Everyday Leaders


Last month, my father-in-law retired after 34 years of service at Central Railways & I was fortunate to attend his farewell function. To give some more context, he was also a post-holder in the NRMU (National Railway Mazdoor Union) because of which he had to constantly lead people under him; communicate & negotiate with the higher authorities & also take care that the processes of a traditional public sector organization are followed & upheld. That’s tremendous pressure!

At the farewell function, I saw genuine gratitude, I saw people (women and men) getting emotional while speaking about him (some actually cried while speaking on the mic). What I saw at the farewell function inspired me because making an impact through a business or making an impact in a small organization is easy but making an impact in an organization like Railways is a different ball game altogether. People like my father-in-law are everyday leaders who should be recognized & acknowledged for not staying inside the comfort zone of a secure government job but coming out of that zone & making a difference to people’s lives.

Meanwhile, I have written a book Strength Ecology & having immersed in this thinking for a long time, I can’t help thinking from the book’s perspective. So coming back to the point, what exactly inspired me & my inferences about what made my father-in-law a true leader (I have recognized his qualities as strengths from my book & put the terms in brackets []):

He had umpteen chances of resorting to unfair means & accepting black money but he didn’t. He always did what was right. This strength makes all the difference. [INCORRUPTIBLE]

He has seen a lot of struggle in life but he has risen above all that & is still extremely humble. I have hardly seen him talking about the past; in fact he is always interested in learning new things, making interesting conversations & gaining knowledge which could be applied in real life. He has always acted & believed that actions speak louder than words. [DOER]

In his farewell speech, he shared what he had followed throughout his career: be productive every day irrespective of your pay so that you feel satisfied at the end of the day. He had injected so much passion in his job which is evidently proven by the fact that he derived satisfaction from the process of getting tasks done & not necessarily the result. [ACCOMPLISHER]

He has an amazing ability to gauge an individual’s personality & interact accordingly with the individual. This makes him powerful since he can tackle all types of people. Even in the family, he commands respect as the head of the family when he is among the elders, but he can be equally cool with kids & young people. [PEOPLE ASSESSOR]

In most of the speeches people made for him, it was clear that he went out of the way to help people. He guided many young people (from lower middle class) to get jobs in Railways. He played an instrumental role in rehabilitating alcoholics. He is always ready to support people in whatever way he can. [NURTURER]

Great leaders inspire trust. My father-in-law spoke of what he believed in as a post-holder which reminded me of Simon Sinek’s enlightening talk about leaders. My father-in-law said he wanted to take every one along like a family. He wanted to explore win-win situations; instead of taking someone’s side, he wanted to bring everyone on a common ground while negotiations. [BLENDER]

We respect some people in the family for the mere reason that they are elder to us but I respect this man for his journey, for the fact that he is self-made & he has never looked back but always ahead & taken people along with him. And, I am sure he is not going to stop even though he has retired formally from his job.

Real leaders never retire.


Bhagavad Geeta and Organizational Behaviour

Bhagavad Geeta and Organizational Behaviour

Doing a project on the Bhagavad Geeta for my MBA was an epiphany. I was flipping through the pages of a book on my favourite subject ‘Organizational Behaviour’. Suddenly, I knew I wanted to do this – combine my two favourites i.e. Mythology & Science. (Some people have already come up with studies about applications of the Geeta in HR but I still wanted to do it, from my own perspective.)

I started with the project topic as ‘Bhagavad Geeta & Organizational Behaviour’. For research, I read ‘Bhagavad Gita As It Is’ by Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada & Organizational Behaviour books.

The experience was overwhelming. I had heard of it but after reading I realized – even though the Geeta is a Hindu scripture existing since some-date B.C., it is universal – it can be read by people of any faith, it is applicable in all eras, it appeals to all – young/old, professionals/students… believers/atheists! Because it is not about religion – it is about the human intellect, it is about the Mahabharats we fight everyday in our homes, offices & minds!

In the language of Organizational Behaviour, the Geeta is about changing our perception of Terminal Values. Terminal values are our desired states of existence that we think are worth striving for. For example, some strive to be rich, some strive for beauty, some strive to be professionally successful, etc. We have the realization of our instrumental values, some of us are kind, some are hard-working. But how many of us really know what we are finally trying to achieve?

While I came to a conclusion via the Covariation Model of Attribution to why Arjun reacted the way he did when he saw his blood relatives, teachers & friends as opponents, I also learnt about the right attitude towards work. What should be our motivation to work? According to Organizational Behaviour, there can be different motivators to work – recognition, achievement, advancement for growth, etc. The Geeta gives you a straightforward simple answer of what should really be the motivation to work – the work itself! (Sankhya Yog Verse 38) In fact, we have seen people unknowingly or knowingly applying it – A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, Dr. Verghese Kurien, A. R. Rahman, Sachin Tendulkar, etc. These people are well-known because they love what they do; they are experts. They work for the sake of work itself; success & fame automatically followed.

