The Leader In You

Words: Dr Rajgopal NIDAMBOOR 

The best way to become a skilful leader — from the sports arena to the workplace, also home, whether as a player, coach, executive, parent, spouse, or whatever — is not to set out to become ‘perfect,’ but rather to aim to be effectively balanced all the time.

For most of us, come Saturday, or Sunday, afternoon, it is time to sit in front of TV, and watch a cricket, tennis, or football match. It isn’t really the time to be thinking about management principles and/or leadership.

Here’s why. In spite of everything, what do batting, bowling, catching, volleying, kicking, passing, and/or blocking, have in common with getting your sales crew, for example, to meet their annual targets? Or, for that matter, pulling the programming team together to launching the next version of your software on time?

You get the point.

Here’s how. When you ask your kid’s cricket coach in school, you will know the guy is a decent player. And, that he knows the game better than you, perhaps, do.

You’d also know that the coach has led his school team to success in only his second year of coaching.

What you may not know is he’s also spent the past four years studying the subject of leadership.

When you quiz him, your kid’s coach may just as well be humming: “Leadership is a chronicle of our championship season.” He’d also say, “This is the main reason why I am planning to write a book, because leadership is a topic that has interested me for a long time.”

Learn From Leaders

Your kid’s coach, in fact, may spend much of his free time travelling around the country and speaking to corporate groups about leadership. It is, of course, a hot topic. With leadership skills frequently cited as one of the top qualities companies seek in their executives, there is no shortage of interest in the subject — especially in the corporate world.

In his speeches too, the coach often relates to lessons learned from reading the writings of sports legends, military leaders, educators, corporate leaders, and other coaches. And, naturally, he also frequently draw parallels from his own experiences on the sports, or cricket, field — without much fanfare though.

As noted cricket coach Lalchand Rajput ‘summarised’ in one of his lectures: “When I reviewed the sequence of events of the season, it became apparent that virtually all of the leadership qualities and characteristics I identified were tested in the cricket season.” The coach, you’ll know, was obviously referring to certain obstacles his team faced before their ultimate success. He adds, “In the second season, conquering adversity was our hallmark.”

Your kid’s coach and his efforts, so far, have not been an attempt to define leadership, although he often says that he believes that “leadership might best be defined as the ability to influence the behaviour and actions of others to achieve a given, or intended, purpose.”

12 Laws Of Success

To bring home the point, most coaches often focus on 12 principles. They are simple and self-explanatory — for building effective leadership skills. To paraphrase a coach’s statement: “What this does, I think, is it gives people a general idea of the qualities of leadership that are needed to be successful.”

  1. Be values-oriented
  2. Be prepared
  3. Be self-disciplined
  4. Be knowledgeable
  5. Be performance-oriented
  6. Be a communicator
  7. Be a motivator
  8. Be a problem-solver
  9. Be a team builder
  10. Be opportunity-focused
  11. Be self-assured
  12. Be courageous.

Yes, they are all principles one should value and champion wherever they are.

As one coach puts it, “My principles are ‘about being proactive.’” He observes, “Leadership isn’t going to come to you. You need to reach out for it.” He adds, “Confidence, of course, is a key quality, inherent in any leadership position.” This, in other words, only means that confidence cannot merely be a sheer force of will. It has to be born of the ability in what you do — a zeal, or passion, for what you do, juxtaposed by the energy level required to sustaining your role as a leader.

Energy and passion have long been skills espoused by successful leaders. Your kid’s coach emphasises, “Winston Churchill used to take a two-hour nap every day. He used to work seven days a week, over 18 hours a day, because he was able to maintain a certain energy level.” All of us are not Churchill — we better be a Mahatma Gandhi in our own little way. This will do us a lot of good for us.

Gandhi’s principles and characteristics are extremely important, underlines one coach. In so doing, he highlighted a major lesson he learned while researching and writing his seminars, “What became apparent to me is how many top leaders develop leadership qualities in others.” He elaborates, “They spend an incredible amount of time and resources in developing the leadership qualities in people working in their organisation. It is an important quality.”

Ask The Right Questions

According to your kid’s coach, “Too often people think of leadership as being someone who is in the absolute position of authority and who is supposed to have answers to every situation.” “In its place,” he says, “the most inherent quality of leadership is first recognising that you aren’t the final authority, and that sometimes being a good leader is as simple as knowing to ask the right questions.”

It’s a lesson your kid’s coach sure takes to heart. In his own words, “I’m never going to pretend to have all the answers. But, I know how to find them and I surround myself with good people.”

While your kid’s coach has a certain appeal for children with an interest in sport, his ideas are not just for sports fans. Anyone, he observes, who has an interest in leadership can learn, just as he has from other leaders. “The qualities, I need to coach the boys, are the same a business leader, a politician, or an educator needs,” he says. After all, adds the coach, “The word, coach, is nothing more than a perceptible euphemism for teacher and leader.”

He explains, “Possessing the essential mental attributes for a leadership role may collectively involve something as simple as knowing how best things can be done. In other words, if you are not prepared to exhibit a constant level of energy, those around you will not respond as much as you would want, or expect, them to.”

He concludes, “The best way to become a skilful leader — whether as a coach, an executive, an administrator, or whatever — is not to set out to become ‘perfect,’ but rather to aim to be effective all of the time.” The connotation? There’s no better time than now to practice and implement the idea — at every step of the way

Dr RAJGOPAL NIDAMBOOR, PhD, is a wellness physician-writer-editor, independent researcher, critic, columnist, author and publisher. His published work includes hundreds of newspaper, magazine, web articles, essays, meditations, columns, and critiques on a host of subjects, eight books on natural health, two coffee table tomes and an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy. He is Chief Wellness Officer, Docco360 — a mobile health application/platform connecting patients with Ayurveda, homeopathic and Unani physicians, and nutrition therapists, among others, from the comfort of their home — and, Editor-in-Chief, ThinkWellness360 [This piece is adapted, also redacted, from Ellen Stuhlmann’s Leadership Principles: From the Football Field to the Executive Suite, first published in The CEO Refresher].

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