New Age - Leaders do not Conform, they transform
by Life Positive
- Debashis Chatterjee
Can one be born a leader? Is leadership a natural trait or does it have to be cultivated?
Transformation: The Dance of Change
When the molecules of carbon are rearranged, we get diamond. In physical form carbon and diamond look very different, yet they are merely different expressions of the same potential. This is the story of people who may appear to be very different from what they can be. With a little internal reorganization in their values, beliefs and attitudes, people can be truly transformed.
Consider the visual on the right.
How many squares do you see here? Most of us will count 16. But, if you transform your perspective you will see as many as 30 squares here. How? In addition to counting the 16 obvious squares, take your attention to the 2X2 squares as well as the 3X3 squares. Finally, take your attention to the final 4X4 square on the outside. What did we do to count all the possible squares? We just adjusted the focus of the lens in our eye. This helped us transform the pattern of our visual perception.
A change in perception brought about changes in reality.
Transformation is nothing but this dance of change. Any change process has two aspects: that which changes and that which is relatively stable. In the example above, that which changes is our visual perception. That which does not change is the presence of the hidden squares that constitutes the reality of the picture. Therefore the goal of any change process is the discovery of reality.
Here is the story of a farmer in China that will tell you about the amazing transformation of a person:
A poor farmer in China was in great distress. He was a peace-loving person who had to share a single room with four noisy roommates. Beside, there were a couple of stray dogs and a few noisy chickens and ducks in the neighborhood that made it difficult for him to sit quietly or meditate.
Depressed, he traveled a long distance to his Zen master to find a way out.
Listening to his tale of woe, the compassionate Master said: "If you listen to me carefully, I can try to see what we can do." The farmer was all ears. The Master said: "Go back to your village and invite inside your room the stray dogs, the chickens as well as the ducks. Let them all stay with you for a week besides your four friends. Then come back to me." Although he was shocked and surprised by his Master`s strange prescription, the farmer reluctantly agreed to do as he was asked.
The farmer came back after a week. He was in a pitiable state; his hair was disheveled, his clothes were torn to shreds, his eyes were red from lack of sleep and his body smelt of animal dung. He looked tearfully at his Master and said: "The experience was worse than hell-those animals and birds and their week-long company-let my fate not befall anyone!"
The Master said: "Everything will be all right. Just go back to your village and leave the animals outside your door-where they were before. Then, come back to me after another seven days. "The farmer again did what he was told. But this time when he came back-there was a bright radiance in his face. His eyes shone and he told the Master: "I have never known so much peace before. Just my four friends and I. No animals in the room. We all slept well. And my meditation was deep."
Many years later, the farmer himself became a Master. When people asked him how he had found peace, he said: "The journey was indeed memorable. It was like taking great pains in breaking into your own house by climbing a ladder and smashing a windowpane-and realizing later that the door of the house was open. All you needed to do was to pull in the door towards you rather than push it."
The farmer in the story discovers something that was always present as reality. Peace always existed as a possibility in his own mind. In the process of this discovery he transforms himself. As a voyager said: "We do not discover new land, we discover the old land with new eyes!" When leaders undertake the journey of transformation they re-define our view of reality.
When Lee Quan Yew transformed Singapore from a dirty seaport to a glittering First World country, he re-defined reality for his country. What did he do? He simply created a new context for a city that had very little natural resource. He defined Singapore as the Switzerland of the East with a first class infrastructure and international quality service. A ship that had to download cargo could do so within three minutes in the Singapore port-such was the speed and standard of service that Singapore set for others to marvel at. Lee`s Singapore left China and India far behind in business leadership.
Lee`s transformational journey was possible because the people that followed him truly became believers. He made his people believe that Singapore couldn`t run a tourist industry with roads that were dirty and had potholes. So they helped by not spitting on the roads and not throwing chewing gum. The taxi drivers in Singapore believed that they had to treat their visitors fairly and politely so that they came back again! Lee`s leadership transformed the belief system of an entire society.
This has made Singapore what it is today.
Transformation indeed happens when a group of people begins to dance together. In a dance people are no longer stuck to their positions. They create synergy by moving their hands and feet in a certain rhythm that defines the theme of the dance. In a perfectly orchestrated dance, one person does not collide or compete with the other. They in fact create space and harmony for each other. Even when one or two people make mistakes, the dance still goes on. A dance transforms random movements into magic created in real space and real time.
Leaders Transform our Experience of Space-Time
Transformation is a process of conversion of people`s hearts and minds. Conversion begins with conversation. In ancient times kings used to move about their kingdoms in disguise. They did so because they wanted to hear what ordinary people were saying about their rule. If the conversation was good, the king could assume that there was peace in the kingdom. If not, the king could be certain that there was trouble brewing.
