What is LEADERSHIP and how does one lead in challenging times

I have been very passionate about understanding what exactly ‘Leadership’ is, and the interesting facets that come along with it.

To me being a leader and ‘Leadership’ are one and the same and its meaning has not only been misunderstood at times, but reduced down to be equated solely with status, title or ranking within a corporate structure; and attributed to someone of a certain qualification/experience level along with academic insignias to further fortify that position. But is leadership really about ranking, titles, entitlement or is it something beyond?  Let’s delve a little deeper into this. 

Having come across many books on thought leadership/management and being a leader etc, I have come to realise that leadership is a philosophy that is rooted in values/vision and consistency in the upholding of these values i.e. walking the talk. 

The Leadership PHILOSOPHY

Values equate to qualities and these qualities are not any lofty unrealistic ideals but very real and tangible day to day aspects of who one is. How you conduct yourself both at the workplace, home, and everywhere in between. It’s a flow; a rhythm that is ceaseless and yet constantly opening up to deepen those qualities as an inspiration and reflection to others around you. 

We use the word ‘privacy’ a lot in our everyday language and we generally seem to have been fooled into thinking that what we do in our private lives does not affect anything else. But as I have come to understand in recent times there is no such thing as a ‘private Idaho’.  In fact everything we do has an effect on everything and everyone around us, and every moment leads to the next moment. 

There was a time when I too fell for the so-called success in climbing the ladder and the automatic accolades attributed to the status that one achieved. This hierarchical set up then demands everyone else to be subservient to a leader and tow the line. I fell for the outward outcomes that an individual achieved, whether a sports hero, a Movie star winning the Oscars, a political head of a country, an individual leading a company or whoever Forbes magazine would tell me had the biggest net worth etc. But deep down inside me I always knew what true leadership was and hence I did not entirely buy into that charade. Anyone can be a leader, and whilst experience, qualification level and status/ranking are all to be respected and not dismissed, inspiration can come from anywhere and everywhere. 

Another point to make here is that how often do we get a glimpse into the personal lives of these leaders/idols?  It’s all too easy to place them on pedestals and glorify/idealise, but compartmentalising life rarely turns out well. How often do we hear about burn out, and corruption/abuse?  

Of course it’s not about perfection but it’s about integrity, vision and staying true to one’s values rather than selling out for self gain. True authority and leadership never comes at the expense of another. It includes others and goes beyond self-interest. 

How about seeing work and personal life as one life, across the board, bringing our true selves to each aspect and knowing that each one affects the other aka the ‘ripple effect’. 

How about fostering a conducive environment to bring the best out of others, inspiring others towards true team work?  How about being willing to challenge the status quo, take risks and innovate with a vision rather than spin the same wheel that has been spun a million times.

Making the shift, changing the narrative is what I have always been passionate about and this started a decade ago for me. It began with making changes within myself such as deconstructing my conditioned ways of thinking and doing things whilst harnessing my inner ability to understand another’s perspective, and not ever allowing myself to be deluded by the idiom that the ‘end justifies the means’. 

True Leadership is ultimately when we create more leaders rather than just followers and this means first of all showing ourselves as leaders – without perfections – being transparent, not having all the right answers or solutions, admitting to being vulnerable during challenging times and yet soldiering on with inner strength and conviction. It also means to entrust others around us to do the job collaboratively and not try to single-handedly be the Hero. 

Some of the great leaders and teachers back in time were the ones who understood that their primary role was not to solve problems or anyone’s issues but rather to empower their students and their people by creating a culture wherein everyone felt valued and came together to do great hard work whilst simultaneously caring for each other.

 The Great Pyramids, for instance, were not built by slavery as history and story tellers have misled us to believe. In fact they are a testimony to humanity of what Leadership looks like and must look like from the bottom up and top down. To me it’s the ultimate responsibility that we can all live by and have the ability to live by.

We can bring this back, instead of paying the token lip service as this is far more crucial than ever before considering the current state of the world. 

I am always reminded of these powerful words that embodies Leadership: ‘If not YOU then WHO? If not NOW then WHEN?’

Our brand founder and author of this blog Chetan Jha is leading not just change but also innovation across the board through best practises that echo compassion understanding and reflection. To know more, email us: [email protected] 

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