Saturday, 28 January 2012

Multiply growth through developing leaders

In December , 2010 , I  initiated a discussion on a group called" Leadership Think Tank" on  the popular  social network site  Linkedin by asking this question:"Is there any relationship between  leadership and capacity to love?".It attracted an overwhelming response of more than 1500 comments , and even after 14 months , the discussion is on from participants from all over the globe on different aspects of leadership.It is amazing how stimulating , useful , interesting and important the  subject of leadership is .

Leadership can be learned .It can be taught , practised and developed.In the New Year 2012, I decided to improve myself on at least one quality,skill or area of leadership .In search for this one skill , I  selected John C. Maxwell's book "The 21 irrefutable Laws of Leadership" .First published in 1999, it has 226 pages.Let me share with you the result of my search .I feel that the most important law of leadership is:"The Law of Explosive Growth".Out of 21 Laws of Leadership that Maxwell has listed , this Law is at serial number20.It says that "To add growth , lead followers.But to mutiply , lead leaders".
Maxwell has listed a few qualities in a leader.We can learn and improve our qualities of leadership over entire life time .One quality is mentioned in the Law number 6.This Law is called The law of Solid ground .It says that Trust is the foundation of leadership .And character is the foundation of trust .Trust, character/integrity is therefore the foundation of leadership .
The other quality of leadership is sacrifice , mentioned at serial number 18 .This is the law of sacrifice and says that "A Leader must give up to go up."A leader should have a capacity to sacrifice  money , sleep , physical comforts , and  swallow his/her pride  and in extreme cases lose personal liberty and even life.This sacrifice is constant and ongoing, not a one time payment .

The other quality is skill to connect , given at serial number10,as The Law of connection.It says that "Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand"
Skill to have the sense of timing is also important .It is at serial number19  as The Law of Timing .It says that "When to lead is as important as  what to do and where to go."
The most important law is The Law of explosive growth .A leader must commit the largest part of his /her resources , and attention on developing leaders and leading those leaders .Build people who are going to build the organisation.There is no harm in developing the followers , but developing the leaders mutiplies the  results/ growth  exponentially.Development  and mentoring of leaders is the most important  skill that a leader needs to learn .When developing the leaders becomes a part of our culture, we stop asking what we accomplished during our tenure . Rather  we start asking what the organisation and its people accomplished after we were gone .
When we see all around ourselves ,  we find very little being done to develop leaders .We need to focus more on  developing character, trust and sacrifice in our children .This needs to be done by parents , teachers , writers and leaders in all spheres of life .We need to think hard on how to achieve this  development .What concrete things are needed to be done to create a system where this gets done with reasonable efforts?.Maxwell does not tell us how to do it .To be fair ,that is also not within the scope of "Laws of Leadership."We should all be looking for ways in which we can develop leadership in our society and organisations .Do you have any ideas on this ?

Sunday, 15 January 2012

You can make a Contribution.Why not do it?

Governance of  an organisation  ( profit making  as well as non-profit) is generally done through its Board.I have had the opportunity of being a  Board member of many  such organisations from time to time .All of them have a Chairperson, a CEO , by whatever name called ,and  a number of Board members .I have observed that  in India , these Boards generally  exist more in name and form , and less in spirit .Most of these Boards practically work as centralised bodies, with Chairperson and the CEO  making  most of  the decisions .The other Board members are marginalised , and often rendered ineffective .To a large  extent , this  even applies to the Cabinet of different governments , elected district level local bodies ( urban and rural ) and non-profits..I have  been questioning myself whether there is a scope for ordinary  Board members to be effective ."The Ultimate Board Member's book" by Kay Sprinkel Grace  is a slim book of 112 pages which tells us how to be  effective as a  member of a non-profit Board.
        A Board member can be effective only if he (or she) endorses and shares the mission and values of the organisation .He should be prepared to commit time and resources to help the board achieve the mission and vision of the organisation.As a non-profit , he should do things which "ease human suffering or enhance human potential."Mission is why the organisation exists.The Board member should strive to remain connected with its mission.He should periodically undertake tours and hold meetings with people who have benefited from the organisation.This will keep him reminded of why he got involved in the first place.
He should  regularly attend the meetings of the board or of the board committees ,of which he is a member.He should make the organisation one of his top priorities.He should insist on observing the processes and not agree to adopt short cuts.He should not bypass or go around the CEO to staff persons. The Board and its members should govern and not micromanage.Micromanaging is an abuse of power.A board member should suggest and support good governance practices.He  should focus on substantive issues only.He should subvert mediocrity and not lower expectations from the Board .He should request occasional presentations on governance , plans and financial situation of the organisation .He should provide an environment in which difficult issues and conflicts can be raised and resolved.During the meetings , he should look for something that excites him , inspires him and leaves him  with a story to tell when he is in his ambassadorial or fund raising role.
                                   A Board member  of a non-profit should be able to be a good fund raiser for the organisation .As a Board member , he should himself support it financially.As Hank Rosso , founder of The Fund Raising School  used to say ,"You can't preach religion until you get religion".You can ask other donors to give funds , if you contribute funds yourself . He should play one or more of the three roles----asker, cultivator(relationship builder) and steward(Keeping the donor connected.). He should care for the donor as well as for the investment so that there is maximum impact from every gift.The organisation should be able to create an impact on the community , because people invest in success.
         He should develop the skills to read balance sheet and other financial statements.He should read carefully the bye-laws of the organisation, which outline the structure , rules and protocol.

