The biggest myth about leadership is that only people in formal positions, at the top of hierarchies should be called leaders. In fact, many thousands of people at lower levels in great companies provide leadership in their jobs, on task forces, initiating new ideas. The second biggest myth is that only an elite few have the potential to provide leadership.
Very few of us will ever be leaders remotely like Mahatma Gandhi. But many of us can provide needed leadership in a modest, but important, way. One only has to look at team sports among schoolchildren. Do the math. Add up all the schools and all the team sports and estimate how many young people play some leadership role in the games. The number is staggering.
Imagine what would be the impact on this rapidly changing world if we all believed that leadership is more about a decision and less about birth, pedigree, or education? The impact would be huge. Every person and every employee would rise to a leadership role. If we believed, we would make it happen. When we do not believe, we do not look for leadership potential among the masses. We do not nurture that potential. We give only a few the opportunity and encouragement to try to lead.
India is far more important to the world than is generally acknowledged. As the world’s largest democracy, and the world’s second largest nation, India is enormously important to both the world economy and to all people who seek freedom from tyranny.
Without enough leadership to create and build organizations, an economy like India can’t keep producing enough jobs to make it function well and to keep a democracy stable. Leadership is not the only necessity for progress, but without enough, scarce resources are not sufficiently leveraged, economic growth cannot be sustained over long periods of time, and democratic institutions remain fragile always vulnerable to tyranny and corruption.
With a possibility of leadership coming from hundreds of thousands of people, leadership coming from millions, in such a huge nation as India, will help start thousands of companies, grow thousands of existing companies, create millions of jobs, and build vibrant 21st century government and business organizations.
Learner’s license of leadership:
Learning is like the weather, everyone talks about it but nobody does much about it. But as leaders the greatest sin is being switched off to learning opportunities around us. John F. Kennedy summed it up well when he stated ‘Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other’.
Leaders go around with a permanent ‘Learners license’. They remain committed to using their minds even to learn from the most mundane things in life, that they could grow perpetually. There are three broad ways in which leaders keep learning and growing.
Learn Constantly – Leaders learn at every moment. They constantly and actively strive to learn. Constant striving means that you even sleep in order to be more productive, that sleep itself becomes part of the growth process. Taking a break is viewed as a chance to chew on the information taken in and to create an optimum state for imbibing new information.
The most famous story of constant learning can be attributed to Friedrich A. Kekule. He had been struggling to understand the structure of the benzene molecule. One night as he slept, he dreamed of atoms dancing like a snake forming a ring. Inspired by this, he hypothesized that the benzene molecule was a ring. He was correct and this discovery was a huge leap for organic chemistry.
Learn Continuously – Leaders learn without interruption. Whenever they pursue a specific goal, they do it without any disruptions. Research has proven that it is actually better to study for one hour straight, than for two hours with interruptions. Interruptions break our train of thought and limit our ability to retain information. They take the power out of learning. Sherlock Holmes, the legendary detective, attributed a major part of his success to his remarkable ability to detach his mind at will to focus on the problem at hand. Though just an imaginary character, potential leaders can surely learn a lesson from this detective.
Learn Cyclically – Leaders understand that life is not one-dimension. It must be studied from every side and turned upside down. Hence they learn with repetition and review. There is always more to learn irrespective of the subject. Even as you move to other areas of knowledge, be alert to pick up information pertinent to previous topics. This allows for cross-referencing, and ultimately, a deeper understanding. Leaders never let their mind shut down. When you are learning all the time, every experience becomes a lesson in life.
Whatever you are doing at any given moment – watching the news, working on a business deal, talking to a friend, reading this article give it your full attention and keep learning.