Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Leadership is caring deeply

Head over to Dinesh and Bawa's blog and read Antoine's account of getting couple of folks to get rid of their dependency and while you do that, do not forget to drop in a line to Antoine and most importantly do write to Erika and Patricia as well.

Real Service comes from the heart

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Taking Responsibility - Leadership in Action

[Via BBC News]

Around the world millions of children are not getting a proper education because their families are too poor to afford to send them to school. In India, one schoolboy is trying to change that. In the first report in the BBC's Hunger to Learn series, Damian Grammaticas meets Babar Ali, whose remarkable education project is transforming the lives of hundreds of poor children.

At 16 years old, Babar Ali must be the youngest headmaster in the world. He's a teenager who is in charge of teaching hundreds of students in his family's backyard, where he runs classes for poor children from his village.

The story of this young man from Murshidabad in West Bengal is a remarkable tale of the desire to learn amid the direst poverty.

Babar Ali's day starts early. He wakes, pitches in with the household chores, then jumps on an auto-rickshaw which takes him part of the 10km (six mile) ride to the Raj Govinda school. The last couple of kilometres he has to walk.

The school is the best in this part of West Bengal. There are hundreds of students, boys and girls. The classrooms are neat, if bare. But there are desks, chairs, a blackboard, and the teachers are all dedicated and well-qualified.

As the class 12 roll-call is taken, Babar Ali is seated in the middle in the front row. He's a tall, slim, gangly teenager, studious and smart in his blue and white uniform. He takes his notes carefully. He is the model student.

Babar Ali is the first member of his family ever to get a proper education. 

"It's not easy for me to come to school because I live so far away," he says, "but the teachers are good and I love learning. And my parents believe I must get the best education possible that's why I am here."

Raj Govinda school is government-run so it is free, all Babar Ali has to pay for is his uniform, his books and the rickshaw ride to get there. But still that means his family has to find around 1,800 rupees a year ($40, £25) to send him to school. In this part of West Bengal that is a lot of money. Many poor families simply can't afford to send their children to school, even when it is free.

Chumki Hajra is one who has never been to school. She is 14 years old and lives in a tiny shack with her grandmother. Their home is simple A-frame supporting a thatched roof next to the rice paddies and coconut palms at the edge of the village. Inside the hut there is just room for a bed and a few possessions.

Every morning, instead of going to school, she scrubs the dishes and cleans the homes of her neighbours. She's done this ever since she was five. For her work she earns just 200 rupees a month ($5, £3). It's not much, but it's money her family desperately needs. And it means that she has to work as a servant everyday in the village.

"My father is handicapped and can't work," Chumki tells me as she scrubs a pot. "We need the money. If I don't work, we can't survive as a family. So I have no choice but to do this job."

But Chumki is now getting an education, thanks to Babar Ali. The 16-year-old has made it his mission to help Chumki and hundreds of other poor children in his village. The minute his lessons are over at Raj Govinda school, Babar Ali doesn't stop to play, he heads off to share what he's learnt with other children from his village.

At four o'clock every afternoon after Babar Ali gets back to his family home a bell summons children to his house. They flood through the gate into the yard behind his house, where Babar Ali now acts as headmaster of his own, unofficial school.

Lined up in his back yard the children sing the national anthem. Standing on a podium, Babar Ali lectures them about discipline, then study begins.

Babar Ali gives lessons just the way he has heard them from his teachers. Some children are seated in the mud, others on rickety benches under a rough, homemade shelter. The family chickens scratch around nearby. In every corner of the yard are groups of children studying hard.

Babar Ali was just nine when he began teaching a few friends as a game. They were all eager to know what he learnt in school every morning and he liked playing at being their teacher.

Now his afternoon school has 800 students, all from poor families, all taught for free. Most of the girls come here after working, like Chumki, as domestic helps in the village, and the boys after they have finished their day's work labouring in the fields.  
"In the beginning I was just play-acting, teaching my friends," Babar Ali says, "but then I realised these children will never learn to read and write if they don't have proper lessons. It's my duty to educate them, to help our country build a better future." Including Babar Ali there are now 10 teachers at the school, all, like him are students at school or college, who give their time voluntarily. Babar Ali doesn't charge for anything, even books and food are given free, funded by donations. It means even the poorest can come here.

 "Our area is economically deprived," he says. "Without this school many kids wouldn't get an education, they'd never even be literate."
Seated on a rough bench squeezed in with about a dozen other girls, Chumki Hajra is busy scribbling notes.

 Her dedication to learning is incredible to see. Every day she works in homes in the village from six in the morning until half past two in the afternoon, then she heads to Babar Ali's school. At seven every evening she heads back to do more cleaning work.
Chumki's dream is to one day become a nurse, and Babar Ali's classes might just make it possible.

 The school has been recognised by the local authorities, it has helped increase literacy rates in the area, and Babar Ali has won awards for his work.

 The youngest children are just four or five, and they are all squeezed in to a tiny veranda. There are just a couple of bare electric bulbs to give light as lessons stretch into the evening, and only if there is electricity.

