult British band wrote these lyrics for one of their most famous anthems, you can judge that they were referring to the manic lifestyles of modern society. Read it again and you will perhaps see a hint at behavioural patterns that stem from having to deal with that relentlessly demanding friend most of us can live without – peer pressure.

It all seems to start at a very young age with the obligation of having a flaunt-worthy social circle considered a status symbol today. Youngsters are inevitably driven towards doing things that can help them secure more ‘friends’ and please their ‘peers’ than ever before. The fear of being ostracised if the unwritten rules of ‘friendship’ are not followed, burdens most youngsters to follow peer actions as the call of the day. From dressing styles to career decisions, to life-choices, the youth tend to adhere to the trends set by their peers or perhaps even doubt their own judgement.

Cases of youngsters succumbing to underage drinking and smoking due to peer pressure are not uncommon. In fact, a study by the Indian Journal of Community Medicine revealed that 70 per cent of the students quoted peer pressure as the reason for initiation into tobacco chewing. It’s also a known fact that students in their early teens feel the need to own luxury goods when they see their friends flaunting them. Thankfully, there are some who stand out of this whirlpool of negativity, are grounded and can think practically about priorities.

It is everywhere
Peer pressure makes its presence felt in the life of students from all economic classes. Whether it’s the rich kids, who try to outshine the richer ones, or the not-so-fortunate ones who struggle to match standards with them, those who can’t afford the luxuries or privileges enjoyed by those born with them, might start suffering from an inferiority complex, which affects their self-confidence.

What is more alarming is that peer pressure may also distort the academic vision and life-goals of a youngster. Despite a large number of career options available, youth tend to opt for the most popular course rather than pursuing their dreams and end up regretting their career decisions. Imagine the consequences?

What about work-spaces? Are they free of this malice? Of course not. ‘Cubicle-Pressure’ is perhaps one of the major reasons for our young professionals suffering from ‘Blood Pressure’ related ailments. The outstanding performer in the team or the boss’ blue-eyed stooge is guaranteed to cause hair-loss, stress and anxiety, lack of sleep and discontent. Ambition blinds reason and peers become enemies to be vanquished at any cost. It doesn’t help that these peers exert subtle pressure through politicking and it then becomes a game of rapid chess played in between running a marathon at speed.

Before we know it a decade or two has passed. It is all a blur of faked performances and half-hearted attempts at excellence. It is all I, Me and Myself against the so-called group of well-wishers whose only aim in life is apparently to sow seeds of doubt and negativity. It is a flash of masked happiness dominated by moments of despair and incompleteness that were compensated for by materialistic indulgences.

Eventually it becomes a race against time, against instinct, against self-will and against sustained joy. It is akin to the dog chasing his tail. Round and round the whirlpool of discontent, spiralling down towards a life full of regrets. And then when the protagonist is tired of chasing the mirage, realisation is bound to set in of lost identity. The urge to rewind and restart the journey afresh with a clear purpose shutting out all those voices of influence comes bursting form within. We crave for another chance to follow our own dreams and desires that come from deep within and create a wholesome life that we can proudly call our own.

Can it be a good thing? 
Peer pressure is not always negative. Healthy academic and work-place competition among students and colleagues is beneficial and symbiotic. A good educational institution or work-place therefore encourages individuality and healthy competition in the right mix.

The fact that one’s peers are notching up better, encourages one to perform better. When we have a good circle of friends during student life, they help us understand our strengths and weaknesses and offer heartfelt suggestions. We feel inspired to match their excellence but will also feel genuinely happy with their successes and vice versa. More importantly, this ‘inner-circle of growth-promoters’ is always supportive of our independent decision-making and each member feeds off the other to make the best career-choices. Similarly, a good set of colleagues help bring out the best in us in terms of skills, innovation, team-play and overall growth.

The over-arching endeavour has to be to ensure wholesome oneness in action, where individual brilliance feeds into collective excellence because there are always a few encouraging words to spare and a helping hand to extend to fellow mates. That is when there is no depreciating difference in perspective and there is a feeling of abundance, love, skill and purpose.

Sadly, the negative influence of peer pressure right now seems to be overbearing and the positive side of the story is still abridged by it. Whatever the case may be, in the battle between peer pressure and one’s own inclinations and interests, the one who acts according to his own needs and capabilities, and not that of others, will emerge the winner. The key of course is to identify, engage with and revel in that ‘inner-circle of growth-promoters’ at home, at institutions, at work-spaces and preferably, all stages of life.

On a lighter note, here’s a satirical video on how to deal with the dreaded 2Ps http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wz8NSbdN7aE&feature=fvsr