water you touch in the river is the last of that which has passed
and the first of that
which is coming."
-Leonardo da Vinci
leadership is not about reaching the top. It's not even about being
at the top. True leadership is all about recognising how long one
must be at the top. True leadership is all about that near impossible,
yet magnanimous ability to say "when".
As one casts an eye over the CEOscape both
in India and abroad, one is pained in parts to see the "cling
syndrome" of leadership-the inability to recognise when personal
profit must humbly bow before young talent. Success happens only
when talent meets opportunity. And very often, looking at a group
of talented people, one must see who's leading the group. The leader,
after all, is the one who gives the group the opportunity to prove
The life one leads is not the legacy one leaves.
That's a very average interpretation of leadership. It's actually
the legacy one leaves that is a true reflection of the life one
leads. And the sooner one leaves that legacy, the better the life
Leadership is not about writing a book and
leaving it for someone to read and then leather-bind it for the
library of posterity. Leadership is about co-authoring 14 out of
the 15 chapters of the book, then choosing five great colleagues
to help find that incredible ending. The best ending is the one
that shows others a new beginning.
In reality, most leadership is pathetically
self-centred. It is typically, "here I am" rather than
"there you are". In that baton that most leaders grudgingly
wish to pass on, lie the insecurities of leadership-greed, and the
inability to confront the most basic dichotomy that leadership is
not about running companies or even about the job title the leader
held. It is about the job titles that the people he led, now hold.
General Electric is often referred to as a
'University of CEO Graduates'. When Jeff Immelt got the top job,
an industry count revealed that 19 other colleagues of his went
off to become CEOs in other companies-an incredible succession plan
that had 20 potential successors. That's leadership.
Uneasy must lie the head that wears the crown,
but in most cases, 'smug' lies the head that wears the crown. Smug
in the realisation that it can wear the crown till whenever it wishes,
and in the false notion that the leader's shoe size is the only
right one and, therefore, until he finds someone with the same size,
he needn't put his feet up. Almost the way George Burns felt when
he approached 100. He said, "I can't die, I am booked."
But true leadership is about complete uneasiness
in the chair that the leader occupies. It is about quickly seeking
redundancy. Great leaders consistently worry about how soon can
they make themselves redundant so that they can stand at the sidelines
and applaud the next leader.