Blues for the leader | Swami Vijnanananda Saraswati

Blues for the leader | Swami Vijnanananda Saraswati
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First Published: Thu, May 17 2007. 12 08 AM IST
Updated: Thu, May 17 2007. 12 08 AM IST
When Team India came back from the World Cup empty-handed – what followed was a night of long swords. The daggers were out, messages were leaked and all sorts of dirty tricks were played – with each aiming to ensure that ‘his’ skin was saved. As is usually the case, some people made hay while the sun was shining, and since the sun was a scorching one, and there was no dearth of raw material, good quality hay was produced!!
But the one refrain that was on everybody’s lips was “there was no team spirit and that’s what led to our downfall!” As everybody tried to grab attention, ethics was put in cold storage and a made-for-TV reality show followed!
Yet the moot question remained: if some teams can perform regularly – against all odds – why can’t others do the same? This is despite the fact that the quality of players across the mature teams is almost the same. What is it that makes some teams achievers while others fall short?
Moreover, there is another question that keeps bothering me: is there any USP in our traditional concepts that we can share with the world?
As I have pondered over these issues time and again, one thing that strikes my mind concerns the beauty of the physical body through which nature tries to teach us so many things! Right from primitive unicellular structures to human beings at the other end of the spectrum, there is a fine balance. There is a similar balance in the universe as well, which keeps it going. There is a fine balance in the angle of the axis of our earth, the slightest alteration to which would melt all the glaciers and make earth inhabitable.
These macrocosmic and microcosmic elements in nature teach us the need to strike a perfect balance. Nature never gives a prescription but rather indications to keep our faculties open and to be sensitive to the dynamics around us.
Ironically that is what we do the least.
We as a social body – whether in family or community or in professional environment – have started segregating ourselves extensively. We have tried to recreate western success stories, an environment of cut-throat professionalism, even a certain degree of insecurity, to push a person out of the comfort zone.
We Asians, as a race, tend to open our communication channels rather slowly as compared to those in the west. In fact probably, that is one of the reasons that we take more time to acclimatise to new people and environment. This has been supported by studies that say there are people who perform better in secure environments. But yes, there needs to be better ways of creating newer challenges in one’s life.
In fact in corporate terms, one of the indigenous Indian success stories, Infosys, has proven that sensitivity to human values isn’t detrimental to team building and collective success. A freshness of approach, sincere and utter respect to every human endeavour as a part of the team process and collective decision-making blended with absolute dedication towards one’s responsibilities is important.
However, ultimately it falls on the team leader to instil faith in team values and spirit. While other team members may fail to live up to the collective spirit in totality, it is always the leader who has to make more than a hundred percent effort to keep the flame burning. And even the slightest diversion affects the entire group in no time.
There is a story which best illustrates this spirit. It is said that one of the states in America was extremely concerned with the amount of trash that ice-cream packages were generating and that governing authorities had issued an ultimatum to the company – asking it to take remedial measures or be forced to get closed. This irked the entire group as it was making good profit.
At this juncture, when every employee was faced with the prospect of losing his/her job, the company chief sought everybody’s opinion. Other policymakers were sceptical about it, but since the boss is always right, they all agreed to sit with all the subordinates for this special meeting. Slowly options started pouring in, yet there was no breakthrough. Meanwhile one of the helper boys raised a question – why can’t we make an ice-cream where people eat the container? After a good laugh at these kinds of obscure ideas, without making any headway, the ritual of meeting ended.
As the chief went back, he kept thinking about the ‘queer’ idea that the helper boy had made…and from that emerged the concept of an ice-cream cone.
That is the true nature of a team leader, who really believes in what he says. Most importantly, we don’t have to show it in actions. If we are sincerely practicing what we preach, it will reflect in our actions. And don’t worry; we don’t have to always physicalise our thoughts. People who are insecure, only manage to spread insecurity all around.
They say - the captain is as good as his team. I say – the institution reflects the character of the leader. If there is an apparent flaw in the institution, be sure that it percolates from the top. And the best way to change the institution is to change ourselves.
The author conducts self-transformational & performance enhancement programmes for people from all walks of life. Send your reactions to goldenmean@livemint.com
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First Published: Thu, May 17 2007. 12 08 AM IST
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