A change of heart in a human being is possible only when there is a change in the internal dialogue of the person. Leaders do not compel people to change; they merely induce the change process by changing the internal dialogue within the person. Here is a story from Buddha`s life that will demonstrate how leaders truly transform:
When Buddha was alive, a man came to him and started accusing him of spreading dangerous knowledge. He said: "You teach people to beg and to do nothing. You are doing great harm to the society." The man went on in an angry outburst of words. Buddha listened to him in utter silence. When the man had let off all his steam Buddha said: "If you have finished speaking, can I ask you a question?" The man fumed: "Go ahead and ask what you have to." The Buddha said: "Imagine that you had brought a gift for a friend but your friend refuses to accept the gift. To whom does this gift now belong?" The man said: "Pure common sense! The gift now belongs to the one who brought it-he should take it back!" Buddha became silent again. Puzzled by Buddha`s question, this man went on his way back. While he was traveling back he began to have a new dialogue in his mind about the gift of anger that he had brought to Buddha who silently refused to accept it. This transformed the man and he ran back to Buddha to seek forgiveness.
If you wish to transform people allow them space and time to grow in their knowledge.
The only way to transform people is to enable them to grow. Peter Senge, the management guru from MIT, once said: "People do not resist change. They resist being changed." This applies to good parenting as well as to good leadership. Our research in the world`s top corporations shows that great transformations happen around happy people who create great value for their companies. These people decide to change themselves. Richard Branson, the legendary British Business leader who made Virgin Atlantic one of the most successful airlines, said this about his business philosophy:
Our priorities in managing the business don`t appear in most management textbooks or most British companies. We give top priority to the interests of our staff; we give second priority to the interest of our customers; and third priority goes to the interests of our shareholders. This is not only a reflection of the interests of our people; it is also the most positive way of fitting together these three priorities.
Working backwards, the interests of our shareholders depend on the levels of customer satisfaction, which enable us to attract and retain passengers in the face of intense competition. We know that the customers` satisfaction, which generates all important word-of-mouth recommendations and fosters repeat purchase, depends in particular upon high standards of service from our people; and we know that high standards of service depend upon happy staff, who are proud of the company they work for.
So we see that only people who feel truly happy about their transformation can transform the organization. But what determines our happiness? I have a simple thumb rule for this. The greater the space we occupy the happier we feel. Have you seen that when you have truly achieved something worthwhile like delivering a great speech or scoring an important goal in a football match, you seem to occupy greater space than you ordinarily do! Happy people are spacious people. On the other hand, when you are afraid or unsure of yourself you seem to shrink in space.
This is one secret of transformational leadership: give people more space to grow. Growth makes them spacious. Growth comes in the form of learning opportunities. People create their own space from which they operate with spontaneity and creativity. In the modern organizations, transformation is happening not by occupation of great places but by occupying newer spaces. The old industrial organizations became big by spreading in physical locations across the world. The modern corporations are transforming themselves by just transforming business concepts in their mental space. This story will tell you how:
Gold had been struck somewhere in South Africa. Everybody rushed to the gold mines to get their share of the loot.It was a mad rush in which people stumbled over each other.
Away from all this rush sat a thoughtful young man making shovels from iron. One of those rushing stopped by to see what this young man was up to. He asked: "What are you doing with these shovels?" The young man said: "I am sitting on a golden business opportunity-everybody who would dig for gold would need to buy one shovel from me.
Rigid organizations lose leadership potential by confining people to small places defined by roles and designations. Nike and Reebok are two of the world`s most popular shoe manufactures. Yet between them, they hardly own a manufacturing plant in geographical space. These two companies have outsourced their manufacturing to different people in different parts of the world. The most significant thing people in these companies do is to re-invent new designs of shoes in their mental spaces. These designs are then manufactured and sold in different places. What Nike and Reebok really own are intellectual space rather than physical place.
The second secret of transformational leadership is that people transform in their own time and according to their own nature and circumstances. There is a misleading belief in our organizations that transformation is about running faster and faster. Many dotcom companies blew themselves to pieces by trying to fly on the flimsy wings of speed and greed. The secret of transformation is not speed but rhythm, not greed but sustainability.
An organization has many kinds of people. Some like tortoises are slow and steady. Some are like rabbits. Some others are like horses or birds. Each one performs best in his or her own space. A leader`s work is not to ask the tortoise to fly or the birds to run. That would spell disaster for the organization. A leader should at best invite each one to contribute his own time in a collaborative effort. From this alchemy of collaboration great organizations take shape.
Leadership as Renewal of Relationship
Leaders transform the quality of relationships within organizations. They ask what are we able to create together? In a transformational system monologue becomes multilogue.
Leaders lead by distributing leadership throughout the organization. Transformational leadership is not about one leader among many but about many leaders who act toward one purpose. In a transformed organization leaders do not lead followers, they lead leaders. Says the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: "To lead people, walk behind them."
Each individual in the organization becomes a leader in his or her chosen area of expertise. Such an organization sees people not as factors of production but as factors of innovation. Dr V.G. Kurien, who pioneered India`s cooperative dairy farm movement in Gujarat, led his people to themselves. Kurien built institutions such as the Anand Pattern of Cooperatives. These cooperatives were not led by management professionals but by farmers themselves. The cooperatives owned facilities such as dairy plants. It is through these co-operatives that farmers hired professionals like managers, technologists and veterinary doctors. About his leadership philosophy Kurien said: "I believe our dairy and oilseed cooperatives have shown that when the energy and wisdom of our farmers are linked with professional management, there are no limits to what can be achieved."
