He sang, he romanced, and floored every hard-nosed corporate honcho at the IIM Bangalore’s first-ever alumni meet -- IIMBUE’s Leadership Summit -- in Bengaluru on Friday. Shah Rukh Khan, the Badshah of Bollywood, did what he does best and entertained the houseful audience with his brand of leadership lessons in his trademark style and sense of humour.
He began his talk on creative leadership with a popular joke that alluded to the street smartness that the learned audience may have missed out in their quest for knowledge.
Here are nine points from Shah Rukh Khan’s talk that touched upon his life lessons that managers could do well to take to the boardrooms:
Leaders are able to assimilate their experiences in order to reframe the world around them in their own terms. They use the very structure of life to dismantle it. They are not afraid to question, to imagine, to dream, and most importantly to believe. They are also not afraid to act, even if their actions may not result in success. Being a public figure, my actions are constantly questioned, reviewed, and distorted. I get it all but whenever I feel thwarted I sing this song, “hum to actor karega, duniya se nahi darega…” so do not stop to act. Action is everything.
Dreaming is not enough. You need to dismantle the old, the frameworks that are laid out before you, the ideas that you cling to, the ones that hold you back and prevent you from growing. It is by disassembling your fears of failing and losing not just things, but people and positions, your jobs and most of all change that, that you can be truly creative. I meet many successful people in the world of business and while their ideas are very clear, the way they speak of them is oddly dispassionate. The madness and passion are missing. I get the sad impression that business often becomes numerical…it is only about millions and targets. It is so goal driven that there is a stark loss of inspiration from it. I think the emphasis on organisational goals and efficiencies has clouded the poetry of creating. It is difficult for me to relate to this starkness. I feel it lacks life. Creation cannot be a managerial concept, it has to be an ‘imaginarial’ concept.
To lead means to inspire. You cannot inspire people mechanically or through statistics or numbers unless they are stock brokers or bankers (with due respect). Inspiration is an emotional construct...to make people believe in anything whether it is a product or an idea or even you yourself, you need to connect the ability to imagine and dream. You cannot create within a box… it is an open process, one that is welcoming and even wild at times.
I have never set goals. I have never set out to earn a particular amount, or to count the crores at the box office, or compare my work with another. In fact, I would go as far to say quantifiable goals are indeed illusions, and the only reality is actually hard work. Making the mistake of believing that your dreams will take flight without having to flap madly at those wings is silly. Every single moment requires diligence. Life remains ordinary if you are unable to sustain the capacity to work hard on your dreams.
Leadership implies being prepared for disaster also. And it will hit you. It could come as a failure maybe or taking someone away you love. So what will you do about it? Wallow in self-pity? I do that often. But I do it in my huge golden bathroom between the jacuzzi and the steam room. I shed huge tears of self-pity but when I walk out wearing my limited edition cologne that helps. I am ready to embrace disaster. So little bit of crying and wallowing is ok. But the thing to understand is you have to accept it. Change your perspective, do a handstand and rebuild yourself that is what leadership is about.
A perfect life, according to me, is a farce. There is no perfect life. Actually, there is nothing more beautiful than the imperfections of life. In my trade, life serves as a fertile ground for innovation and ideas. We use its imperfections every moment. In fact, there is nothing that allows us to live better than trouble, so why not embrace it. And while we are embracing let’s embrace destiny too, and in my case, I’ll embrace Kajol, Madhuri, and Alia too. And guys whichever company you join or create you will not get these perks, so ha ha.
Destiny isn’t what it’s rolled out to be either. Accidents happen. I am a living example of accidents -- movie star/entrepreneur/speaker at IIM gathering. I wanted to be a sportsman. I hurt my back but did not have the resources to get proper treatment. So I joined a theatre group to overcome my sadness. My father died suddenly and we were evicted from our rented house and mother went looking for a smaller house. The property dealer’s father-in-law was making a TV serial, ‘Fauji’. My mother sent me to him and I got the part of Abhimanyu Singh and things got haywire from there. Incidentally, we never took the house from the dealer.
Destiny plays a part, yes. No one can teach us either how to fight it or chase it. Just like a disaster, it will come your way. But if you don’t have the courage to ride its waves when it comes it will toss you right on the beach and all you will be left with is a sunset of a tired and weary life. So keep your eyes open for life’s magic.
Unless you live by the heart, unless you are a Dilwale none of this will translate into a splendor that life is capable of unfolding before you. The mind is the seed of creativity, the heart is the soil. The seed cannot grow without an open heart. To take everyone together with as much goodwill for them as you have for yourself is the basis of all creative endeavour, of all real success, of all happiness, and true leadership.