“Leadership”- a role, a responsibility and a learning experience. A leader is not some person that everyone takes orders from, he is the person everyone looks forward to in guiding them to do the right thing. A leader listens to and regards its people’s opinions and uses them in their best interests. A leader is always inclined towards the growth of his people, mending their mistakes and making them learn from it. Effective leaders know the organization’s overall purpose and goals, and the agreed-upon strategies to achieve these goals; they also know how their team fits into the big picture, and the part they play in helping the organization grow and thrive. But most of all, a good leader is someone who inspires. Inspire to become something bigger, have bigger dreams, mend your mistakes, grow as a person, to perform better and to be brave.
Good leaders command respect, and not demand it. He not only shows the way, but stays right beside the people in their journey. He does not make you follow him; he holds your hands and takes you with him. He sees the greater good and all his actions are directed to achieve that good. A good leader is a visionary, but at the same time practical too. He knows the potential of his organization and sets practical goals. He is the source of motivation for his people and in some way becomes a role-model for them. A good leader takes responsibility when something goes wrong and gives the spotlight to its people when they succeed. Lets hear an account of leadership from the pages of life of Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, the world-renowned modest iconic leader.
In 1973 I became the project director of India's satellite launch vehicle program, commonly called the SLV-3. Our goal was to put India's "Rohini" satellite into orbit by 1980. I was given funds and human resources -- but was told clearly that by 1980 we had to launch the satellite into space. Thousands of people worked together in scientific and technical teams towards that goal.
By 1979 -- I think the month was August -- we thought we were ready. As the project director, I went to the control center for the launch. At four minutes before the satellite launch, the computer began to go through the checklist of items that needed to be checked. One minute later, the computer program put the launch on hold; the display showed that some control components were not in order. My experts -- I had four or five of them with me -- told me not to worry; they had done their calculations and there was enough reserve fuel. So I bypassed the computer, switched to manual mode, and launched the rocket. In the first stage, everything worked fine. In the second stage, a problem developed. Instead of the satellite going into orbit, the whole rocket system plunged into the Bay of Bengal. It was a big failure.
That day, the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, Prof. Satish Dhawan, had called a press conference. The launch was at 7:00 am, and the press conference -- where journalists from around the world were present -- was at 7:45 am at ISRO's satellite launch range in Sriharikota [in Andhra Pradesh in southern India]. Prof. Dhawan, the leader of the organization, conducted the press conference himself. He took responsibility for the failure -- he said that the team had worked very hard, but that it needed more technological support. He assured the media that in another year, the team would definitely succeed. Now, I was the project director, and it was my failure, but instead, he took responsibility for the failure as chairman of the organization.
The next year, in July 1980, we tried again to launch the satellite -- and this time we succeeded. The whole nation was jubilant. Again, there was a press conference. Prof. Dhawan called me aside and told me, "You conduct the press conference today."
I learned a very important lesson that day. When failure occurred, the leader of the organization owned that failure. When success came, he gave it to his team. The best management lesson I have learned did not come to me from reading a book; it came from that experience.
Thus we see how such small gestures from a leader can have a heart-warming effect on the people. It is the reason why people look up to him. The idea lies in being modest and appreciating the little things. True leaders do not create followers, they create more leaders. So you think you can be a leader? Irrespective of whatever answer you have, the true answer to this question is,” Yes, you can.” Being a leader might sound as something too sublime for us to become. But actually each one of us possesses the quality of leadership. Nobody is a born leader. It’s dormant and needs to be awakened when the right time comes. If you have passion for helping people, or for taking up the charge; then yes you can, yes you can.
By Piyush Barskar