One man who led an organization by transforming his relationship within it was Dee Hock. He created what we today know as the VISA card. I was talking to Dee Hock about his life and leadership. Dee is the founder and CEO Emeritus of VISA. Now, in his seventies, he wants to be remembered by the unborn generation not as a great leader but as "a good grandfather". Dee has a deep and abiding belief in a divine intelligence that is dispersed in physical forms. As an entrepreneur and leader, Dee has related to people in his unique way: Whenever, I meet someone with greater wealth, power and position, I silently repeat: `I am as great to me as you are to you, therefore, we are equal.` When approached by those with less power, wealth or position, I silently repeat: `You are as great to you as I am to me, therefore, we are equal.`
As I heard the story of Dee Hock and VISA, it seemed amazing how he challenged the nature of the existing banking system and gave new meanings to our well-entrenched notions of banking and money. Dee recognized that all the paraphernalia of banking such as deposits, branches and loans were not the real life of banking, but just the anatomy of it. In short, he saw all these as mere form not the function of banking. He defined the nature of a bank as the custody, exchange and loan of money. He went on to explore the meaning of money. He asked, what is money? The blueprint of what we know today as VISA was created when Dee Hock transformed the definition of money from currency notes to a measure of equivalent value.
Money would become nothing but alphanumeric date in the form of arranged energy impulses. It would move around the world at the speed of light at miniscule cost by infinitely diverse paths throughout the entire electromagnetic spectrum. Any institution that could move, manipulate and guarantee alphanumeric date in the form of arranged energy as a measure of equivalent value was a bank… inherent in all this might be the genesis of a new form of global currency.
Leaders transform by creating new meanings for old forms. Meaning making is the process of channeling psychic energy in a way that alters our relationship with our world. A log of wood has little meaning unless it is carved into the shape of a boat or a piece of furniture. This physical act of carving wood is preceded by the configuration of energy in our psyche that identifies with the shape of the furniture.
Meaning is nothing but attention to a pattern, a possibility or a potential that already exists in reality. Leaders create meaning by conceptualizing possibilities that excite people. Even a mundane business like lending money can be enlivened by investing it with meaning. A human resource manager in American Federal Savings Bank says: "We do not want people to come to us as a marriage. We want them to think of it as dating. Don`t come here for security, come here for excitement."
Our life is play of many possibilities. Leaders create new forms of reality by pursuing these possibilities. Leaders understand the inherent dynamism of life. Life forever challenges old forms of reality and old assumptions. Yet there is something unchanging about life, which is change itself. To live is to embrace change constantly. Change is inevitable. The question is whether we are victims of change or leaders of change? Transformation happens when leaders are able to anticipate and enact change. A transformational leader is like a bird that anticipates light at the end of a night and sings about sunshine even when it is still dark!
1. One reason why we fail to bring about transformation is that we are poor finishers. Very often we begin with a grand idea and leave the work midway. Transformation requires great finishing skills and perseverance.
2. Transformational leadership requires a transforming mindset. A transforming mindset is ready to question established rules and procedures. A transforming mindset is not swayed by theories but by results. Cultivate a mind that is always ready to go against its assumptions if reality so demands.
3. Transformation requires collaborative leadership skills. One leader alone cannot bring about the entire organization’s transformation. So as a transformational leader you will have to learn to appreciate skills and values of those you work with. What you do alone is less significant than what you can accomplish together.
4. Organization transformation happens through individual transformation. Consider what makes an individual grow? Invariably, individuals grow through learning.
5. Make learning an important organizational issue. Instead of asking: "What I did today?" you can ask: "What did I learn to do differently today?" When every employee asks this question, an organization will spontaneously transform itself.
6. Transformation is essentially a commitment to stay alive. Life is inherently transformational. A good question to ask at the end of the day`s work would be: "Did I excel and grow as a person today?" I did, I am already on the transformational path.
Subject: VG Kurien - 10 September 2012
V G Kurien is no more. Sad day for us. The earliest and one of the most successful architects of modern India. Unfortunately, very few people in India today has his vision to comprehend the significance of Co-operative movement and experiment with it.
by: Utpal Dasgupta
Subject: thoughts - 7 November 2009
proffessor u r brilliant.how do u think and express so lucidly?
by: prabha dastidar
Subject: transformation-leadership - 24 August 2008
d article was soo amazing, i think story telling is an excellent way to convey messages, it is really transforming!
Subject: leadership management - 9 June 2008
i was going through the lecture of Debashis Chatterjee about Leadership Management and i found some interesting mode of lecture delivery...thatis usage of folktales-fables. Story telling is one impotrtant medium to convey the message or to make an easier way to translate complicated theory into More...
by: rahul banerjee
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