Successful leaders across various walks of life have stirred souls with their passion. Their thoughts compel their followers to believe in a greater purpose. The followers become aligned to a common cause and ambition. It is the zeal to scale new heights and explore new vistas that drives the people to achieve something that seems to be elusive. Often, we hear about ‘fire in the belly’ in the corporate world. Managers raise the bar each passing year or quarter whatever is relevant for them; they run several contests and competitions to fire up each person in their team. Each human being is competitive and has a need to achieve recognition. Hence, contests have always spurred people to be ambitious and push their limits to achieve higher goals. This has been an age-old and time-tested method to produce extra-ordinary results.
I wonder if there is a downside to this spirit of competitiveness and continuously raising the bar. In the epic Mahabharat, the author, Vyas has shown us several characters that are impacted by the outrageous competitiveness and the need to outsmart others. Duryodhan believes that he deserves much more than what he has with him and his cousins, the Pandavas are snatching those away from him always. He takes the resolve to eliminate his cousins so that he doesn’t lose out anything. Such was his spirit of ambitiousness, possibly better called as ‘envy’ that he says, while breathing his last, that he is winning a position in the heaven ahead of his cousins and he is dying a death of valour while his cousins adopted treacherous means to win the war. This is just an example from an epic which is very very old. In our recent times, we see ill manifestation of such ambitions in the form of cooking the books of very successful companies, bribery of various kinds, compromising human values in many ways.
Pushing the envelope in the right direction is an absolute must so that we unleash our potential and do not grow as frogs in the well. However, we need to be careful while raising the bar, recognising performers and celebrating successes. Often, we communicate a lot through our actions and behaviours without being explicit about many things. This is where the code of conduct gets established. The child in the family who has been able to secure a position in the class needs recognition for sure. But, the means to achieve the success must be discussed and the success formula must come to light. Winning at any cost must be shunned. Rather, ‘winning the right way’ must be promoted.
The sportsman who doesn’t get the call to the national team doesn’t have to feel broken because he lost the opportunity to someone else. One needs to aspire and win matches but not envy others who won the match that night. Leaders need to guide and mentor their folks for the long haul. While our world is more competitive than ever before, it is important to see that there are more opportunities than ever before. One needs to have the ‘Fire in the belly’ to discover them!