Said the Gentlest and the Biggest Giant of our times! There is still no precedence in the history of this world for someone as diminutive and non-assuming to have led a team of 350 Million to Success! No precedence at all. Now take this! He was a Short Frail Man! An Average Speaker! Nothing of what today characterizes a ‘Charismatic Leader’! Nothing! Nothing of that sort at all! Then what made him the ‘Mahatma’? The Legend he is! What made him inspire so many revolutions across the globe, which makes him still motivate so many of us! Can we, as today’s leaders (or to be ones) draw any inspiration from him? And can we incorporate some of his principles in our lives and work today? I have tried to distill some of his teachings here which will inspire leaders of today, tomorrow, in 150, 1500 years from now.. and way beyond!
Be Persistent, Have Patience when you believe in a cause!: He spent close to 6.5 Years in Jail 2338 days to be precise, his wife died in Jail! For what? He was a London Educated Lawyer. From a very well to do family (His Father Late Shri Karamchand Gandhi served as a Diwan of Porbandar, Rajkot, and Wankaner. He led 6 major Movements that shaped our freedom, because of which we breathe-in (and out) free air today!
One has to be dedicated to a cause, come what may! Believe in it and be persistent at it! There is no turning back once you have made up your mind on a certain initiative, there will always be Roadblocks, Challenges.. Good, Big and Impactful things take a lot of Grit, Character, and Persistence to pull off. Then there are uncertainties, some people will try to pull you down, some will distract and discourage you, some will say you’ve munched in more than you can chew! Things get difficult, you may fail at times, fall flat, ridiculed and laughed at! But that’s ok! Whenever something like that happens.. Let’s remember our little man Gandhi and Keep Walking!
Be devoid of Ego, Be Equanimous! Frankly, there are so many fake ‘I don’t have any ego’ leaders today that its difficult to find a genuine Equanimous Leader. Everyone has an ego, what matters is what you do and react when it hurts or when someone criticizes you.. when you seem to fall. When you leave the ‘I’ ‘Me’ ‘Myself’ feeling true and do what you do with a service mindset that springs from a purpose and vision for the organisation as a whole. That’s when the real Leader capable of making a huge impact is born inside of you.
15th August 1947, when our nation got freedom! This man who fought all his life for this (32 years of his life! from 1915 when he returned to India to 1947… One would expect him to be at the center of all celebrations! All Attractions and would be Jumping and Pumping with Happiness and Exult!) was in Calcutta, serving the partition torn people of East! What a Guy Man!
Be Fearless and Courageous! It takes a lot for a frail, aging man to face bullets, lathis, jail, and torture.. and still be at it! From 7th June 1893 when he was thrown out of a train in South Africa (he was 33 years of age), to the day he died 30th January 1948 at the age of 78! Shot point-blank! Three times! with Hey Ram on his lips! That’s 45 years of Fearlessness, Courage, Grit, Determination, Persistence, and Equanimity for you! That’s nothing in front of our quarterly/yearly targets and the fear we people live with! Drop all your fears, be courageous, back yourself up! And ‘Do What is Ought to Be Done’ Period! If we imbibe half of what this man lived with, there will be ‘0’ incidents of heart attacks due to stress in our corporate world!
Find a Purpose, Means will Follow: You may start alone.. good and relevant people will follow and the support will swell, there is always enough support and backing for genuine endeavors. be it life or at work!
Speak Less and Listen More: Mahatma Gandhi as I said earlier was an average speaker. What made him a great connector and communicator though was his listening.. Even if he would give 2 minutes of his time to someone.. he would listen intently as if there is no one more important than the person he was talking to! That’s the core of communication skills right there!
Take People Along: 350 Million! Divergent Multi-Cultural Society! 22 major languages written in 13 different scripts, with over 720 dialects That’s India he led to freedom from a regimen who’s strategy was ‘Divide and Rule’! I sometimes wonder when we talk about including diversity in our companies and how difficult it is to take 100, 1000, 10K or 100K people along.. 350 Million! That was his team size! I can’t think of a bigger example of taking people along than this one! None!
So! Take people along, communicate decisions compassionately, form a core group which represents your org’s key executioners, keep an open-door policy, be ok to disagree, don’t curb arguments, allow multiple perspectives and thought processes to evolve as long as they are aligned to the vision and mission of your organisation! Then take a call! Many times it may not be possible to satisfy everyone, but that’s not the point… what’s needed is that the team is together in it! And they trust you with it! They feel heard!
- Healthy Discontent is a Prelude to Progress
- Nation’s Culture Resides in the Heart and Souls of its People’ and so is a Company’s. Be careful what and how you build it, how you communicate and what you do to retain it.
Be Truthful: To yourself and whatever you believe in from the core of your being! To your team, to all your genuine endeavors. Misleading anyone, your board, your teams or company is not going to take anyone far. Life is simple, don’t make it unnecessarily complex.
“Even if you are Minority of ‘ONE’, the truth is The Truth”
Practice What you Preach! I’ve written a whole piece on it in my previous blog on “Lead by Example” here:
Be a Compassionate Leader: Times of egocentric, wielding a gun, fear-mongering kind of leadership is gone! Its time of the ‘Mahatma Leader’ You cannot lead today’s Millennials with fear.. they just have too many options and know much.. Don’t contribute to the chaos that is already there! Let’s contribute to building a secure future for the next generation! Today’s generation is very evolved, knowledgeable, logical, yes they may have their shortcomings (and much of that could also be due to their upbringings, are many of us as their parents not to blame for that as well? Think! Compassion starts at Home!). We have anyways seen the demise of every single dictatorship in the past.. and will see more in future as well… Dictatorship has never worked.. will never work, especially in a diverse set up like in today’s corporate ecosystem.
Pray: Belief in God! (Whatever form, formless, book, religion) you believe in. Not everything is under your control. I wish to conclude this with two lines from Mahatma Gandhi’s favorite Bhajan:
Ishwar Allah Tero Naam
Sabko Sanmati De Bhagwan
Note: Thanks for reading this piece till the end… I have written it with a lot of heart! I am going to write about leadership in 2 themes, one is a set of general topics around leadership and another one is this. Inspired Leadership based on some of the leaders in the past and present. I’ll try to bring nuggets of their lives to you once a month (so happy to start it with the Mahatma). Also planning re-start the Leaders Speak Series where we’ll speak with prominent leaders who can inspire us from what they have done and from their perspective on Leadership (crunched on time right now though, let me try). Excited to start this journey with you… Watch out this space for more! Till then… Happy reading and keep Inspiring your teams!
Business Leader, Taggd
PS: At Taggd, we understand the science of success under strong leadership and we help organizations to identify and hire the right Executive/Leadership talent. If interested to know more, you can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.