Debashis Chatterjee, director, Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode, deals with complex leadership issues in his recently published work, The Other 99%. The book weaves together the personal experiences of business leaders and their compelling stories. Edited excerpts from the chapter “Leaders Evolve from Motion and Action”, which talks about the difference between being a “position holder” and a “leader”:
I have often seen that in organizations most people are position holders rather than leaders. Position holders are focused on consolidating their position, pay and perks.
They are programmed to defend their positions. They describe their work by department, seniority and job profile. A position holder walks into a room full of people and seems to say, “Look, here I come with my pumpkin size ego.” A leader walks into the same room and says, “Look, who all have come here!” A leader is focused on creating value for the content. A position holder is worried about his own position. A leader is concerned about contribution.
The Other 99%—You Can Dare to Lead: By Debashis Chatterjee, Jaico, 158 pages, Rs 195.
In our daily life, much of our work seems painful. We have substituted the word “work” with “labour” which is synonymous with pain and drudgery. Labour is arrested action—like a bonsai plant. In contribution, work is not labour but an act of service. We extend the influence of work from self-serving concerns to larger contexts. “This life is short,” said Swami Vivekananda, India’s greatest youth leader, “the vanities of the world are transient. Those only live who live for others. The rest are more dead than alive.”
Our talents are life’s gift to us. Our contribution is our gift to life. When a leader becomes a contributor, he is merely giving back to life what life has given him. His contribution is the secret of a life that endures and inspires a million lives. Imagine that the process of leadership is like lighting a candle. You can light a million candles from that one candle without diminishing the original source. Although all the candles are different, the light that shines through them is one. A leader is that first candle. The light that shines within him is the light that is in all of us. The leader contributes by leading many people towards themselves—to the source of their own light.
1. Very often we undermine our own actions by talking about what we intend to do. Too much verbalization is a form of inertia that saps energy from our real work. Verbalization is often useless motion that is a poor substitute for action. Please remember what Lou Gerstnerm, the CEO of IBM, said: “My choice in everything is to say nothing and go do it.” When your action can speak for itself, don’t interrupt by talking about it.
2. When you act, do so totally. Sometimes in the course of the day practise this deliberately. When you are walking just walk. Experience the contact that your foot makes with the surface you are walking on. Feel this contact. Experience the flow of energy on your legs. Know that your feet are not blocks of wood, but energy centres.
3. Watch some of the random and thoughtless activities that you engage in. An activity like gossiping while at work. An activity like mental chatter that does not help action. An activity is acting without attention. When we gossip, for instance, we are hardly aware of the stupidities and absurdities of what we say. Withdraw energy from mindless activities and invest this energy in total action.
4. One of the hallmarks of perfect action is the art of letting go. After you have done your best to act with the totality of attention simply withdraw your attention from it when you should do so. When you board a train to go to your office, you just board the train and let the train do the rest. You don’t repeat “office…office...office” while in the train because you know that it is not helping you reach any faster. You just let go because you know that the driver of the train has now taken control and you can focus on other things. Apply this principle of letting go to your mental preoccupation with something you have no control over.
5. One of the ways to build self-esteem is to engage in selfless action. A Harvard researcher calls this the “helper’s high”. Research has revealed that those who engage in helping others experience high energy levels after performing selfless actions. My understanding is that we expand the boundaries of our self when we reach out to others with unselfish motives. From this expanded self greater energy flows to us. At least on one day in the entire week, experience for yourself what helper’s high is all about.
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