Leadership this month – Heroes are not always right.

Picture courtesy : indiatoday.in

Picture courtesy : indiatoday.in

From the barber to the CEO, everyone in India loves to hold court on what ails Indian cricket.

The latest news is that Anil Kumble, the coach & Virat Kohli, the captain do not see eye to eye.

To make the two reconcile is not my task. That said, this is a great opportunity to ask – Are we as a society and a people also blind to how things are?

How often do we believe that choices made by our heroes will always be right?

In the case of the Tata Group, it was Ratan Tata himself who had a role in appointing Cryus Mistry as the chairman in the first place. Anybody disputes that? We all know how that turned out.

In the case of the Indian cricket coach, it was the famed trio of Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly & VVS laxman who chose Anil Kumble. And things have apparently not turned out well on the internal harmony front.

Now, who is going to challenge the cricketing pedigree of these legends ? Not me. And yet, going by the turn of the events, how many of us are willing to ask a) if they were the right people to choose b) if player excellence translates into selector’s excellence c) if they know how to decide? Bear in mind, these players were supposedly wisened by the experience of Greg Chappell. Did that experience help make better choices?

That is the bane of our society. We believe our heroes are infallible. They are always right. We would rather rely on individual greatness than take the pains to evolve a system where a critical process is conscientiously followed to make the right decision.

Ramachandra Guha, a panelist appointed by the Supreme Court, has resigned and cited the same points in much specific detail. I am not privy to the inner workings of Indian cricket, but I can readily perceive how the people at large totally repose their faith & trust in heroes or idols. These heroes are not being subjected to scrutiny. For the trusting people, to ask questions is to betray their own professed love and admiration.

To doubt is to be unfaithful.

Picture courtesy : Wikipedia

Picture courtesy : Wikipedia

This is what I perceive in many enthusiastic Narendra Modi supporters.He has become infallible to them.They can’t bear to imagine he can go wrong. That is why, if there are people who criticise Modi, his supporters take strong exception to it.

These supporters ask, how can the critics not see how great Modi is?

The most passionate Modi supporters bemoan how the Congress reduced India to a mess before Modi. The Congress did indeed mess things up. It’s 2014 electoral performance testifies to the mess.

But, let us also ask, why we as a society and a people, did not become sanguine enough to recognise this mess-up earlier and scrutinize the establishment? Our relentless scrutiny & interrogation would have at least mitigated the excesses of a misgoverning government. Such scrutiny was lacking.

Could it be that we were believers of infallible heroes at that time too? We prayed for those who we elected to get things right. And persisted in our vain beliefs that they will turn things around. We were willing to be deluded and the ruling establishment obliged.

Now, that we have a performing government ( and I do think we have a highly capable & performing prime-minister), we are still faced with the definitive question.

Do we choose individual greatness over building a system?

Some people will hail Modi and say that after all, here is one hero who has saved the day. And that is a dangerous line of thought. It means we still believe in the saviour, the hero who comes along and save us. Well, what if the hero does not turn up in the future. In any case, wiser people do not leave it to the heroes. They ask – what can we do for ourselves. How can we help the good leaders become great and how can we ensure that the bad ones don’t do too much of damage. The latter part is what the American people are now grappling with.

In arguing for a system, we can start off by agreeing that we have been a gullible & docile polity. We allowed one specific political dispensation to call the shots for such a long time. To prevent this from happening again, we must refrain from putting so much hope and trust in the new dispensation, even though it is proving itself to be a capable one.

In other words, we must change even when the going is good!

The fact that Modi is performing so well should not make us forget that others before him fared badly. At stake is the cultivation of a mindset that values critical scrutiny over unquestioning allegiance. Are we willing to do that? If we are, we will be able to entertain two ideas at the same time. We will applaud Modi -the prime minister- for his wonderful work and we will also evaluate every action of his in the light of it’s own merits. We will start doing what Peter Drucker recommended, ask what is right, not who is right.

The best thing we can do for the country is to recognize that no hero is infallible. Heroes are not always right.

Moreover, everyone has a right to be wrong.

The vigilance of a community helps everyone exercise that right in a way that ennobles human understanding. We build this vigilance with doubt as much as with faith.

To doubt is not to be unfaithful.

To doubt is to begin to be sincere.

A great place to begin – being sincere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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