Showing posts with label Leadership. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Leadership. Show all posts

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Lead without Title, Lead your Tribe.

Have you experienced random incidents in life that, at a surface level seem not connected, but if you reflect upon them, you can suddenly see the connection between them? 

Well, this happened to me, in the past few weeks.....

I was at Mount Forte College Bangalore, for a meeting regarding my Doctoral studies. Waiting for my turn to meet the professors, my eyes fell on a wall poster in the conference hall. It said 'Lead without Title'. I thought in my mind, what a powerful lesson on Leadership. So many of us wait to exhibit leadership thinking it comes with age, higher education, or position and title in society or organization, or when responsibility is given to us by a higher authority. But the fact of the matter is Leadership is an inner attribute and those who exhibit leadership first eventually receive the titles and positions (not the other way round). I have this habit of capturing standout moments of the day with my camera. So I took out my phone and took a photo.

Book authored by Seth Godin

Continuing to be seated and waiting, the message 'Lead without Title'  reminded me about the book 'Tribes' written by Seth Godin, which I am reading now. The author Seth Godin argues through his book that today everyone has an opportunity to be a Leader - to bring together a tribe of like-minded people and do amazing things. And yet too many people ignore the opportunity to lead because they are 'sheep walking' their way through their lives and work. He says, if you don't want to be sheep and instead have the desire to do fresh and exciting work, if you have a passion for what you want to do and the drive to make it happen, there is a tribe of fellow employees, or customers, or investors, or readers, just waiting for you to connect with them and lead them where they want to go. The wall poster 'Lead without Title' was a call out of the book Tribes, I smiled in my mind upon stumbling on this random connection.

Poet Noor at BIC on 21-Jan-2023

The third incident was a lived experience of mine which happened yesterday at BIC (Bangalore International Centre). I follow BIC events and try to attend them because BIC curates such a wonderful diverse plethora of speakers, performers, and sessions. Yesterday evening, there was an Urdu Poetry session by Noor (Seema). I was intrigued reading her profile - an Engineer, an MBA, a finance professional who studied Spanish and Urdu. She is now a Poet and Urdu language trainer/instructor. I registered myself for the event and reached BIC half an hour before the start time. Thank God that I reached early, I hadn't imagined the combined space of Hall 1 and Hall 2 would run out of sitting capacity. People were standing at the back, and the full-packed hall, where listening to Noor a young artist (possibly in her mid-30s) in rapt attention, engaging with her with Irshad, Doobara, and Wah Wah! and raptors of clapping. For me, this was a living example, a perfect case study from the book 'Tribes' and 'Leading without Title'. A young lady, an Engineer turned Urdu Poet finds her Tribe of Urdu poetry fans and engages with them in a housefull capacity. 

How amazing life is, if we pay attention, random events are connected. Isn't it? And how amazing life will be, if we all tune into our inner calling, find our Tribes, engage with them, and lead them without worrying about our titles. Think about it.

Links for references:


BIC event:

Noor's website:

Noor's Instagram handle:

Monday, October 30, 2023

How to Think Better? - Six Thinking Hats, Edward de Bono


Rene Descartes's observation "Cogito, ergo, sum" in Latin which translates into English as "I Think, therefore, I am", is one of the most famous sayings in modern Western philosophy.

The ability to Think is a unique quality of a human being and possibly it makes us humans, distinctively different from other animals.

However, Thinking can be a daunting task especially when we have to make a big decision in life, when we are dealing with a complex problem, or when we are dealing with an unprecedented event or situation in life. Thinking becomes stressful, and confusing because we get overwhelmed by dealing with too many things - emotions, information, logic, self-interest vs collective interests, weight of the consequences (what if?) etc.

Edward de Bono, the famous Psychologist was a strong advocate for teaching How to Think? to children in their school curriculum. He had devised a methodology for improving the quality of thinking. This Thinking Model is known as Six Thinking Hats.

Six Thinking Hats is a simple yet powerful concept. Each hat colour represents a particular dimension of thinking. All one needs to do (individual or group brainstorming) is to imagine putting on the Hat one at a time and focus on a particular aspect of thinking. 

There is no one right sequence to follow. Just that a blue hat should always be used both at the beginning and the end of the thinking session - like two bookends.

