Leadership is not a Rocket Science

-Commander VK Jaitly

There is no doubt that everybody is not a leader. Just look around, you may find highly qualified and intellectual people. But all of them are not leaders. Many of them are just followers. A good number of them may be occupying reasonably high positions in government as well as private sector. Some of them may behave as if Leadership has been thrust upon them. Actually, they may be just good managers.

At the same time, you will find a rickshaw wallah demonstrating leadership qualities among 100 odd rickshaw pullers at a particular stand in your city. You may find a highly respectable Sarpanch in a remote village in Himachal Pradesh who himself was totally illiterate but took active interest to ensure almost 100% literacy in his village and also demonstrated his leadership quality when they made a check dam with local resources and sorted out the drinking problem for the villagers.

So it looks like that leadership is not a Rocket Science. It can be acquired by anyone. In fact, each one of us have leadership qualities. The only difference is the level of leadership qualities that we have. Some are at a very low level, e.g. even a clerk or a labourer in a factory demonstrates leadership qualities at his/her home for his/her spouse and the children. Full family looks upto him/her for advice. Majority of such people remain within this lowest Orbit of Leadership. But some of them go to the next level of Orbit of Leadership and are able to guide even their brothers, sisters, cousins and also close relatives and neighbours take their advice.

Some people even look for opportunities to move to the higher and higher Orbits of Leadership and majority of them without any formal training. Those in the corporate world and some with a formal qualification and training in leadership will definitely be able to apply some basic principles of leadership that they have learnt in the class room but even they learn much more while on OJT (On the Job Training). Some people may start their lives as leaders in a bit higher level of Orbit of Leadership while some at a very lower level of Orbit of Leadership. The real leaders are those who are eternal learners and keep scaling to higher and higher Orbits of Leadership.

You will also find some people in your life who keep getting promotions in their career due to the inbuilt system of promotions. They keep getting higher and higher responsibilities also but their performance is just about at an average level because they fail to mature as leaders commensurate to that position of authority and responsibility. Such people may have reached say level 5 of Orbit of Responsibility but they continue to demonstrate leadership qualities at a level 3 or 4 of Orbit of Leadership. They continue to get promotions because of the inherent inadequacies of the system despite their below par performance. This happens more in the government organizations and very less in the private organizations. However, exceptions are always there.

Great Leaders keep scaling higher and higher levels of Orbits of Leadership through their experience, wisdom and gut feeling. There are no formulae that need to be followed to become great leaders. But there are some generally accepted practices. They focus more on people and inspire them to achieve the organizational goal. They don’t waste their time on the unnecessary and the unimportant and in fact keep their mind uncluttered. For them, policies, rules and regulations are just guidelines and not absolute and holy truth that can’t be challenged. They are always willing to deviate and take the less trodden path. They don’t mind bending the rules if that helps the people and the organization and sometimes for their own selfish motive too. All leaders are not honest and men of integrity but then they are not Great Leaders. All leaders have their weaknesses too. But despite those weaknesses, they are able to lead as they focus on their strengths and not weaknesses.

So if you ask me, Leadership is Simple. The real leaders simplify things around them. In fact, they simplify their life, their home, their office, their desk and even the décor of their company. They even convey the vision and mission of their company in simple words and adopt a simple strategy to achieve their goal through simple procedures and processes. In nut shell, they simplify everything. Anybody, who uses complex methods and complicated procedures and communicates in a convoluted manner can be anything like a great scientist, a top scholar or a highly intellectual person or just an average leader at a lower Orbit of Leadership but he/she can’t be a Great Leader.
In one of the training program that I was conducting on leadership, one of the participants asked, “How to identify a leader?” My instant reply was; the one who demonstrates a tendency to lead, the one who is willing to traverse the unknown path, the one who is willing to take the additional responsibilities, the one who is willing to challenge the status quo. Here is an example that will clarify to some extent:

Fifteen to twenty people used to walk along the periphery of a park for their morning/ evening walk, each one at his/her own pace. Then one fine day, a new face, Mr X turns up. He watched people walking alone. He also started his walk and then a bit faster to catch up with the person just ahead of him. He introduced himself, shook hands and continued walking and chatting.

Next day, both of them started walking together and Mr X took the initiative and added one more person in their team. Within a week, five of them were walking together. They were chatting, exchanging views and adding more and more people. Within a month, someone’s birthday was celebrated in the park where 15 of them were present and then it became a routine. Mr X took the lead and proved that he was a Leader material. Same park, same people but now they were exchanging their happiness and sorrows with each other. One person with leadership qualities made the difference.

So in all social settings, we come across people who take the lead. You may be travelling in a train and some mishap happens. Majority of the people will collect their own stuff and look for the earliest opportunity to move away and reach their destination. While some will seize the initiative to help others in trouble without even knowing them. They have the basics of leadership in them, may be at the lowest level of Orbit of Leadership. Such people, when get opportunity demonstrate their leadership qualities at even higher levels of Orbits of Leadership. It is said that 5% people, make things happen; 15% people, watch things happening and 80% don’t know what the hell is happening. Those 5% people are leaders. So let me reiterate that Leadership is Simple and it is not a Rocket Science.