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Exploring Possibilities: Lead By Reciprocation
A few days back, I was reading the story of Major Shaitan Singh of 13 Kumaon regiment who was a Param Vir chakra recipient, the highest military award, for his war duties on November 18, 1962. He held a key strategic position at Rezang La, Chusul sector Ladakh.
His men came under heavy Chinese attack. He led them from the front. Hurt he ordered his men to leave him there. His men placed him under the boulder from where he fought with the enemy till his last breath and bullet. It is said that he bent and kissed his motherland, before going for the final combat. For his unparalleled sacrifice and bravery, he got the highest military award.
Here, I will give it a pause to understand a few things. Where do people like that come from? What kind of love is that, that deep emotion? Why don’t our business leaders have people to work like that for them?
Major Singh sacrificed himself to save his people and was awarded for that. In the military people are awarded when they sacrifice themselves so that others may gain, and I think most people will agree with that reasoning, but in business bonuses and incentives are given to those who are willing to sacrifice others so that we may gain. Exactly the reverse.
Initially there was a feeling that the military just attracts better people, but later retrospection revealed that it was the environment, which created these deep emotions in people. I remember while entering a residential society when I was writing the details in the visitor register, a household maid entered the premises, and missed the formalities.
The guard yelled and shouted at the maid as if she had committed a crime. After she went, I suggested to him that he could have been politer and less aggressive. Guard said that, if an unauthorized entry is detected, he will lose his job.
In a way he was saying that he didn’t feel safe under the leadership of that society, or he didn’t have the trust that his interests were safe there. This brings us to the concept of trust and trust feeds cooperation. Once an employee feels safe and no threat from inside, he will combine his capacities and capabilities to reach his potential.
Perhaps parents for me make a great example of leaders. As a parent we give opportunities to our children, educate them, empower them with skills, give them required freedom, invest in them and make them achieve heights which we have imagined for ourselves. What, if a child fails?
We do not withdraw all the facilities which we provide them. We make our child feel safe and gestate trust. A good leader also develops further leaders. To foster new leaders, new opportunities are given, people are trained on skills and mindsets. If they fail, they are mentored for further success.
As a parent if we have hard times in our family, will we lay down our children? Perhaps each one in the family will share the burden of the situation, but no one will be left out. Isn’t this possible in business? Maybe something like everyone remains intact with some reduction in benefits. It's better if all suffer a little rather than a few suffer completely.
This will set the morale high, and when people feel safe under the leadership, it naturally enhances the trust and cooperation. Great leaders never sacrifice people for the sake of numbers, rather sacrifice numbers for the sake of people. No one will mind if leaders like Abdul Kalam, Gandhi, or Mother Teresa get bonuses of millions, but many might feel jealous and will carry a great amount of distrust, discontent and dislike for higher perks of business leaders who have not sacrificed their personal gains for the welfare of others.
Authority and leadership are entirely two different things. Heard a story of Marines, that there is a custom in marines that the officer eats the last and let his men eat first. When all men were done there was no food left for the officer. When they went to the field his men brought some of their food so that he could have it too.
For good leaders it’s not the head count it’s the heart count. Leaders are trusted when they go first, when they sacrifice their interest so that their people are safe, and when they do this, the natural response is people will give their blood, sweat and tears for such leaders, just like Major Shaitan Singh did.
And who will not like to work in such an organization……so friends develop people and explore possibilities….
(The author is a Certified Designed Thinking Master practitioner and Clifton Certified Strength Finder Coach, Corporate Trainer and a Leadership coach. He is based in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, India.)