There is an information overload about ‘leadership’. We hear this term regularly; chances are high that you might be reading this term for the second time today!
For a concept with such wide implications and connotations, we went about asking Actioners from diverse verticals what their idea of leadership is and what kind of a leader they aspire to be.
1. Meenu Joseph, Partner Lead – Kerala: For me, leadership is simply when a person is able to understand, trust, groom and positively challenge the team she or he is working with. And if ever, I become a leader in the future, I would want to be someone who ticks these boxes. I would want to grow into a person who is open to constructive criticism and doesn’t bow down when challenged.
2. Nainish Tikkoo, Director – Partnerships: My own view of a leader and concept of leadership has kept evolving as I have grown up. As a kid, I was inspired by stories of many kings, spiritual masters, people in public life, who transformed not only themselves but could exercise positive influence on society as a whole and had a vision of society. Buddha , Chandragupta Maurya, Sher Shah Suri, Mahatma are some of these leaders that I continue to admire and read about.
As a young adult,military strategists like Douglas McAurthur, General Rommel, Sam Manekshaw have inspired me. The idea that someone can exercise influence over others and propel them to undertake physical and mental hardship for a cause has fascinated me. Sooner or later, I realised that unfortunately many of these have led to bloodshed, violence and strife.
In the last decade, my views and concept of leadership has changed considerably. I have been able to appreciate that leadership is not a monolithic macho identity of a super human being; it is in fact a journey of excellence, enterprise, sacrifice, frugal innovation that many of us undertake in our lives or see around us. It has a strong element of personal discipline and mastery and an indefatigable striving for change. Leadership to me therefore is a personal journey that has the potential to shape , guide, influence or motivate many other personal journeys. Cultivating qualities of a servant leader is what I try to work towards.
3. Tarun Cherukuri, CEO: The Indo European root word for leadership is leith, which means to go forth and die. I guess in a hunter gatherer society, going out there physically, sourcing resources (food) and fighting factional wars was considered leadership. I am amazed at how little that definition has changed over the last 20,000 years. We consider those who raise sources (money, power) or fighting frontline battles (I count sports in this category of physical/emotional risk) as acts of leadership.
My aspiration is to fully express my core values (equanimity, excellence and equity/justice) at my full potential. I would like to be able to perform at the level of excellence like my role models: Federer (turning my craft into an art form), Dravid (being able to build the next line of leadership), Obama (handle authority role with ambition and grace) and Dalai Lama (commit to personal transformation every single day). At a personal level, I want to be able to feel and express unconditional love and compassion like my grandmother. It is interesting that caregiving is usually not considered as leadership and that’s evident in the bias I have towards male role models!
4. Madhuri Dhariwal, Lead – Operations: I have always heard of people being ‘natural leaders’, which made me realize that there are some innate qualities that classify people as leaders. I have been learning and growing a lot in this area of leadership in the past few years. It is a lot of responsibility being a leader – you need to be someone people can look up to, respect, but also trust; you need to be a friend, but also be assertive. For me, it is about knowing your tribe, helping them grow, while you do the same, looking out a little more into the future and adapting to changes quicker. I have also realized that gender changes the journey of leadership in many ways.
Is leadership simply collaboration? In Picture: Actioner Kritika with a representative from Dream a Dream. National SDG 2019. Dated October 03,2019
5. Sumanth Uppuluru, State Lead – Telangana: To put it simply, Rajinikanth’s character in Kaala and Kamal Haasan’s character in Nayakan is leadership to me.
I also see great leadership in Periyar and Dhoni. Periyar’s readings have always given me the strength to stand up for the cause and to never give up in the face of opposition. Dhoni’s style of leadership taught me to give space to every team mate to grow and created a strong n-1 leadership to grow and take effective decisions and teach players to enjoy the game. There are many things to learn from each and everyone; perhaps, this is what leadership is.