At the outset, I must apologise for the delay and inconvenience caused to you.
Yes, that's very important-to owe up to your mistakes. Two things happen once you take up the blame: First, the person who has committed the mistake grows up from within. He doesn't live in constant denial of the wrong doing and saves himself from falling into the endless cycle of lies to cover up his tracks. Second, the public around appreciates the honesty of the person and tend to forgive him. And this beautifully sets the tone for my topic today, that is, leadership.
An entrepreneur, above all, needs to be a leader first. How?
I will give you examples from my own life which revolves around rugby, movies, and my NGO called The Foundation. From each of these three spheres of life I have learned something valuable about leadership, which I would like to share with you. To start with, let's talk about leadership lessons I have learned from rugby.
Team Game- In rugby, one of the most physically demanding and bone-crushing sports, you can either live with 14 others or die alone. For that matter any sport will teach you this- You can't do things on our own and succeed in a long run. You have to have a team on whom you can trust and delegate tasks.
Style of leadership- Two school of thoughts here: There are people who say a leader should lead from the front. And then some people believe a leader should be non-interfering and must give chance to their sub-ordinates to lead by delegating important tasks to them. I would say, we need both the styles of leadership depending upon the situation and circumstances. You lead from the front when you need to set a benchmark and show the right path to your colleagues. Equally important is to take a backseat at times and let your sub-ordinates take charge when you know then can deliver better than you. And that brings me to my third point.
Its not bad to have a co-leader- there is absolutely no disgrace in appointing a co-leader and look for people who have better or complementary skill sets. Remember, it needs a great deal of confidence in admitting that you don't know everything. Colleagues will appreciate you for that and you will be more secure in your position. What matters is the success of the team, your company.
Cool head and a hot heart- Life is also a game and you need to play it passionately. While dealing with professional problems, most of the times, we tackle it with a hot head and cool heart. What we need to do is to face it with a cool head and hot heart. Believe me, everybody feels fear, it's what you do with it that matters. Whenever you have a self-doubt, acknowledge it and face it by giving your 100%. In the acknowledgement fear goes.
Be graceful under pressure- To me, it's the most essential leadership quality; and the most rare one to find too. It's easy to be a good human being in normal circumstances. Under pressure, if any person shows empathy towards others, still ready to help out colleagues and sub-ordinates, compassionate towards other people causes, then he has learnt the most important lesson in leadership.
Now let me share with you lessons learnt while directing my first movie. It's a different ball game all together. While playing rugby, you are dependent on other team players but on a movie set you are a complete monarch. It's an autocracy of the highest order. No wonder, some of the world's biggest megalomaniacs have directed a movie or made a short film at some point of their life. It is the most amazing ego-feeding phase of your life.
Don't hesitate to say I don't know- On the first day of the shoot, I called the complete crew to the set- lightsmen, camera crew, set design, spot boys, and production team- and made an important announcement. I told them that I don't know how to direct a movie but I have a dream and I trust on the individual competency and experience of each one of you guys to make it into a film. That set the ball rolling. On the day of the film's release, I got a call from an unknown number. It was Raju lightwala who called me up in the dead of the night to critic the film. "Iss scene mein aapka thoda haath fisal gaya hai." He explained his views and discussed scenes threadbare. That sense of empowerment where a lightwala can call a director in the midnight to critic the film was a huge reward for me.
If you don't see the end of it, you can't do it- As a director of a movie unless you have a certain idea about how the shot needs to be executed no technicians or actors can help you out. Same thing holds true for an entrepreneur too. Unless you have a vision where you want to take your company no employee can chalk out the company's path on your behalf.
I set up my NGO called The Foundation about two years ago and have learnt some simple but unique lessons, which holds true for entrepreneurs also.
Never ever over promise- in social field, we deal with the hopes and expectations of many people looking for help. It's important to under promise and over deliver and that hold's true for start-up entrepreneurs too.
Find the basic reason why you are doing so- For example, The Foundation is based on simple principle- To do everything with love and to spread love around. Entrepreneurs can ask questions themselves? Why you have started a company? What's the goal of your company? Once the reason of its existence is clear, hold on it through bumpy rides as it will act as an anchor, encourage you constantly and keep the goal always in sight.
Listen to people whom you are helping- You never know, which gesture of yours can touch the hearts of many people. After 2005 tsunami, I had gone to Kamortha islands, which is located at the southern-tip of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, to organise pick-up truck to ferry people in emergency. The tribal chiefs were overwhelmed; no, not by the truck, but an outsider traveling this far to meet them. Tribals didn't ask for any aid. All they wanted from me was to visit this place more often.
Finally, I would like to leave you with few pointers, which I feel are important to be a good entrepreneur and above all, a good human being:
- Keep your eyes and ears open and stay connected to the world as what happens around you-socially, politically, economically, environmentally-has a direct bearing to your business too
- Stay engaged in your act but get detached from the success or failure.
- Learn from the past, be calm and focused about the future, but, always stay in the present. Before grandiose long-term plans, you need to put your act together everyday to run the business efficiently.
- Never ever lie
- Oscillate between thick skin and thin skin- Learn to stonewall opposition, criticism from others if have decided to follow your dream, which may seem irrational to others. At the same time, also ensure that you have enough pores open where one or two positive criticism permeates through and guides you on a corrective path
- Fix three values you believe in and judge your values and actions on it, always. It will give you a reason to say a firm Yes or No in life.
- Do it slow but do it right