I have spent a last few months working, and reworking, on models of a leadership institute that I wanted to set up in India. I have gone through various discussions with business people, academicians and students and learners, and have looked at various options that are available to take a leadership training in India.
Obviously, there are quite a few alternatives as far as Leadership training is concerned. First of all, there are the business schools, starting with IIMs and Executive Leadership programmes, the Leadership training function/ facility at ISB Hyderabad, and countless others in all the major cities. Then, there are the special Executive training facilities and programmes, which come in both Western - the likes of Franklin Covey and Dale Carnegie Institutes - and Eastern - in the form of Art Of Living and various other soul-searching sessions - varieties. I have been particularly intrigued by a programme by Landmark Education, which is an international programme, but also available in certain Indian cities. These are typically a few days' programmes, which are held as Open programmes as well as In-Company programmes. I have met at least one company which prides itself for being a Landmark Graduate company, which means every employee of that company has been trained by Landmark Education. Besides that, indeed, almost every training facility inside every company run some kind of leadership programme, using content licensed from training content publishers or recycled from earlier training programmes. In short, there was no scarcity, but an abundance of options, in the leadership training market in India.
I must admit that, looking at such huge array options, I was slightly overwhelmed and started looking at wrong options. Much of my work over last few months were focused on how to adapt a Leadership Qualification programme from the UK for the Indian market. While I chose a top-grade qualification, there were several problems with this approach. It lacked the culture perspective, and I was making the same mistake I accuse others of doing - I was being culture-blind. Besides, I was succumbing to the lure of thinking about leadership in a mechanistic way, believing that this is something which you can pick up in a few sessions, and worse, pass an exam on to become a 'certified' leader, what travesty! I was so blinded by the need of novelty and differentiation, the marketer's holy grail, that I almost forgot about the value proposition.
Besides, I had a very supply side point of view. It was almost like - I think there is a good market in leadership training [Why I thought that way will be discussed in a moment] and what can we do to take advantage and make some money. The problem with that approach is that while this sounds entrepreneurial - identifying a gap in the market and thinking about a solution - it is not. There is always a very thin line between entrepreneurship and opportunism, and I think this is it: Both starts with looking at the gap in a market, but then, the entrepreneur tries to solve the problem and the opportunist tries to take advantage of it. The entrepreneur wishes the problem will go away; and, goes after big enough problems which takes awhile to go away and builds a sustainable business. The Opportunist wants the problem to stay - indeed that is the opportunity - and usually gets myopic, because every pothole looks like an opportunity.
But, I digress: the differences between entrepreneurship and opportunism should be left for another day. The problem with my thinking was that it was neither original, nor solving a problem. It was more about how do I stand out from this crowd and say that I have something different to offer. The worst temptation is to say that this programme is from UK, though I have learnt that it is actually an illusion. Those days are past when people wanted to pay a premium for anything UK: Today's India is a different, proud country. People want world class service and recognition, but globalization, awareness and competition have taught them to demand good value from everything that they look at. This was the problem with my solution - I never cared to think about what the leadership training is attempting to achieve.
I think my Deja Vu moment came while talking to Sudhakar Ram, the Chairman and MD of Mastek, who has set out to challenge the assumptions that our lives are built on. He is writing a collaborative book on the New Constructs [www.thenewconstructs.com], the key ideas that we inherited from our Industrial Age past and those that are in a state of dysfunction in the current 'connected' age. Sudhakar Ram identified seven such areas - Success, Learning, Work, Consumption, Wellness, Governance and Globalization - and started exploring each of these concepts to see how our ideas have become disconnected from the realities of the time we live in, both practically and morally. While we talked about various things, and after a while, I was very excited and peppered him with various questions, the futility of my idea was laid bare in front of my eyes - I was trying to build a leadership training programme on a framework which belong to another age.
