Tag Archives: Leadership

Understanding a Story – The Vivékin Way

Almost all the houses in the community I live in have solar water heaters installed on their terraces. For most of these house owners, while the logic behind doing this has more to do with considerable savings on the monthly electricity bill than any green initiative, they still are managing to do their little bit towards energy conservation. Then again, all these houses have inbuilt reverse osmosis water purification systems under their kitchen sinks. Convenient and safe, yes. But I wonder how many of them have taken into consideration the fact that for every glass of clean water produced, another glass gets wasted; that it is possible to channel this water to the garden for watering plants. And if anyone has actually done that. Kind of ironic, isn’t it? In one shot, the good that was done has come undone. But, I digress. What I actually wanted to write about was an article I read last week – about this gentleman in Bangalore who has gone way beyond just installing a solar heater. He installed a whole set of solar panels on his terrace, bought himself a few hybrid inverters and now manages almost all of his household energy needs (with the exception of one submersible pressure pump) with the supply from these solar panels. And if that were not enough, he supplies the surplus energy, around 8-10 units, back to the Electricity Board. Free of charge. Now, if only more people in our country could be like him! Even if some of us were able to take care of half our energy needs, the load on our energy reservoirs could be decreased and so much electricity would be freed up to electrify villages and towns in rural parts of India.

In Vivékin terms, what is the significance of this story? Here is someone who has done something rather innovative – but what is the dominant Leadership Intelligence here? Because he is being innovative, does it imply that it is Inventive Intelligence? Surprisingly though, it is not. To understand why, we first need to break this story down a little more. He used Analytical Intelligence when he studied the different kind of panels and inverters available and decided which combination to use, Operational Intelligence while setting up the whole system (even if he didn’t do it himself, he drove the process) and some amount of Communicative Intelligence while dealing with the equipment dealers and engineers/ technicians who set up the system. But not really Inventive Intelligence, as he didn’t apply knowledge from another domain for this innovation. He simply extended what he already knew – the ability to channel solar energy using solar panels to power something other than just a solar heater.

But where does he use Ethical Intelligence? To understand this, let us take a step back and try to understand why it is that he even chose to embark on such a project. Was it to save on his electricity bills? To start and follow a green initiative in order to conserve energy? To free up energy for others to use? To set a precedent in his community in the hope that it would inspire others to follow in his steps? It could have been one or the other, or all. The point is that he explored a possibility, weighed his options, looked at the long-term implications and then made a decision. Without a doubt, this is a perfect example of a dominant Ethical Intelligence.

To read the article, please click here

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

Great Leaders Have Great Causes: What is Yours?

A cause is the raison d’etre of leadership–it answers the question, “Why do we need a leader, why this leader?”Great leaders are associated with particular causes on which they focus fully. The resolution of that cause becomes an all-consuming goal for them and their followers. The more humanistic the cause, the broader its appeal. In a way, the cause itself ultimately defines the leader.George Washington and the other founding fathers of America made their cause the liberation of America from the colonial grip of Britain.Abraham Lincoln, after a frustrating first year in office, found a twofold-cause: the abolition of slavery through the Emancipation Proclamation, and the simultaneous cause of holding the Union together through the Civil War.Mahatma Gandhi made it his cause to liberate India from the ravages of English colonialism through non-violent means.Nelson Mandela’s cause was getting rid of apartheid.Martin Luther King’s struggle was against racism and the Jim Crow South.This brings us to the question: What is Barack Obama’s cause? The sooner he finds it and declares it, the better it is for him and for all of us.But the most important question is one that each of us has to ask of ourselves: What is my cause?

Visual and Verbal Branding of Leadership: Gandhi&Martin Luther King

Leaders–whether unconsciously or self-consciously–become associated with brands. In fact, it is more right to say, they become brands themselves. Watch the video below of Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” speech. Notice the headgear of all the people around MLK. They’re called “Gandhi caps” after Mahatma Gandhi, who started to wear the cloth cap–a traditional headgear in rural India–to express a political view. The Gandhi cap became symbolic of non-violent resistance all over the world. Gandhi embraced visual branding strongly–through his loin cloth, his round eye glasses, and of course, his long walking stick. After all, he went to meet the King and Queen of England dressed in the same fashion.To quote from the Nov 16, 1931 issue of Time:

The same frayed sandals that carried St. Gandhi on his illegal salt march through India 19 months ago carried him last week up the crimson-carpeted stair of Buckingham Palace. Flunkies in scarlet & gold bowed the small, unrepentant lawbreaker into the Picture Gallery. There at the head of the receiving line stood George V in striped trousers and morning coat, Queen Mary in a shimmering silver tea gown and Edward of Wales (who had flown down especially from Liverpool) dressed like his father. The Lord Chamberlain, the Earl of Cromer, advanced through a horde of 500 tea guests, some of them Maharajas wearing pearls as big as butterballs.

MLK, on the other hand, developed his brand through rhetoric–like the “I have a dream” speech below.

MLK\’s I Have a Dream Speech

Scott Brown&the Massachusetts Election: Leadership Lessons for Obama

Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts elections may have put health care reform in jeopardy, but it holds some important leadership lessons for President Obama.

  1. Despite Barack Obama being a great communicator, he is demonstrating a tremendous lack of communicative leadership intelligence. On the presidential campaign, his speeches inspired hope in large audiences across America, and during the televised debates, his cool unflappable delivery inspired confidence in viewers. However, during the first year of his presidency, his communication has not shown a key characteristic of leaders–adaptability. The cool tone is not cool when bailed-out banks pay out out fat bonuses to their employees from tax payers’ money. Obama needs to channel the public’s outrage in an angry voice.The ease with which he chooses to compromise on campaign promises on grounds on “pragmatism” with the Republicans in Congress–especially when they won’t yield an inch–is again seen by the American public as a weakness in leadership–not being firm when one needs to.
  2. Obama’s first year has made him seem to have lost his path in the wilderness left behind by the previous administration. What does Obama want to do specifically? Healthcare? Economy? Afghanistan? GITMO? Climate Change? This is a case of a leader trying to do too many things and doing only a bit of each. Nancy Koehn writes in The Washington Post that Abraham Lincoln’s problems as he entered the second year of his presidency in 1862, were far greater than Obama’s today. But Lincoln found his backbone in the first 6 months of 1862. The question is whether Obama will find his backbone and focus in 2010.

Donate to Help Haiti Earthquake Victims

As the work week begins in the USA after the Martin Luther King holiday weekend, I urge you to make a donation to the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. Stories of true leadership emerge everyday from amidst the ruins and the disorder, but the need of the hour is our help.Donate through UNICEF:

Help Victims of Earthquake in Haiti through UNICEF.

Or through the American Red Cross:

Donate through Red Cross to help Earthquake Victims in Haiti.