The process culminates by putting together this singular aspect of thinking (one thing at a time) just like putting together the pieces of a puzzle, to generate the final, complete picture.

The chart below summarizes the key concepts of 6 Thinking Hats:

As mentioned above the sequence of hats can be any, just that the Blue Hat needs to be used in the beginning and at the end of the Thinking process.

The first blue hat indicates:
Why and what we are thinking, define the problem statement, what we want to achieve (outcomes).

The final blue hat indicates:
What we have achieved (outcomes), final conclusion, solutions and plan of actions. 

Pun intended - with Edward de Bono's 6 Thinking Hats methodology, we can reframe "I think therefore, I am" to I Think Better therefore, I am better". 

Hope you found it useful and you add 6 Thinking Hats in your tool kit and solve your problems more effectively and efficiently.

For a detailed reading, you can pick up the book Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono (Penguin publications).

Thursday, October 5, 2023


If you are from India, you will know Bihar Government released the Caste Census Report last Sunday (2nd October). Before I lose my readers who are disinterested in politics, let me quickly tell them this Blog is not a commentary on the census report. Thanks for not scrolling away.

In this report, there was interesting data on ATHEISTS. The census report mentions a very small number of 2,146 atheists in a state of 137 million people.

This drew my attention to Shaheed Bhagat Singh's famous essay WHY I AM AN ATHEIST? which he wrote in a jail in Lahore, during his last days while waiting for the execution of his death sentence. So, I picked up the book from my bookshelf and indulged myself in reading it.

Once again if you are from India, Bhagat Singh needs no introduction. For the wider audience, Bhagat Singh is one of the most adored and loved Indian revolutionary and Freedom Fighter, a Youth Icon (in fact with time, his ideas grow more relevant). He was martyred at the young age of just 23 years but his inspired a whole new generation of freedom fighters and Indian freedom movement against the British Raj.

Coming back to Bhagat Singh's writing WHY I AM AN ATHEIST?

His writing is divided into two parts:

In the first part, he puts forth his arguments and reasons against those who attribute his Atheism to arrogance, pride, and vanity.

In the second part, he puts forth his arguments and reasons Why he became an Atheist.

Part 1:

Bhagat Singh was accused of becoming proud, arrogant, and full of vanity after he was shot to fame in the Delhi bombing and Lahore conspiracy cases. So he writes, that's not true. He was raised as a believer, offering morning and evening prayers and reciting mantras, by his father who was an Arya Samaji. He practiced Sikhism all through his elementary education and at D.A.V. College in Lahore.

He had started to think deeply about religion, about God during his college days overlapping the Non-Cooperation movement, much before the Delhi bombing and Lahore conspiracy cases.

Even when he joined the Revolutionary Party, he met a leader comrade Sachindara Nath Sanyal (he later served life imprisonment in connection with the Karachi conspiracy case). He was a Believer and his book Bandi Jivan has chapters in the Glory of God.

The Kakory martyrs Ram Prashad Bismal was an Arya Samaji and Rajan Lahiri recited hymns from Upanishads and Bhagwat Gita.

There was only one person he met in the revolutionary party who was Anti-religious (against organized religion) but did not deny the existence of GOD.

Bhagat Singh concludes by saying his Atheism is not due to arrogance or vanity. This is a development over a while after thinking long and deep on this matter. He grew skeptical by seeing the degraded values of society and eventually, he rejected the belief in the existence of an Omnipresent, all-powerful, all-knowing God.


Bhagat Singh mentions his early days when he joined the Revolutionary Party. He says, during those early days I was just a follower. Our party faced a lot of opposition pressure and we were not growing into a mass movement. These experiences seeded in him, a strong desire to study (read). He had a paradigm shift from Romance of Militancy to Realism in Thinking. He had a growing realization violence produces opposite results in a mass movement and that violence is to be practiced only in extreme situations. So he emerged himself into developing a clear conception and Ideology.

He studied Bakunin's God and State, Nirlamba Swami's Common Sense, and books written by Karl Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky. In the year 1926, he publicly declared to be an Atheist (just a small digress, Bhagat Singh's martyrdom day is 23rd March 1931 at the age of 23 years).