And, indeed, the leadership programme I was working on till then was very 'industrial age' that way. I was even planning a full fledged module on time management, for god's sake! And the concept of time - as you can guess - was mono chronic, a simple straight line which you can get onto and time was a commodity you could save, waste and utilize: the straightforward Anglo-Saxon view of Time. Obviously, my Indian learners would have attended the programme with the concept of poly chronic time in their heads, where time is like air which you live inside, and you don't waste time because it is not a commodity to waste, but rather you wait for the right time to come for anything to happen. In the industrial, rather Victorian, perspective, the programme was alright - it was teaching the participants the most 'productive' way of using time. However, this is such a waste of effort in the connected age, today, because, to delve into Mr. Ram's thinking, work is not what you do but the role you play in the world. Suddenly, you control much less than you think, but your actions can have a much greater impact than you could imagine. It was rather obvious that I needed a complete rethink about the whole leadership training business.
This is what I am planning to do now. I have taken seriously another of Mr Ram's advise - some of the big problems can only be solved if the accountability of the business culture can be combined with long term orientation of a non-profit. This made me go back to where I started : Why did I think leadership is such a critical need in India? I thought India is at the moment of a huge demographic advantage. Nandan Nilkeni has written recently about India's demographic dividend in an essay in Strategy & Business, where he referred to a number of historical parallels. The message was obvious to read: This window of opportunity need to be taken advantage of. Now, India's education system, both the old and the new incarnations of it, is too focused on mechanical excellence, discipline of followership and conformity. It is hardly aligned to what we need to steer this demographic divided to our advantage. This is the time when we need great and good leaders, not just in business, but in education, public service and creative trades, who will bring a global perspective, ambition, integrity and much creativity.
I don't think the business schools, at least most of them, will offer this, because that's not what they are meant to do. Nor will the various short and sweet executive programmes - they mostly have a spatial, almost a mono-syllabic, view of what makes a leader. In fact, many of these programmes, and I have met some real cowboys who ran them, are actually counter-productive: They promote an Dirty Harry version of leadership, which does more harm than good. Besides, most of our leadership thinking is deeply industrial age, as Mr. Ram would point out, and are in dire need of repair.
So, this is my new project - a non-profit dedicated to developing leaders in India. This isn't going to be a high profile school with sprawling facilities to make prime time leaders. My goals are modest: this will be about discovering leaders among us and nurturing them. I know my abilities are limited and I plan to connect up with everyone who are interested in building this up. This blog post is my first step.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
In our age, the only way to be politically correct is to be democratic. This is a post-70s affair - those days, still, some people had alternative ideologies in mind. Those alternate ideas are dead and gone, long discredited, and it seems that we have only one system which can make people happy, free and live longer. So, we have this huge export industry of democracy, and democracy's warriors, which the American security establishment has lately become. The democracy's businessmen, the bond traders, the media barons and the Hollywood types, are feted everywhere. The consensus is deafening and dumbing. It is indeed awkward to ask now - whether democracy is the right system for every society. It indeed should be. Collective wisdom is better than individual autocracy. In societies where democratic elections have been few and far between, the popular vote has demonstrated the extra-ordinary political savvy of the usually disinterested masses. Democracy has proved to be an excell
It's not often that I get to do things I like, but, as it happens, the lockdown came with a little gift. I was asked to develop, by an Indian entrepreneur with a strong commitment to education, a framework for a Liberal Education for one of his schools. And, as a part of this exercise, I was asked to develop a critique of Indian Education, if only to set the context of the proposal I am to make. I claim to have some unusual - therefore unique - qualification to do this job. I am, after all, an outsider in all senses. I have lived outside India for a long time, but never went too far away, making it my field of work for most of the period. I have also been outside the academe but never too far away: Just outside the bureaucracy but intimately into the conversations. I worked in the 'disruptive' end of education without the intention to disrupt and in For-profit without the desire for profit. Along the way, the only thing I consistently did is study educatio
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.