Learnings from a Leader

The Harvard Business Review has recently called forth for more leaders to step out of the cloaks of the regular 9 to 5 rigmarole. Urging youngsters onto a path of self-discovery and social innovation, the acclaimed journal states that NOW is the time to clarify and refine leadership vision for future generations of inspired industrialists. To do this, the current leadership needs to both articulate the values that drive them today and also re-examine long term goals from the viewpoint of country’s overall economic growth as well as the evolving trends across industries combined with fast changing consumer mindset. To say that it’s a mammoth task would be an understatement.

So, what does it take to be a true leader? To lead people of all ages and to inspire them to deeds greater than they themselves would have ever envisioned.

It is widely believed that experience gained the hard way, expert knowledge that comes from time and firmly developed connections make for a leader great. Yet, does age alone make a leader noteworthy? The modern business world is now grappling with a growing number of CEO’s who are well under the age of thirty. Young Leaders such as Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and our very own Sabeer Bhatia of Hotmail have conquered dizzying heights, creating their own experiences as they went proving the fact that the spirit of a leader is not demarcated by their age, rather it is their raw ability to inspire others towards the success of a specific vision.

A true leader is able to motivate the young and old alike, and in fact helps to bridge the gap between the generations. Their thinking is not restricted by the norms set by the society on ‘age-appropriateness’ nor are do they forsake the society for they know that it is this very society that will buy their goods or services. So what is it that makes them successful? Is it tact, diplomacy, negotiation skills, an enviable thick-skin or the never-say-die attitude even when facing failure? It is all of this and more.

However, here are the 9 habits you must learn from the true leaders:

  1. They actively seek wisdom. They learn from other’s experiences, always willing to listen and talk only when necessary. One cannot learn everything through a hands-on experience and this is where the ability to listen and learn from others plays a major role in their own success. The power of the collective cannot be ignored. Effective leaders always listen to the advice of team members and peer groups.
  2. Hearing advice is one thing; acting upon it is quite the other! Leaders do not act on other people’s advice blindly. One must learn to listen to as many perspectives and viewpoints on a given problem as possible and then apply your own analysis (with the best data in hand) to the situation before taking the leap.
  3. DO NOT be afraid of starting afresh. Don’t get immobilised into inaction for the fear of potential failure. To not try is the worst kind of failure ever. Wise Leaders take calculated risks, but never stop taking risks. Risks come with obstacles. It is sheer foolishness to believe that you can win the war without losing a few battles along the way but don’t let that stop you from starting something new.
  4. Don’t assume you know it all after you have discussed and analysed the problem thoroughly. You might still be feeling confused or ill-at-ease. A true leader never shies away from seeking expert advice. Consult professionals to better understand the risks and benefits attached to a given decision or venture.
  5. Leaders appreciate diversity, be it age or socio-economic norms or even culture! The 15-year-old Miss-India-wannabe may just be the right target group for your product or service. That young office boy from Bihar who just started working at the IT department may have insights on how his needs and expectations from a bottle of coconut oil are so different from that of an urban middle class housewife. Invaluable insights that even the most extensive (and certainly expensive) research agencies might miss out on.
  6. True leaders celebrate the differences at the workplace. They treat human resources as their chief asset and their priority is always to make for a well-balanced and unique team. Good leaders pro-actively seek out talent, put them in the right roles and then continue to monitor them till they know the resource is well on his/ her way. Simply providing the required support in terms of funds or hardware is not sufficient to develop and retain exceptional talent.
  7. True leaders never underestimate others. They set their standards high, always believe in their team and help it rise to the occasion.
  8. It is often said that a true leader creates more leaders and not mere followers. This is the one differentiating factor that separates the pretentious from those who actually bear the flag. A leader knows that creating the perfectly balanced team with the right people is not enough and that the team needs to be given the autonomy to execute without the fear of being fired at the first sign of trouble.
  9. True Leaders believe in their vision and dare to dream big. Experience and failure tend to make the more veterans cautious, yet every now and then businesses demand an ambitious vision to chase. The most successful entrepreneurs in the world dreamt big and took risks. They have also fallen flat on their faces (more than once) and yet they have carried on the pursuit.

For experienced leaders in India, the responsibility runs profound. They must keep their eye out for the best young talent and give them the tools to help their entrepreneurial undertakings grow.One such leader who has taken up the mantel is Mr Harsh Mariwala, Chairman Marico Ltd and Founder of ASCENT.

Marico has been awarded many a times by prestigious organisations such as Business Today and NDTV Profit as one of India’s most Innovative companies.

Marico’s success story has been charted by Mr Mariwala himself who epitomises the tenets mentioned above. A keen observer who firmly believes in the ‘power of collective’ to mobilise social innovation, Mr Mariwala believes that the entrepreneurial spirit must be nurtured in a conducive environment that will allow growth ready and ambitious entrepreneurs to gather knowledge and insights so as to realise their dreams and this is the very foundation on which ASCENT has been built upon.

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