He does acknowledge that belief makes it easier to go through hardships. A man finds support, encouragement, and consolation in God.

He mentions being an Atheist is not an easy choice, because If no belief, there is no alternative but to be Self-dependant (self-reliant). He elaborates on his situation, now that his death sentence is confirmed and he is waiting for its execution in jail, he is missing out on finding Solace in God and he has no Hopes to entertain himself of a rebirth into a better life or an afterlife spent in heaven.

Despite this mental agony, he is firm in his conviction and he says, "A short life of struggle with no such magnificent end shall itself be my reward. I sacrificed my life for the cause of Freedom."

He calls himself a Realistic man, who can overpower circumstantial pain with Reason. Merciless criticism and Independent Thinking are the two necessary traits of Revolutionary Thinking. As Mahatma Gandhiji is great, he is above criticism, as he has risen above, all that he says in the field of politics, religion, and Ethics is right. You agree or not, it is binding upon you to take it as truth. This is not constructive thinking. We do not leap forward, we go many steps back.

Bhagat Singh makes a commentary on religion. He says, our human ancestors spent time solving the mysteries of the world, its past, its present, and its future, its whys, and its wherefores, but having been terribly short of direct proofs, every one of them tried to solve the problem in his own way. He mentions this lack of proof and reliance on philosophy makes our religions antagonistic and conflicting with each other. The claim of only one true religion is the root of all evil.

Instead of developing the ideas and experiments of ancient thinkers, we are making ideological weapons for future struggle. We are being lethargic, idle, and fanatical as we cling to orthodox religion and in this way, we are reducing human awakening to a stagnant pool.

He calls for action to every person who stands for Progress to Reason, because reason is the guiding principle of life and blind belief deprives one of understanding. He clarifies he is not advocating countering beliefs with beliefs, but rather challenging the efficacy of old beliefs with sound arguments and upholding the time-tested old beliefs which pass the litmus test of reasoning and build upon them further with new ideas to construct a new philosophy.

He ends his thought-provoking essay with questions for the Theists:

Why an Almighty, Omnipresent, Omniscient God create a world of woe, grief, and countless miseries and not of peace?

Nero burnt Rome, Genghis Khan killed thousands, and millions of people dying of hunger in slums. Can you say, "All is well in God's Kingdom?" Why so?

Why the Omnipotent God does not hold a man back when he is about to commit a sin or offense? After all, it's a child's play for God. Why does he have to wait to punish them in their afterlife or next birth and why do the poor and unfortunate have to suffer in their existence today?

Why does God not infuse humanistic sentiments into the minds of the Britishers so that they may willingly leave India? Why he does not fill the hearts of all capitalist classes with altruistic humanism which will free the whole laboring humanity from the shackles of money?

Bhagat Singh concludes by writing, as regards the origin of God, my thought is that man created God in his imagination when he realized his weaknesses, limitations, and shortcomings. In this way he got the courage to face all the trying circumstances and to meet all dangers that might occur in his life and also to restrain his outbursts in prosperity and affluence.

Being realistic comes at a cost, he has to throw his faith aside and face all adversaries with courage and valour. This is exactly my state of mind. As Bhagat Singh waits for his capital punishment, he writes "I don't think that by strengthening my belief in God and by offering prayers to Him, I can bring improvement in my situation, not can I further deteriorate it."

One of my friends asked me to pray during these last days of my life. I said, "No, dear sir, Never shall it happen. I consider it to be an act of degradation and demoralisation. For such petty selfish motives, I shall never pray." Readers and friends, is it vanity? If it is, I stand for it.” – Yours, Bhagat Singh

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Excerpts from the Book - My Experiments With Truth - M.K.Gandhi

2nd October Gandhi Jayanthi was an impetus for me to pick up MY EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH, which had been lying on my bookshelf for months if not for years.

My Experiments with Truth is an autobiographical memorabilia by Gandhiji recounting his days as a student in England (1888 to 1891), as a struggling Barrister in India, and his journey into public life and public affairs in South Africa (1893 onwards).

