Monthly Archives: May 2013

Give me a leadership of possibilities

Do you recollect your emotions as you stepped out to start the first day of your first job? And the first day of the subsequent jobs you went on to take?

 I can now earn, I said, in the case of my first job (and earn better, in the case of my subsequent jobs). And I want to make a difference.

 Agreed, said most, if not almost all, when I posed them this question (whew! I am not a freak!). Which really means this. People come with an intrinsic motivation at the beginning of any new assignment. There is a ‘looking forward’ to, there is a ‘wanting to’ and there is a ‘willing to’ attitude.

And so, it is not motivation that we look to our leaders for. At least, not in the beginning, and not as long as we have it. We look up to them for inspiration. We look to them for a leadership of possibilities, so that we can continue to motivate ourselves.

And we too become managers and leaders. Do we then remember this truth?  Do we step beyond mere projections and analyses to invoke the passion in our members to motivate themselves? Do we increase for them, their return on their emotional equity? So that they feel enthused to commit to something else other than the success of their own careers?

Today, the transience of the market place brings home the truth that it is anything but business as usual. The past is no indication of the future – it never was, for any breakthrough thoughts or actions, and it will continue not to be. What was not even imagined yesterday descends on us with impunity to create both success and failure. Step aside, replication, and make way for innovation. An innovation that allows my members to draw the future to the present, not constrain them to move forward only from the past.

Let us get back to the leadership of hope.

Do we have the courage of conviction to mesh inspired possibilities into the anchor of reality without grounding it to inaction? True reality is not misplaced or dreamy optimism for sure. But neither is it the illusory safety net of past predictors for future success. A leadership of hope first dares to see reality through its own eyes (and not through any other lens) and then search for accuracy.

Courage then moves from one of conviction to one of resilience. Do we have the tenacity to believe in what we see? To use the power of projections not merely to predict, but imagine too? To paint the canvas with a vision that keeps our members’ enthusiasm and motivation high without sacrificing them at the altar of meaningless competitiveness, internal and external?

And finally to the courage of charisma. Do we radiate the inner charisma that transfers our beliefs to our members? Not to direct them, but to inspire them to move higher, to resonate with their dreams of making a difference. Such charisma should help them move from the banalities of ‘change is good’ and ‘embrace change’ to a higher calling. One that has a cause and purpose and brings with it elements of change that they volunteer to.

 Oops! Does that move leadership uncomfortably from the structures of science to the waves of art? But why not? Science and art were not meant to be incompatible, were they? If, by doing so, business can influence and leadership can inspire to add the skills of creative improvisation, maybe the twain can meet between hope and reality.

What say?

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Need I love my job to be excellent?

Recently I saw a beautifully made documentary on the  anonymous background musicians whose excellence created the evergreen hits that will still be called evergreen years hence. And the words of a smiling and very successful percussionist of yesteryears, said with genuineness and totally without rancor or even wistfulness, struck me. “It was my bread, butter…and jam. But I did not love it. Why should I (love my job to be excellent)?”

You could call it playing an extreme devil’s advocate. But it is a profound truth that frees you. And here is another gem that completes the train of the earlier thought – this time from the actor Steve Martin. “…I always say, be so good they can’t ignore you. If somebody’s thinking, how can I be really good, people are going to come to you.”

What it means is that I do not have to be passionate about my job but about how well I do it. This means I do not have to be miserable feeling and giving others the feeling that what I do is unworthy. It takes away my obsession with what my job does for me and helps me chip away at becoming so good that I cannot be ignored.

It also means that I do not let my boss, my salary or my promotion become my key evaluators – I am, based on how well I do my job. Cal Newport in his book ‘So Good They Can’t Ignore You’ terms this the Craftsman Mindset that calls for deliberate focus to stretch one’s abilities outside the comfort zone, to deal with fears, especially the fear of failure.

We all come pre-packaged with a powerful asset called enthusiasm. The more we give it up at the altar of challenges, ennui and misplaced sense of success, failure and responsibility, we lose this lifeblood of true success to the monster of mediocrity. Our enthusiasm for excellence unfettered by the pursuit of perfection (that slams the brakes to a dead end) will transform us to happy experts who can give and be acknowledged for what we offer.

“Follow your passion” is more a signature headline too simplistic for depth or meaning. None of us is born with a treasure trove of passion to be unearthed. We develop an intense liking for what we are good at, can hone to excellence and be acknowledged for. Any pursuit that meets the above can keep us happily engaged.

Let me take this a little further. It really begins with something I need to offer, not something that anyone else owes me. And it is I who has to master this ‘something’ to make it unique, excellent and valuable to feel a pulsating passion. And then to the humbling truth that until I am good at something, I have no business to expect any return – be it acknowledgment, recognition or reward. But I also know that once I get there the music of my choice keeps playing.

Running with stress and apprehension behind succeeding 100% of the time to a fickle and an ever-moving needle is a waste of effort and emotion. Focusing on becoming valuable helps the idealist gain enjoyment and happiness while enabling the pragmatist maximize  his capital for financial success.