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Monthly Archives: March 2011

India-Pakistan Cricket Match: A Leadership Lesson

In India, the tension is very tangible and the air has a prickly feeling to it on the day of the India-Pakistan 2011 World Cup semi-final cricket match. The match has been called many things from the worn-out cliché “mother of all battles” to Sir Viv Richards’ expression “war without weapons.” The analogy of war is not even sub-cutaneous leave alone subliminal. But in some ways this is worse than war—there can be uneasy truces that can stop a war and long spells of cold tension that threaten but never erupt. In this semifinal match, there is no such comfort—one team has to win and the other has to lose. This is the knockout stage. In a game like cricket, there in never a guarantee of who will win and who will lose. What is guaranteed is that one team stays and the other goes.This brings me to the issue of leadership. First, though, a story of two great kings from almost two thousand years ago. Many of us heard it as a folktale when we were growing up in India, but it has been recently recounted by Guy Maclean Rogers in Alexander: The Ambiguity of Greatness (New York: Random House, 2004). The story is told that when Alexander of Greece invaded India in 326 BCE, he came up against the mighty army of the Indian king, Puru. On the banks of the Jhelum, a fierce battle took place—Greek historians later called it the Battle of Hydaspes, the Greek name for Jhelum. Alexander’s fast and fierce cavalry were pitted against Puru’s mighty elephant brigades. Alexander won the bloody battle, suffering considerable losses himself, and the vanquished Puru was brought to him. It is said that Alexander asked Puru how he would like to be treated, and the defeated King Puru, standing tall, replied, “Like a king.” Impressed by Puru’s leadership and courage even in defeat, Alexander made him an ally, returned his kingdom to him, and even gave him with some additional regions to rule.All too often, we measure leadership by the yardstick of success. Yes, success is important, but it is in the face of loss, that the quality of leadership is most demonstrated. Great leaders show courage, valor, and grit during a battle, but whether they win or lose, they demonstrate dignity and honor. Above all, however, when the battle is over, whether they have won or lost, great leaders have the humility to deeply acknowledge that all of humankind is fragile and that we always live in the shadow of this knowledge. The captains of the two teams—but more importantly, the people of both Pakistan and India—should remember this lesson of leadership after their semi-final match in the 2011 Cricket World Cup. They should play, and win or lose with dignity and honor and act with the knowledge that the result of the match only proves that cricket—like life—is an uncertain game.Baba Prasad

How Leadership Begins in the Family

Often, leadership development seems to begin and end in the corporate environment. How do we take the lessons learned during corporate training to environments beyond the company, and on the other hand how do we bring leadership lessons from the outside world into the company? Excellent leadership training will actually make the environments inside and outside the work-place seamless. The focus of good leadership development should be to make leadership an everyday habit.In this context, the key thing to recognize is that our families are both sources of leadership lessons, and also sites in which to practice leadership. For a child, a parent is a role model and leadership qualities displayed by the parent become lessons for the child. Remember Harper Lee’s characterization of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mocking Bird?

As parents we are leaders to our children, and the family becomes a laboratory in which we try to teach leadership and learn from the feedback. Listen to this 5-minute extract from Sidney Poitier’s speech at Guilford College, NC in 2003. It is a superb illustration of how our leadership abilities develop within the family and why we need to show leadership qualities in the family. The scene begins with Poitier as a 15-year old kid having been arrested for stealing and roasting corn in a cornfield. Listen:

[audio:http://vivekingroup.com/audio/SidneyPoitier_Leadership.mp3|bg=0x0000ff|righticon=0xff0000] Sidney Poitier on Leadership Lessons in the Family
The full speech can be found here

Leadership requires a child-like questioning ability

We often forget to ask fundamental questions, especially, “Why?” and “Why not?” Children have that ability to ask the most searching, “Why?” and “Why not?” questions, and all without an element of prejudice. We seem to lose it as we grow up–society (which includes ourselves) teaches us to stop asking such questions. Instead, we make assumptions, we develop stereotypes, and when it comes to using our analytical leadership intelligence, since we think we already know, we neglect to ask the fundamental questions.Here’s an exercise:I was reading a book with my six-year old daughter. The book’s called Fire on Toytown Hill and is written by Jenny Giles. A fire truck finds it cannot put out the fire on a hillside and radios a helicopter for assistance. The helicopter arrives and puts out the fire with a barrel of water.Here are two pictures from that book–the first one shows the helicopter arriving and the second one shows it pouring the water. Before I tell you the question my daughter asked, I’d like you to look at the two pictures and think of some fundamental “Why?” or “How? questions.

Toytown Hill on Fire
Toytown Hill fire being put out Continue reading