Sharing with you, a few interesting, insightful readings and fun facts from the book:

Certificate of Vegetarianism: Gandhi had given word to his mother that he would not take up eating meat during his stay in England (a student pursuing to become a Barrister). During the sea voyage, he asked one of his fellow European travelers to give him a certificate (testimony) that he didn't eat meat while onboard. This certificate was a prized possession for him until he found out that there were many Indians with such fake certificates :)

New Experiences and Developing New Habits: In England, Gandhi wanted to grow and develop beyond books by immersing themself in new experiences. So he left his single-room accommodation and moved in as a tenant with an Anglo-Indian family. He also developed new habits such as reading newspapers and books every day. While in South Africa (1885) he found Indians were discriminated against under the Law For Asiatics. Indians had no land ownership, no franchise, a curfew to move around after 9 p.m. and they could not use footpaths for walking. Gandhi wanted to experience What it is to be a Coolie? So he used to deliberately go out after 9 pm and used to walk on footpaths inviting trouble upon himself from the patrolling policemen of European origins. He got in touch with Indians living in Pretoria to interact with them and to study their conditions and hardships. He encouraged the Indians to unite, form an association, and jointly submit complaints to the authorities and gave them advice on how to improve their social, economic, and political conditions. He volunteered to teach English so that small-time Indian businessman could increase their income by catering to more clients.

Wave of Vegetarianism: Even back in those days, there was a wave of vegetarianism movement in England (Europe). Several books and speakers promoting the idea of Vegetarianism urging Europeans to shun meat. Salt's Plea for Vegetarianism, Howard Williams's The Ethics of Diet, and Anna Kingsford's The Perfect Way in Diet were several of the famous books in this category. Gandhi's first experience in organizing and conducting an institution came by running a Vegetarian Club in Bayswater.

Self-improvement: Gandhi from his early days was engaged in changing himself for the better. He was conscious of the hardship his family had to endure for his studies abroad so he actively found ways to cut down his expenses and increase his savings, he adopted a minimalist lifestyle and harmonized his inward and outward life. In his words, he describes, "My life was more truthful now".

Cultural Differences: During those days travelling overseas was a taboo for Indians. People who traveled abroad were outcasted by their society. Gandhi also faced the same obstacles but he defied these warnings from his community and pursued his ambition of studying in England. The concept of child marriage among Indians back then was quite common. This practice was uncommon among the Europeans. The Indian students would hide their marital status and pretend themselves to be bachelors to escape this awkwardness of cultural difference. On a different note, the cost of Drinks being more than the cost of food was an element of surprise for Gandhi.

Self-doubts and Overcoming them: It was interesting for me to find out that one of the tallest future leaders had so many self-doubts during his growing-up years. Gandhi had a fear of public speaking and he had a panic attack in his first case (Mamibai's case of Rs 30) as a barrister, when he had to present in front of the judge. He struggled to establish a successful career as a Barrister at Rajkot, so he moved to Bombay to practice without much success, he eventually returned to Rajkot and continued a self-sustained career as Barrister working for a law firm and taking up cases through referrals. Gandhi felt inadequate to be a successful Barrister and he approached one of his mentors to seek advice. He was told "Your general reading is meagre. You do not know the world. You have not read the history of India. You need to develop the ability to read a man's character from his face." This advice propelled him to immerse himself into wide and deeper reading to engage actively in public affairs and eventually make history.

Reflections of the society of those times: In 1893 in South Africa, Indian immigrants comprised Merchants (Muslim, Hindu, and Parsi) and Labourers which was the largest class (Tamilians, Teleguites, North Indians). The laborers were called Girmitiyas, also commonly referred to as Coolie or Samis. The Merchant class and the Girmitiyas had business relations only and no other social mixing. There was predominate Colour Prejudice and we all know the infamous incidence of Gandhi being thrown out of 1st class compartment by railway police, despite having a legitimate ticket. Those days 1st and 2nd class tickets were not issued to men and women of colour. Even though the macro and general trend of the society were prejudices against men and women of color, he did encounter several British (Mr. Jacobus De Wet, Mr. Coates, etc.) who were respectful and considerate towards Indians and their plight.

