Leadership

LeaderPlay – Turn your doubts into certainties and vice versa.

Leaders are given sensible advice. So sensible that the leader cannot think of it on her own. And if that be the case, perhaps, ‘sensible’ is not what leaders need. Just, maybe! What then? Out of inspiration or desperation, how can a leader break the monotony and gift herself something useful? How about an absurd idea, LeaderPlay as I call it. Start where you are as a leader, as a human being, really. LeaderPlay says, “Turn your doubts into certainties and your certainties into doubts.” We all have both – doubts and certainties. Leaders have them too – with higher stakes, that’s all. As a Leader, you doubt if you are a tolerable speaker. You have your doubts. You see, that is your problem. You are not 100% sure. And all along, you have been hiding and running away, not wanting to know. And you will do that till your dying day. Grab the next chance to speak. Be certain that you are awful in the eyes of the whole world. Congratulations! You have turned doubt into certainty. As a…

The Fog of War

We and you ought not to pull on the ends of a rope which you have tied the knots of war. Because the more the two of us pull, the tighter the knot will be tied. And then it will be necessary to cut that knot, and what that would mean is not for me to explain to you. –  Nikita Khrushchev’s message to John F Kennedy during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis as interpreted by Robert McNamara in ‘The Fog of War’ India and Pakistan sharply tugged on their ends of the rope this last week. And at the time of writing, they still have their hands on it. John F. Kennedy, the US President, knew what cutting the knot meant; what Khrushchev was alluding to. Most ordinary citizens of these countries at the brink of war don’t. And they need to. If only because the war is purportedly fought in their name and the consequences are also for them to bear. Robert McNamara in this spellbinding 2003 documentary – The Fog of War – shares his hard-earned insights…

Indian Cricket – Asking the Wrong Question. Not Dhon(i)

As we head into the Cricket World Cup next year, the public discussion centres around one question – Should Mahendra Singh Dhoni be in the team? And that does not bode well for Indian cricket. The critical question is – What will it take for the Indian Cricket Team to win the World Cup? The critical question comes first and dictates all efforts. Every other question and answer has to be subordinated to the critical question. This requires disciplined effort. It is much easier to focus on individuals, their performances and their claim for a place on the team. Far tougher is the effort to begin with the task and its requirements; that then lead to the identification of skills and capabilities, which in turn, throws up the team configuration and the performance-based names of individual players. We, on the other hand, are busy talking up or playing down the merits of Dhoni. It is good to ask a pointed question – Will Dhoni’s absence from the World Cup team cost India the 2019 World Cup? Shane Warne was the…

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…

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…

Leadership this month – Heroes are not always right.

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…

Thoughts on the TATA Group challenge

As a teenager, 23 years ago, I remember being struck by something unsual in the newspapers one day. All of them were carrying one single news story on their front page. It was the obituary of JRD Tata. And on the rest of the page, there were vignettes or anecdotes from JRD’s life. Usually, political icons got such coverage. Why such a coverage for an industrialist then, I asked myself.  As I read and devoured everything in multiple papers and magazines, I got my answer. JRD was so much more than an industrialist & a business leader. JRD showed how much a business can contribute to a nation and society if it is driven by values & enlightened leadership. In your teens, you are moved more by ideas of justice and equality than by those of making money. To know that a business can reconcile such values & make money was a revelation to me. Reading about JRD made such a huge impact then. As I read about what is happening at the TATA group now, I am not dismayed…

Leadership this month : Taking time-out

The volatile Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte was asked about his response in an anticipated meeting; should Barack Obama, the US president, talk about rampant human rights violations and extra-judicial killings under his regime. In his native tongue, he said he would call Obama, ‘son of a bitch’. Obama’s response? All he said was that given the less likelihood of a productive and constructive conversation, he would call off the meeting. Which he did. No grand riposte. No grand-standing as the President of the United States of America. The Srilankan cricket team won their Test cricket series against the mighty australians 3-0, a whitewash. In the process, Australia lost their Test no.1 ranking. The Australian cricket captain, Steve Smith was sent back to Australia during the one-day series on the grounds of rest and preparation for the upcoming South African series at home. Of course, the decision was criticised as a sign of weak leadership. How can the captain of a beleaguered team go home like that? Well, he did. Under new captain, David Warner, the Australians won the one-day series…

Leadership This Month : Missed Opportunities

Institutional Leaders with a historical legacy are faltering in the present. The International Olympic Association (IOC) & the Republican party establishment in the United States, in particular. The International Olympic Association (IOC) Russia, a sporting superpower was recently indicted in an independent anti-doping enquiry for establishment-backed doping by Russian athletes in the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi, Russia. Imagine hosting the Oympics and playing dirty on the side to help your country athletes win. This goes against the very spirit of everything that the Olympics stands for. With the Rio Olympics so near, the IOC had to respond and act fast. What did it do? The bare minimum was to bar Russian track and field athletes from Rio 2016. And that it did, though even here, there is a provision to get them in. But the IOC did not impose a blanket ban on all Russian participation in Rio. A blanket ban would have sent a very strong, but much needed message to all member nations and their sports-establishments that the IOC is uncompromisingly committed in its fight against doping and any other…