Articles

Significant Leadership : How to find where it lies

Take a look at the accompanying visual. Visuals simplify the appearance of complex reality. With the caveat of this being a conceptual model, it is still a useful one to find our place in the world. Significant leadership is the space where your greatest competence, your greatest passion and the world’s greatest need overlap. Where does one begin? Sachin Tendulkar began with his passion, and you might be surprised to know it was not batting! Tendulkar wanted to become a tearaway fast-bowler. When he went for Dennis Lillee’s fast-bowling camp, Lillee saw him bat and told him to forget about fast bowling. Isn’t that interesting? One of the greatest batsman in modern times needed feedback on his greatest competence! What comes in the way of identifying our competence? Ironically, it is the sheer ease of it, so much so that we do not think about it at all. What comes easy to us is dismissed. You can reflect on what is it you find very easy to do that is something of a task for your peer group ( people who…

Winning is not the only thing : Australian Cricket in shambles

Winning is not everything. It is the only thing. – Vince Lombardi The world loves winners and worships the idea of success. When Donald Trump won, there were people who against their better judgment, rationalized that the win made him fit to be the President of the United States, undoubtedly the most powerful leadership position in the world. These folks were not his supporters to begin with. Trump’s win made him legitimate to them. If he won, he must have been right, he is fit and able – so they said. Much the same rationalization seems to have been in place for the Australian cricket team, the team with the best winning percentages in cricket. They win, they must be right. Right in the way they play their cricket tough and go hard at the opposition. Now, after Steve Smith admitted to cheating, there is a sense of disbelief. This sense of disbelief is what needs to be reflected upon, perhaps more than the act of cheating itself. The cheating did not take place in isolation. It transpired against the…

Jan 2018 diary

26th Jan Nazis – A warning from history This documentary film series examines how the Nazis came to power in Germany and perpetrated their unspeakable atrocities leading upto the World War. When we think of Hitler, we perceive a monstrous leader in absolute command. We think he must have absolutely dictated in chilling detail every barbaric deed the Nazis were involved in. This broad understanding is easier for us to accept and explain the horror of concentration camps and the destruction of war. One man. One evil monster masterminded it all. The documentary reveals a different story. Adolph Hitler commanded absolute power and had legitimized Nazism as the ideological underpinning of his grandiose plans. However, as a ruler, Hitler was not at all hands-on with the nitty-gritty, the minutae of adminstration and terror. Sure, he was charismatic in his dealings with those who came with problems. His charisma infused a demonic zeal in his officers. However, he spoke in broad visions and gave vague directions on next steps after every momentous decision. It was left to those immediately below him –…

Improv – Deserving of a wider stage

At a play – The Diary of a Madman – the wonderful British performer was right into his solo-act as Poprishchin, a minor civil servant in Nicolas I’s time. Poprishchin is going mad and his descent into insanity is subtle & deceptive. That was in the script. What was not there was that there would be a constant titter of mobile phones ringing. The audience was getting mad in it’s own way and this descent was not so subtle; it was rather obvious! The actor was sane on this count. He carried on unaffected. And then it happened. He was half-way into his delivery of a particular monologue when an earth-shattering musical ringtone started to reverberate around the auditorium. Even before all of the audience had heard it, this actor started swaying to the rhythm of the ringtone, even as he continued his talk. It was so effortless that one could almost wonder if the ringtone music was intentional. At another critical instant, a girl sneezed. Without batting an eyelid, the actor said, “Bless you” and carried on! Both adaptations were a…

Nov 2017 Diary

22nd Nov Rukhmabai Raut in Google Doodle One of the best contributions of Google is it’s doodles on less known or unheralded icons. Today was on Rukhmabai Raut. On reading about her at Wikipedia, it is interesting to know that her defiance of the cusutoms of her day & unwillingness to go stay with her husband were considered to be the result of an English education. No less a person than Lokmanya Tilak said that. Centuries later, the least we can do is look at what transpired objectively. Individual stories played out against the larger backdrop of social change & political struggles. And individual self-interest or liberation suffered at the hands of duly acknowledged Indian leaders. For reasons that would now cause an uproar if leaders & icons were to play them up. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rukhmabai 21st Nov Jana Novotna’s passing Sad to know about Jana Novotna’s passing. She had an out and out attacking game and was lightning fast at the net. She cried in 1993 after losing the Wimbledon final. Millions of viewers, including me, could feel her heart go…

