Archive for January, 2011

Interesting Video Podcast – How to Lead

January 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Recently one of my favorite TV anchors, Fareed Zakaria on CNN, had an interesting segment on Leadership journey, principles and approach of some of the prominent business, military and government leaders. Very engaging stuff!

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Categories: Change, Leadership

Sustainability and Change Management – Some Thoughts

January 16, 2011 Leave a comment

In last MCLP session, we had some interesting discussions around Sustainability and Change Management. Both topics are somewhat related and one can look at them in different ways.

For example, Sustainability discussion needs to heavily focus on technological innovation and role of businesses. Typically a lot of emphasis seems to be on how some of the problems are caused by businesses. However, over last many years businesses have systematically stated focussing on Corporate Social Responsibility. Recent article by Michael E Porter in HBR squarely puts CSR in middle of existence of corporates. I am also reminded of the graphic example cited in Levitt & Dubner’s SuperFreakonomics. They discuss ‘parable of horseshit’ in nineteenth century. NewYorker writer make astute observation

“According to Levitt and Dubner, the story’s message is a simple one: if, at any particular moment, things look bleak, it’s because people are seeing them the wrong way. “When the solution to a given problem doesn’t lie right before our eyes, it is easy to assume that no solution exists,” they write. “But history has shown again and again that such assumptions are wrong.”

Bottomline – Climate and sustainability challenges are real and grave. In the past, we as human have handled big challenges with ingenuity. what tells us we won’t be able to do it again?

Of course, we have to manage changes appropriately. One of the most interesting approaches I’ve come across for change management is the metaphor I first came across Jonathan Haidt’s book Happiness Hypothesis and this metaphor was later made more popular by Heath brothers in their bestseller Switch. Metaphor is directing an elephant on  journey. The framework outlined in Switch is three simple, may not be easy, steps:

  1. Direct the Rider – focus on rational side
  2. Motivate the Elephant
  3. Shape the path – update the environment.

You can check out some excellent resources on their website. Please let me know what you think!

Perspectives on Leadership: Lessons from Mahatma Gandhi

January 16, 2011 Leave a comment

“Generations to come will scarcely believe that such a one as this (Gandhi) ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.” Albert Einstein

Gandhi is generally considered one of the most inspiring and influential world leaders of the last hundred years. From humble beginnings he gained world prominence, helped achieve independence for India and left a lasting legacy for us all.  However, in the age of Facebook and iPad, are his leadership lessons still relevant? I have come to realize that many of Gandhi’s core principles are remarkably relevant. This is especially true of Gandhi’s thoughts and practices in the realm of leadership competencies and self-development, especially the ideas of:

  1. Continuous learning and improvement – Gandhi always told his followers that if two of his sentences contradict each other and if they thought he was sane at that time (!), please ignore the first one and accept the second one. This reflects his learning and growth mindset, as well as anticipation of his followers’ needs. As an added corollary, rigid consistency was not one of his traits!
  2. Looking at each person without labels, just as a human being –  Personal meetings with Gandhi were very short, generally lasting a couple of minutes (in part due to an onerous poster pasted behind Gandhi’s seat that read, “Be quick, be brief, be gone!”). However, in those minutes people felt that Gandhi gave them undivided attention (no multi-tasking for him!) whether the person was a leading industrialist, a political leader or an average person off the street. He made them feel as if they were the only person in the world that Gandhi would have liked to talk at that time.
  3. Being an excellent listener – Gandhi was not a very skilled public speaker; generally he was believed to be quite average. On the other hand, he was an exceptional listener of both the articulated and the unsaid. He seemed to be practicing “seeing with your ears.”
  4. Proactively identifying barriers to make change sustainable – In the 1920s an American journalist asked Gandhi what the biggest problem was that India faced at the time. The journalist expected Gandhi to say that the problems were slavery and British rule or pervasive poverty. But Gandhi said the biggest challenge facing the country was “callousness of intellectuals.” He was not just thinking about getting independence but about building a sustainable society.
  5. Being the conscience keeper – Non-cooperation was one of the key political movements that Gandhi initiated and led. It was a widely successful initiative. In a distant village, some villagers resorted to barbaric violence against the oppressive police force. Gandhi aborted the movement saying a key tenet of the movement, non-violence, was violated, and that in his opinion “we are not ready for self-rule.” Many analysts and political leaders felt that this was not politically smart or expedient. Gandhi followed his conscience and stopped the initiative. A related trait for Gandhi was his belief that the end did not justify the means. He was insistent, nay adamant, about purity of path in order to achieve desired goal.
  6. Heavy emphasis on self-awareness and discipline
  7. Balancing value-driven vision and execution efficiency
  8. Emphasis on path and result
  9. Adopting holistic perspective in every endeavor

Note: This article draws from a series of books and lectures by Gandhi’s long time personal assistant Narayan Desai. These lectures were delivered in Gandhi’s native language, Gujarati, to the Ahmadabad Management Association in India


Also posted on MCLP website here.


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