 And then the monsoon rain begins. Huge drops fall as the children scurry for cover, slipping in the mud. They crowd under a piece of plastic sheeting. Babar Ali shouts an order. Lessons are cancelled for the afternoon otherwise everyone will be soaked. Having no classrooms means lessons are at the mercy of the elements.

 The children climb onto the porch of a nearby shop as the rain pours down. Then they hurry home through the downpour. Tomorrow they'll be back though. Eight hundred poor children, unable to afford an education, but hungry for anything they can learn at Babar Ali's school.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Doctor interrupts after 18 seconds.....

[Via Tom Peters presentation at Mumbai]:

Listening is ... the ultimate mark of Respect.
Listening is ... the heart and soul of Engagement.
Listening is ... the heart and soul of Kindness.
Listening is ... the heart and soul of Thoughtfulness.
Listening is ... the basis for true Collaboration.
Listening is ... the basis for true Partnership.
Listening is ... a Team Sport.
Listening is ... a Developable Individual Skill.* (*Though women are far better at it than men.)
Listening is ... the basis for Community.
Listening is ... the bedrock of Joint Ventures that work.
Listening is ... the bedrock of Joint Ventures that last.
Listening is ... the core of Effective Cross-functional Communication*
                        (*Which is in turn Attribute #1 of organizational effectiveness.)
Listening is ... the engine of superior EXECUTION.
Listening is ... the key to making the Sale.
Listening is ... the key to Keeping the Customer’s Business.
Listening is ... the engine of Network development.
Listening is ... the engine of Network maintenance.
Listening is ... the engine of Network expansion.
Listening is ... Learning.
Listening is ...the sine qua non of Renewal.
Listening is ...the sine qua non of Creativity.
Listening is ...the sine qua non of Innovation.
Listening is ... the core of taking Diverse opinions aboard.
Listening is ... Strategy.
Listening is ... Source #1 of “Value-added.”
Listening is ... Differentiator #1.
Listening is ... Profitable.*
                        (*The “R.O.I.” from listening is higher than from any other single activity.)
Listening underpins ... Commitment to EXCELLENCE
 And I guess he missed out stating the obvious.....Listening is Love in Action

Friday, October 9, 2009

Facilitating the APEX Program

Cross Posted from my blog:

[I am] in the ashram currently, facilitating the APEX program to 35 leaders of a leading Telecom Infrastructure company from all over India – Jammu to Madurai and Ahmedabad to Guwahati and all over in-between. Inviting them to commence a leadership journey based on the principles of love and inspiration.
And I am enjoying every bit of it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Silver Tsunami

Last evening I had a very interesting discussion with the CEO of an Indian IT company, in the context of APEX Program. Apart from the program, we conversed on a wide range of topics, cloud computing, autonomic computing, future of IT, future of Indian IT industry etc and then inevitably the conversation turned towards CSR and I was delighted to hear from him that he was instrumental in driving the hiring of people with disabilities to over 1% of the total workplace.

While the 1% looks small, but given the large workpool that Indian IT companies have, it translates to quite a big number.

I came back happy, getting to know a leader who really cared about the society and translated that care and empathy into action.

Today, the 800-CEO-Read blog had a post about a new book titled Dive In. This is what 800-CEO-Read had to say. BTW I really really envy the guys at 800-CEO-Read....they get to read the latest books. Not sure if this a viable business model out here in India.
Fifty-four million American adults live with a disability. Add to that tens of millions of parents of children with special needs and mature workers with age related disabilities and the number grows.
Why are these numbers important to your company, agency, organization, or school? Because these people make up the special needs workforce a group of talented employees that you cannot afford to overlook. Unlike many books about employing the disabled, Nadine Vogel includes in the special needs workforce parents of children with special needs and workers with age-related disabilities.

In this book she presents the business case for hiring and supporting this untapped and under-used workforce. She demonstrates the value of inclusion with statistics, anecdotal evidence, and examples from the world's most successful companies.

Vogel not only encourages employers to consider this under-used group, but also presents concrete how-to information and best practices from in-the-know corporations. In Dive In, she maps out a plan for inclusion that can increase your company's productivity, elevate your status with your customers, and position your company as an employer of choice.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Cultivate Love

Steve Farber, author of several books on Leadership writes:

Do what you love in the service of people who love what you do.
The emotion of love is considered to be out of place or simply inappropriate in the world of business. Many believe that good business people keep their hearts out of their work. The opposite is true. It's the heart that brings the fire of creativity to bear on the day-to-day. It's the heart that inspires drive, loyalty and leaps of innovative brilliance.

The word, "love," appears frequently in the leadership literature, and in many studies, love is identified as an important ingredient in productive leader/follower and coach/employee relationships. In research conducted at the Tom Peters Company, we found that in order to be an effective coach, you have to care about the person you're coaching. You can't simply go through the motions because you're so obliged.

