Monday 30 March 2015

Qualities of a Leader

Leadership is close to my heart, and over the years I always asked myself what ‘leadership’ actually
means. According to a Deloitte research, 86% companies listed ‘leadership’ as one of their top challenges. Be it in office or home or when we are out with friends, people who demonstrate leadership always stand out.  

But why do we think they are great leaders? 

I follow some great writers on leadership such as Bobby Umar, Jack Canfield, Bruce Van Horn, Dan Rockwell, Jeremy Bravo, Robin Sharma, Ken Blanchard and Peter Ducker. They have explained leadership very nicely- Leadership is not just for CEOs and Presidents... everyone can lead. Leadership's mostly a mindset and a way of doing things; it is not about the title on our business cards, positions, or flowcharts. Mahatma Gandhi was one of the greatest leaders I know of.He dint hold any title in the Congress party, neither did he hold any position in the parliament, yet he was able to lead many. To lead is to serve. It is about one life influencing another. Leadership is simply about behavior -- and anyone of us can show it. From an office boy to the CEO, companies that will win in these highly competitive times will be those that get people who can lead without a title.  For each one in the organization the desire for success should be greater than the fear of failure.

A business personality who I truly admire is Sir Richard Branson. According to him what leadership boils down to, is people. Whatever your style, whatever your method, you need to believe in yourself, your ideas and your employees. Nobody can be successful alone and you cannot be a great leader without great people to lead. You have to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Nobody respects a leader who doesn’t know how to get his hands dirty and innovate personally. The trick is in striking the right balance between empowering your staff and being an example for them to follow.

I have strongly also believed that leadership is a combination of someone who brings strong strategy to the table and at the same time has a strong character. But if he has to be without one, then he must be without strategy.  Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.  Leaders as we know have strong character and personality and that is why they don't put others down, they lift them up. They don’t cling to authority, they give authority to gain it.  It is all about making others better as a result of your presence. I have always seen around me how people play safe - but playing safe is not a trait that leaders have because they strongly believe that everything one wants is on the other side of fear.  The true measure of our leadership is how we perform in volatile conditions versus in times of ease.

Leadership is about the strength of our influence, our willingness to innovate, the quality of our attitude and our commitment to excellence. As the great Max DePree puts it– The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say ‘thank you’. In between, the leader is a servant.

      -  Siddharth Kumar

Monday 2 March 2015


I am often asked by people, most of them fairly senior level executives, on how they could (and whether they actually should) begin using social media to engage with a wider audience. While they were quite at ease addressing difficult press conferences and demanding clients, they hadn't got round to taming social media platforms like Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook.

If you feel you’re one of them, I wouldn’t blame you. While you were busy fighting boardroom battles, the world was evolving in ways relatively unknown to you. And before you could grasp the nature of the change, it became too important for your businesses or job to ignore. I won’t be exaggerating if I said – today, you are known by the social IDs you keep. Without wanting to sound like a self-proclaimed social media guru, I could list six key lessons that I’m confident could come handy as you decide to launch your social media IDs and board the bus you fear you might have missed.

Social Media Mantras for Business Leaders1.       Be yourself: The biggest mistake you could make on the social media is to portray yourself as being completely different from the way you really are. It isn’t sustainable, quite simply because it’s not who you are! It’s difficult to keep up an act all the time, even if you’re an amazing actor. Post what you feel, observe, believe in, know, or want to say. Be honest. Don’t worry that your posts aren’t half as smart as those of your colleague, who has hundreds of followers and whom you secretly envy. In time, you will realize that there’s an audience out there who likes you just as you are. You are unique, and so should be your social media content. The first few posts are always the most difficult. But once you get into the groove, it becomes as easy as thinking.

2.       Know your weight and use it judiciously: While social media offers you the freedom to speak your heart and mind, remember you have a responsibility towards your followers and readers. You never know when a message posted in a hurry or with an opinion based on half-baked information may return to haunt you. Before you hit ‘enter’ pause to consider the possible reaction of at least three of your connections (including your current or potential future employer, and your mother-in-law). The more prominent you are in the offline space, the greater your burden of responsibility towards your audience. Think of your social ID as a loudspeaker that can be heard miles away, and add to it a record-and-play device that even more people will listen to in future. Now, pass each of your thoughts through this filter before you posting it online: do you really want to share it? While you can always delete or recall your posts, you never know when you might leave a trace with a watchdog out there.

3.       Add (some) value (to someone, at least): Not everyone connected to you wants to know how acute your toothache is. Telling people what you’re doing at any given moment may amuse only a select set of people. And if that’s all you’d like to do, you’re better off in a close-group environment rather than a public forum. Unless you derive some perverse pleasure from trying to arouse others’ envy at your (fake) lifestyle by ‘checking in’ at a five star hotel (even if you merely drove past it) every now and then, or posting photos of you posing with hot celebs (thanks to Photoshop), you’d probably have a more ‘effective’ and meaningful follower base if you post stuff that others find useful. There must be something you’re good at, or you’re passionate about – make that the focal subject of your social media content and you’ll attract an audience that shares your interest. Of course, you needn’t stick to a single topic all the time – both you and your audience need a few breathers (‘entertaining’ is useful too!).

4.       Learn from others but don’t try to copy them: There’s a lot you could learn from ‘social media celebrities’ – their writing style, the frequency of their posts, the ideas behind the content, etc. It’s perfectly all right to borrow content (retweet, quote, or share). It will only win you more friends and some might even return the favor once in a while. But do be honest and give credit where due. Never claim someone else’s idea as your own. Not only is it unethical, the Internet – however vast you might think it is – is also a very small place, thanks to extremely well-networked platform and search capabilities. You’ll lose face and credibility with those around you if caught. I know of some people who meticulously search the Net (some have even subscribed to daily feeds to save time) for smart one-liners and quotes, and try to pass them off as their own! Smart, eh? I can bet you’d take less than a minute to see through them once you’d interacted with them in real life or simply googled their posts.

5.        Brace the democratic nature of social media: Now this is a bit contrary to point 2 above. While you may be used to a patient, receptive audience listening to you sincerely in the offline space given your position, the social media gives everyone out there the power to voice their opinion, positions notwithstanding. It’s a level playing field!  Add to it the option for the audience to remain anonymous. People with or without any credibility or even name may challenge your solid, well-researched posts with logic-defying arguments. Unfortunately, there are few laws or referees that work in the online environment, at least not yet. You may feel it’s not fair but that’s the beauty of this medium.  Prepare yourself to brace the power of this extremely democratic network, and shed some of yours with humility. And if you are doing or saying the right thing, hang on there for a bit, for you can expect surprise supporters to come to your rescue.

6.      Finally – no you don’t ‘have to’ be on social media, but it helps: If you are still uncertain whether you should ‘take the plunge’ – trust me it’s far easier, safer and more economical than getting married. Not kidding! Let’s accept it – the social media have become too strong to ignore, and are here to stay and evolve. The good news is you can ‘start slow’ by simply ‘listening’. As in the real world, when you join a new group, you tend to begin by ‘sniffing’ the context and other members (well, not literally) before actively participating. You could do the same on social media too. Since there generally are no rules (some unwritten guidelines are followed, though) on the frequency of your posts and absolutely no charge for membership for any kind, you can be as slow or quick as you want to be. You can sit by a poolside and watch others swim, but you’ll only learn to swim yourself once you jump into the water. So go ahead, and enjoy the splash!

- Amit Gundh