The Geeta talks in detail about controlling our senses so that our intellect works better. (Sankhya Yog Verse 68) I found the idea vague initially but I was thoroughly surprised when I came across a scientific study which says that in crisis situations, a stress hormone called Cortisol is released which initiates our survival instinct. This necessarily means less blood supply to brain & more to sensory organs & limbs, so that we are prepared to run. Hence, when we are under the control of emotions & stress, we are distracted easily owing to the hyper-active senses; we make bad decisions & can’t remember details easily.

Even though I studied the Geeta in terms of Organizational Behaviour, it has given me much more than that. Whether the Geeta was only a figment of Maharishi Vyaas’ imagination or really the song of God, it has certainly answered my questions & it has made me a better person than before.

You can find my project here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/101141927/Bhagavad-Geeta-Organizational-Behaviour

(The beauty of Geeta – every reader can have a different interpretation. Readers may disagree to my interpretations. Feedback is welcome.)

Honesty & Integrity in Organizations

Why is being honest difficult & lying so easy?

As children, we were taught to be honest & stick to what is ‘right’. But as we started growing & venturing into the more professional side of life like college & work, it became evident that honesty & integrity are just too idealistic to hold on to. Because lying would probably save us a piece of mind from our professor or supervisor; it might make our mistake look comparatively smaller; it might even give us an ego boost in front of a competitor!

It surely is difficult to be outright honest or truthful all the time. Frankly, it is impossible! We do not need 100% truth all the time. But the question is how much honest should we be?

For example, one can lie to save himself from a traffic police issuing a ticket. One should not lie about what his firm can truly deliver to the client. One can encourage her child a little more than required to positively reinforce the child’s good behaviour but one should not help her child to cheat in an examination to get better scores.

Unfortunately, the concept of honesty & integrity is relative, not absolute. Yet, to take this path, it is important to assess what we are & what we truly stand for. At the same time, when it comes to professional life, it is equally essential to be well familiar with your organization’s mission & values. The organization’s values must always be upheld through the employees’ actions & choices. This promotes integrity in the organization.

While young people & employees learn to be honest, for the same to continue – parents, schools, organizations should aptly reward or at least recognize people who have gone out of their way to be honest. I came across an article in The Hindu, where a poor lottery ticket seller was felicitated for his high level of honesty & integrity. Honesty deserves some amount of recognition since it is difficult to find!

An important point to note here is Operant Conditioning.

Operant Conditioning also called instrumental conditioning refers to the process that our behavior produces certain consequences & how we behave in future will depend on what those consequences are.

For example: If a child is rewarded or praised for being honest, he is more likely to be honest in future. While if a child receives a negative response for being truthful, he might rarely speak truth in future.

Are organizations providing an environment where employees can be honest & frank?

Ideally, they should. People are bringing about a change so that the organization processes are more & more transparent. When it comes to customer service, honesty is important; when it comes to appraisals or promotions, honesty counts. And yet, I hear examples where companies purposely prepare a flawed product & bump up their maintenance costs for the clients.

According to Jack Welch in his book Winning,

Lack of candor blocks smart ideas, fast action, and good people contributing all the stuff they’ve got. It’s a killer.


To get candor, you reward it, praise it, and talk about it. Most of all, you yourself demonstrate it in an exuberant and even exaggerated way.

The dictionary meaning of Candor: the state or quality of being frank, open, and sincere in speech or expression; candidness.

Today, every organization in every sector faces competition & so it wouldn’t take time for a client organization to switch over to an organization where integrity exists. In the long run, integrity certainly pays off! Some might still think that being honest is not what we are programmed to be, bringing a conscious change is certainly not impossible. It’s time we make honesty our way of life!

Characteristics of Creative People

Creativity is the process by which innovative but situationally appropriate ideas are thought of & expressed.

Though ‘Creativity‘ is a relative term, anything innovative or different cannot be called ‘creative’. The idea has to be novel & applicable to the context.

As per author K. Aswathappa in the book of Organizational Behavior, the typical characteristics or traits of creative people are as follows:

  1. Preference to long-term goals over short-term goals; readiness to sacrifice immediate gains for the sake of long-term advantage.
  2. Very energetic & enthusiastic; infectious amount of energy when it comes to what they are passionate about or highly committed to.
  3. Grudge against the status quo; highly driven to initiate a change where required.
  4. High amount of perseverance, sincerity & commitment towards what they believe in.
  5. Hobbies & specialized interests; a quest to gain more knowledge in the hobbies or interests they pursue.
  6. A strong belief that ‘Procrastination is not a waste of time‘.
  7. Inventive thinking style – a natural corollary of Creativity.
  8. High intelligence; knowledgeable & imaginative.

It is not just today that organizations are seeking highly creative people, the need for creative minds goes back thousands of years ago. For an organization to flourish, it is important that the creative individuals in the organization get a conducive environment to grow & apply their creativity.

So the next time, an employee suggests something brilliant like a mysterious bolt from the blue, you know that his creative streak needs to be nurtured.