Every leader wishes to leave his mark behind in the minds of the people he works with and the journey of the institution decades after he has stepped down. This is not only applicable in an organization but also for a teacher, a parent, a doctor, a caretaker, a gardener, practically everybody. A teacher imparts knowledge, builds skills and shapes thinking of the student not only to be measured at the end of the academic term rather the impact on the life of the student through the years after he or she has graduated from the class. Do we not remember such teachers? Similarly, don’t we recall having been deeply impacted by the words and behaviours of a babysitter, an office assistant, the security guard in the parking lot? We certainly do. That is because these individuals transformed our thinking on a subject and our way of life. They demonstrate the qualities of the celebrated transformation leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa and so on. What do they do differently? Can we learn and practice them?
They had a dream which grew vivid each day!
These transformation leaders dreamt big and saw what others did not dare explore. Steve Jobs looked at the music players differently from the others; Akio Morita saw the need to listen to music outdoors; Bill Gates saw the need to simplify the interface of a computer so that millions can use the computer; Bindeshwar Pathak reformed the way people in India answered the call of nature while travelling for a long time; Dr. Devi Shetty delivered world-class cardiac-care at affordable prices by several innovations in the work processes. We can see many more such as mobile phone camera, cab aggregation, e-commerce, social networks, advances in healthcare, agriculture, education and so on. All these leaders saw an opportunity to simplify life, serve humanity or fortify our planet. For a manager, a parent, a teacher or whatever role one might have taken, the question is, “Do I have a dream and see the possible ways to reach there?”
Mahatma Gandhi saw the picture of independent India in his head; Mother Teresa saw a world free from suffering and full of compassion. They kept thinking of the ways and means of reaching the goal. History tells us how these leaders undertook various experiments, some of which worked and some did not. The point to note here is that these leaders did not give up, kept altering the course with the same vigor and determination. Possibly, the picture grew vivid in their mind by the day and the passion took them closer to the goal. They talked about it and the others followed.
They care for the others!
The Transformation Leaders communicate their vision with their followers and inspire them to follow the path. They listen to them with interest; take personal interest in fulfillment of individual needs and aspirations to the best possible extent. They build an environment of mutual trust, respect and sharing with their team members. They care for bonding among the members of the team. They listen to the concerns of their team members and act upon them transparently. They don’t brush issues under the carpet, rather discuss them openly and seek solutions. They mentor their team deeply, inspire them to co-create the path and co-own the achievements. It calls for high degree of sacrifice and mental energy to embrace the diversity of thoughts and energies. Do we practice it daily?
They stretch their intellectual bandwidth!
An intellectual capability is not about the academic qualifications and honours one earns in life. It is about one’s ability to empathise with others, think deeply about a situation and connect the dots to decide the course of action. They challenge the sense of purpose, evolve the course of action and do not hesitate to change the course. They recognize their strengths, limitations and egos. They balance rationality with gut-feel and use them judiciously in taking risks and making decisions. The external world which is used to a high degree of order and structure will find it difficult to relate to the internal environment of such a team. The members of the team being highly aligned with their leader, have complete faith in the path and a great degree of association with the purpose, do not find the continuous change to be chaotic and disturbing; rather, they find it invigorating and encouraging. Do we deep-dive and at the same time learn from the others with humility?
It is easier said than done to transform a situation. It takes humility to learn and the focus to practice the art each day of our lives. Our actions of today will not only transform lives in the near term but also many more in the long term.