Indigo Fracas – Flawed Disciplinary Action

Indigo Airlines flew directly into a storm kicked up on the ground! Two Indigo staffers were caught on video trying to pin down an abrasive passenger. This was a fight more common among kids at school. Not at an airport. The incident happened in mid-October. The video, shot by an Indigo cargo handler, came out in November. Curiously enough, the cargo handler was removed from the job. As per Indigo’s public statement, he had instigated the other crew and was directly responsible for things coming to a head. Still, no matter what the cargo handler did, there is no way the people who actually got physical can be let off the hook. This is where Indigo seems to have gone completely off the radar. Let us accept for now that the cargo handler was the instigator. Even if that was the case,were the two other staffers such mindless automatons that they would just follow someone’s bidding, even if that be of their own supposedly senior colleague. Indigo claims the staffers used force to rein in an out of bounds passenger as a matter of…

The Elphinstone Stampede – Getting back on our feet

On 29th September 2017, an overcrowded foot over bridge at Elphinstone railway station, Mumbai witnessed a horrific stampede. 23 people died. What can we, as a society of organizations, do in the aftermath of the Elphinstone stampede? Let us explore the way forward using systems thinking. It might be a good idea to start with a description of the mental model we carry in our collective consciousness. Mental models are the very foundation, the source of how we create our own social reality. Mental Models Here is an articulation of the current mental models as I perceive them. ” Mumbai is the city of dreams. The financial capital. The corporate hub. Everything worth striving for is in Mumbai. We must go to work where the offices and establishments are. The best way to travel? The Mumbai locals – hands down. Cheaper & faster than anything else. Sure, it’s risky. Rush-hour.Packed trains, people falling off, getting run over. Part of the deal. We have made peace with it. Brave everything you encounter because there is a job to be done and food to…

Stanislav Petrov – The Man who Saved the World

Without you knowing about it, Stanislav Petrov has been a part of your life. He has saved the world as we know it by the decisions he made all the way back in 1983. On 26th September, 1983, Petrov was the duty officer at the command-center for a nuclear early warning system near Moscow in Soviet Union. That night, he faced one of the biggest decisions of the 20th century – a decision that could have precipitated an inevitable chain-reaction of events to culminate into the destruction of the whole world. Hard to get what this means into our gut and that is part of our collective challenge – but that’s beside the point. How did a low-ranked duty-officer come to bear such a huge responsibility? After all, we expect this to come to the desks of country leaders & top generals.  And what made it such an agonising decision? In the eighties, the then superpowers, the United States & Soviet Union, were in a state of MAD ( Mutually Assured Destruction) This is even now the case. MAD means both superpowers had enough…

Movies : Elle – Isabelle Huppert’s magnificent performance

We harbour notions about how a movie on rape & sexual violence will be. Elle, the French movie brushes them aside; totally subverting the viewer model we have on such a sensitive subject. The moral purists may not appreciate it. But such is the mesmerising power of Isabelle Huppert, the actress in the role of Michele, that we are held in thrall by her and contend with the existential reality. Michele, the fifty-something CEO of a gaming company, is raped by a masked man in the opening scene. Everything else that follows goes against the grain, deviates from the expected proceedings. Michele does not report to the police. There is an air of nonchalance in the way she breaks the news to a few friends – as a part of dinner table small talk. She does not even actively seek to find the rapist – till he starts to needle her. And even when she starts the search, she does not let it become an obsession. Far from it, it is just something to tackle, that’s it. In short, Michele refuses…

August 2017 Thinking practice – Thoughts on everything & nothing – Regularly updated

14th August 2017 Versova Beach clean-up Afroz Shah, a feted UN Earth Champion once again led a clean-up effort at Versova beach. Our Prime minister has already lauded him for his extraordinary work. Many clean-up efforts have been inspired by his initiative. In Versova, since the past year 4000 tons of garbage has been collected. The beach was made sparkling clean and again defiled, and has again been cleaned. Afroz is not dispirited by having to do the clean-up act all over again. As a society, we ought to think deeper. When the dirt and the filth stare us in the face, the first question has to be, “How can we clean up our beaches and public places?” The ultimate question then has to be, ” How can prevent our beaches and public places from getting dirty in the first place?” In the West, the civic society was grappling with the poor state of animal shelters. Abandoned pets were arriving at a higher rate. The first question they asked was, ” How can we improve the state of our animal…