He should  ask for a formal recognition program for outstanding volunteers.He should attend the meetings of national or regional associations , of which his organisation is apart.This gives him  a broader view and an enhanced sense of not being alone in the world.High performance is part content, part style and part dynamics."Dynamic' is what he creates with others to make his board "work'. For this , he needs to hold a yearly meeting with each board member separately .
In many ways , the book is simplistic.It does not tell what a board member should  do when the Chairperson has a centralised or autocratic  style of decision making.It presumes that the board member has a faith in the mission  and values of the organisation , and  that the organisation wants to make a meaningful contribution to the society by adhering to its values .In real life ,  organisations  often  are forced  to make compromises with their  values.

It took me about two hours to read this book  .While the book has been written  about  how to be an ultimate Board member , its suggestions and messages  will be helpful to any  role you occupy in a non-profit organisation .It shows us the way to make a contribution  to society effectively.That  makes it a really  very useful book .

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Whistleblowers,Civil Society and State in a Democracy

What  influences  the ethical values of society in a mass democracy like India?It is the larger organizations in public as well as private sector .It is sad but true that our values at work place are increasingly becoming devoid of ethical content .Our tolerance to unethical practices is increasing at an alarming rate.Our values at work place also undermine our values of the rest of our lives.These large organizations have become the enemy of individual morality .The result is a large scale crisis in the moral values of our society.
       On the other hand , the participation of individual citizens in local groups and associations , which constitute civil society is quite low . Besides , since the participants in local associations are drawn from the society at large , their ethical values are no different from the ethical values of the people working in large organizations in the public and private sector .As a result , when  a few "leaders" of civil society raise a banner of movement against these large organizations , their actions  are seen with circumspection and  suspicion.The values of their followers are no different from the values they want to be punished in others occupying places of importance in large organizations.Their participation has something hollow and false about it.As a result , the top leadership of civil society has major problem of finding followers with strong ethical values. .This causes such movements to become a fashion or a hobby .The result is that there is more harm to the cause of reform in the ethical values.We have the "False Dawn of Civil Society"(David Rieff).

It is a well known fact that large organizations nearly destroy the individual who displays ethical values by becoming a whistle blower.There is very little room or tolerance for a whistle blower in large organizations.They do the same to civil society movements , which in turn ,have structural problems of their own .The role of the State is to render powerful private organizations accountable to public.But who is to watch the watchers?Who will ensure that the public organizations are accountable to public?
I have a doubt that any whistle blower protection law can make much difference .The reason is that a whistle blower is never charge-sheeted on the ground that he or she has blown the whistle .The charge-sheet is manufactured on issues totally unrelated to the issues involved in the whistle blowing .Therefore , no whistle blowers protection law can ever protect the whistle blower.A whistle blower will always remain vulnerable to punishment ,irrespective of whether he or she does an act of internal whistle blowing or external whistle blowing. .This has been the experience the world over.
I assume that there are still  a few people in this country who are more serious in removing corruption (than being interested in the cause in a manner of speaking).I have seen the most articulate champions of the cause becoming morally , intellectually and even financially corrupt .Therefore I write this with some cynicism.
Civil society can play an important role in ensuring ethical values in big organizations  if it can influence that political world which matters most to people's life in terms of career , health insurance, mortgage and economic security.This requires creation and strengthening of  associations with ethical base  at grass roots level.This also requires a higher emphasis on ethical values in our educational system  at basic and high school level .It also requires a civil service grounded in ethical values .It requires people with ethical values to contest elections .It also requires a better governance in executive , legislature and judiciary .It requires speedy and impartial investigation of criminal offences  including those related to corrupt practices and speedy trials to punish the guilty.
Our country  urgently  needs visionary leaders who can bring an all round transformation in all  the above areas with a sense of mission , patriotism and selflessness .I have a faith that this great nation will have such a visionary leader in not so distant a future,who will match the requirement of this herculean task of enormous proportions .Till that time , we may have to do with the cosmetic changes. .

Sunday, 1 January 2012

New Year Resolutions

The New Year 2012 has come with  hopes , dreams , opportunities  and energy . Like everyone , I also became engaged in the drafting of  a few resolutions. What is the difference between  new year resolutions and normal goals . I think , the major difference is in the nature of grounds covered .New year resolutions should (So I think) deal with  our habits(how we do things) while normal goals deal with what we  do.Since habits develop with repetitive actions over a long time ,it becomes difficult to change them .That is why , we end up in breaking our new year resolutions very fast .But notwithstanding that risk , I made some resolutions  as follows:
1.Get into the details of whatever you do .(God as well as Devil is in the details).
2.Delegate but do not abandon .Check the progress of whatever you have delegated.
3.Praise the honest effort and achievement , not only the ability(Courtesy  Dr. Carol Dweck).
4.Read  one daily  newspaper , and not more than one .(Reading more than one is a waste of time, to my mind.)
5.Listen to select music/videos from You tube  repeatedly .
6.Keep three notebooks:
1)Notebook of daily events(diary).
2)Notebook of  crystallized ideas and thoughts(Journal).
3)Notebook of work in progress (Anything not covered in diary or journal )
7.Eliminate from life  white sugar /anything sweet for one year
8.Read fiction and non-fiction in the ratio 0f 1:1.
9.Advise/mentor only those who are willing .
10.Dive deeper into contemporary non-political  issues and formulate your own views and express these publicly.
11.Do things for  a purpose you love .
Let me see how long I stick to my resolutions.
Have you made yours?Will you like to share your resolutions with others?
Here I wish you the best in health , success , peace , spirituality and love  in 2012.