Religion and Spirituality: Ironically Gandhi was introduced into reading Bhagawat Gita in England, through Sir Edwin Arnold's English translation of Gita called The Song Celestial. He also read another book called The Light of Asia. His faith in prayers and belief in the Almighty grew stronger by the day through his readings and practice of rituals. In his words, "When every hope is gone, when helpers fail and comfort flee, I find that help arrives somehow, from I know not where." During his stay in South Africa, his exposure to Christianity grew and he read the holy books Bible and Koran. Leo Tolystoy's book The Kingdom of God Is Within You, had a big impact on him. He was a practicing, proud Hindu but he stayed away from the belief that any religion for that matter Hindu, Christianity, Islam, and others flawless, supreme, and perfect.

Entry into Public Life: Gandhi's entry into public life was not a pre-planned, strategically thought-through move. The opportunity of working for 1 year at a Law firm in South Africa can as luck by chance. Taking up this opportunity was an economic decision as it would provide him with a steady income as he was struggling to establish his practice in Rajkot. Apart from working for the law firm in South Africa, he used to utilize his free time networking and getting to know the Indians settled in Pretoria. This made him aware of the challenges and injustices they used to face daily. Armed with his legal knowledge, he started to counsel them and guided them in forming an association to make a collective voice in shaping legislatures taking into consideration the interests of Indians.

Ending with a fun fact. Did you know when Eiffel Tower was inaugurated amidst a great exhibition, it drew crowds from worldwide? Gandhi also traveled to see the Eiffel Tower from England. However, during those times, not everyone was in love with Eiffel Tower. There were many critics too. Leo Tolstoy said, "Eiffel Tower was a monument of man's folly, not of his wisdom."

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Leadership: Strategic & Tactical approaches

Leadership effectiveness emerges out from the confluence of Strategic & Tactical approaches. It is also a poignant reminder to us, not to fall into the trap of overt singular usage of just one skill-set but to be mindful of the inter-dependency of Strategic & Tactical approaches for a meaningful, successful outcome.

The quote "Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." by Sun Tzu underlines the importance of strategy & tactics for a successful outcome.

Leadership would be significantly flawed if there is over-reliance on tactics & due importance is not given to strategy.

Though Sun Tzu comes from a military background, the importance of Strategy-Tactics finds application in all fields of human endeavours. For example in competitive Sports, lot of strategising happens between the coach, captain & technical experts before stepping on the field. Once on the field, the players tactically respond to the changing dynamics of the match situation. The break-time, is once again utilized to re-strategise & tactical play returns in the scheme of things when match resumes.

In my mind, strategic thinking & deployment of strategy needs conscious effort & it's not intuitive. As we all are drawn towards the path of least resistance, the tactical approach route has more footfalls than the uphill route of strategy, until it becomes a habit with regular practice.

Why Strategic thinking & deployment of strategy needs conscious effort? 
  • One has to learn how to think
  • One has to set aside ego & biases
  • Acceptance of blind-spots (I know what I know, but I don't know what I don't know)
  • Multi-disciplinary approach & Synthesis mindset
  • Engage in consultative, democratic brainstorming session
  • Embrace contrary views & don't shoot down the messenger
  • Demands skills like being proactive, planning, risk anticipation & risk mitigation
  • It is about responding & not reacting
  • Two way communication is key to be able to strategise correctly, to convey the strategy, keep stakeholders engaged with the strategy over time & to revisit the strategy with the ongoing dynamics of changing realities
After consciously setting the strategic direction, the tactical approach has to be also leveraged for a robust process. The importance of tactical approaches are:
  • Recognition of the fact, we are living in a dynamic reality
  • Dynamic changes demands real time responsiveness
  • Good tactical response is based on intelligence, situational awareness & being proactive
  • Keeps the daily actions & activities aligned to the established strategic direction
  • On the ground, practical implementation of the strategy    
We would all have anecdotal stories of our positive experiences of strategic-tactical synergies and not so positive experiences when strategic & tactical approaches have not been in sync. These personal stories serves as a poignant reminder, to save guard ourselves from falling into the trap of polarity usage of just one skill-set. Meaningful success outcomes is driven by effective leadership, which demands both, strategic & tactical approaches.

Note: The reference has been deliberately made to the attribute (Leadership) & not to the title (Leader),because I firmly believe being a leader is agnostic of a formal designation or role. The other way to look at it is, many formal leaders come short in their leadership while many informal leaders with strong leadership qualities are not in formal position either by design or by choice.