I use the word, "love," in the broadest sense. I'm not saying that you should fall in love with everyone you work with. That could get a bit complicated, to say the least. I am saying that you have to find something to care deeply about in your business and in each individual that touches your business. And it has to be real. And they have to know it.

The key, then, is to find a way to genuinely and sincerely love the customer and then act from that level of motivation. Great business relationships are won in ways analogous to romantic relationships: by paying nearly obsessive attention to the needs, desires, hopes and aspirations of the other person. By knowing not only when to stand firm on your own principles but also when to sacrifice your short-term needs for the long-term relationship.
And by proving through your own actions that you really mean it, and that you're not simply following the advice that you gleaned from the latest training program. The Extreme Leader -- in other words -- actually does love the customer and strives, therefore, to enhance the customer's life.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Courage and Love are more powerful than force

[Via Nipun Mehta's blog] A must read post on Leadership. I haven't heard or read about this book, but will put it in my to read list.

 I happened upon an unread book sitting on my desk -- A Higher Standard of Leadership: Lessons from the Life of Gandhi, by Keshavan Nair.
In so many ways, Keshavan Nair's first chapter really articulates all that I am feeling today ... so here it is:

In putting forward a path to a higher standard of leadership, there is no greater exemplar than Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Gandhi spent more than fifty years in public life and is best known for leading hundreds of millions of people against one of the greatest empires in the history of the World.  
In contrast to the other political leaders and military commanders of his time -- men such as Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Churchill, Roosevelt, de Gaulle, Eisenhower, Montgomery, Patton and MacArthur -- Gandhi wore no resplendent uniform, commanded no armies, and held no government position.  Instead he preached and -- more importantly -- lived the gospel of truth and nonviolence and demonstrated through his life of service the oneness of humanity.  He reminded the world that the human spirit is indomitable and that courage and love are more powerful than force.  The world acknowledged his special place when the United Nations flew its flag at half-mast when he was assassinated.  He is the only individual with no connection to any government or international organization for whom this has been done.
Gandhi had many of the qualities we associate with a successful leaders. In addition to courage and determination, he could sustain high energy level for extended periods, he was decisive, he had great interpersonal skills, he was thoughtful but action oriented, and he paid great attention to the details of implementation.
Gandhi's life was not governed by policies; it was governed by principles and values. The best political leaders have their country as the source of passion. Business leaders have as their passion the organization, whether it is through customers, products, or technology. Gandhi's life was driven by his religion: truth and nonviolence and life of service to others.  When a journalist asked Gandhi for a message for the United States, especially for African Americans, Gandhi responded, "My life is its own message."
The lessons from Gandhi's life challenge our beliefs about the standard of leadership -- beliefs that many of us have come to accept as necessary for success. While most leaders identify with symbols of power to elevate themselves above the people they lead, Gandhi symbolized the people he was trying to serve. He tried to be like them with his lion cloth and his commitment to voluntary poverty. He symbolized service rather than power.
Gandhi believed in a single standard of conduct in public and private life -- a standard founded on integrity derived from the absolute values of truth and nonviolence.  He believed that individuals must have ideals and try to live up to them, and he demonstrated that an idealist could be practical and effective.  His claim, however, was to integrity, not infallibility.  He made his share of mistakes but was not afraid to acknowledge them.  He did not strive for consistency except in his quest for the truth.
As all policies, strategies, and laws ultimately have an impact on people or the environment, Gandhi believed moral principles had to be included in setting goals, selecting strategies, and making decisions.  He worked for the betterment of all people so they could enjoy freedom from fear and exploitation.
Some of Gandhi's ideas may seem irrelevant today -- applicable only to his time and place.  But on the fundamental  values of truth, nonviolence and service, he had a message for the ages.  He asked us to reject not only physical violence, but violence to the spirit.  It becomes more self-evident every day, that if we do not embrace the ideal of nonviolence, societies all over the world will deteriorate to the point where life will be intolerable.
Today we talk about controlling physical violence with more violence and controlling spiritual violence with laws.  Maybe its necessary.  But I believe that the long-term solution is to put before us, especially the young, the ideal of nonviolence of the brace.  We need a new heroic ideal: the brave, the truthful, nonviolence individual who is in the service of humanity, resists injustice and exploitation, and leads by appealing to our ideals and our spirit.  Such a heroic ideal is embodied in Gandhi.
Gandhi's life point the way to a higher standard of leadership in which integrity based on a single standard of conduit is central, a spirit of service is imperative, and decisions and actions are bound by moral principles.

May we all be the change we wish to see in the world!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Speaking to passion

The Art of Possibility by Zander and Zander is a book that I heartily recommend. A very easy read based on the life experience of authors. They call it the book of practices. Go engage with it.

"Listening for passion and commitment is the practice of the silent conductor whether the players are sitting in the orchestra, on the management team, or on the nursery floor. How can this leader know how well he is fulfilling his intention? He can look in the eyes of the players and prepare to ask himself, "Who am I being that they are not shining?" He can invite information and expression. He can speak to their passion. He can look for an opportunity to hand them the baton."