The Dilemmas of Leadership – Pt 2

In the previous post, we looked at the subjectivity of the attributes desirous of a leader. The fact that there are multiple factors that determine what qualities a leader must possess as well as display, requires the leader to be highly mindful. A leader has to be mindful of not only the situation in the moment externally, but also the internal milieu. Mindfulness is an attribute that has at its core 3 key principles:

  1. Being present in the moment
  2. Purposeful attention
  3. Non-judgmental

Being present in the moment: The mind is a fickle entity. Our thoughts seldom dwell at one place. We oscillate between the past and the future. But this oscillation is generally not reflective. When reflective we tend to evaluate, analyze and learn. However, in most cases, these oscillations are weighed by feelings of regret or fear. We feel sorry for what has happened and fearful or anxious about what may occur in the future. When making decisions as a leader, it is necessary to be aware of the past as well as the impact of the decision in the future (to whatever best extent possible). If sufficient data is not available to determine, then we need to be aware of that too! Essentially, being in the present is not about becoming oblivious to the impacts of the past or the effects of the present on the future, It is about understanding the implications but appreciating that action occurs in the “now”. We cannot do anything in the past nor in the future. Everything that was done or is to be done, happened/will happen in the present. Therefore, while being aware of both the past and the future, a leader needs to act with full awareness of the present. What are the conditions that exist at this moment? How am I feeling about it right now? How are my feelings about the present, past and future influencing me at this moment? This essentially is what being intentionally aware is about.

Purposeful attention: Essentially it is about keeping the mind where the body is. In this day and age, we celebrate multi-tasking. As we sit in hours long zoom meeting, we tend to do multiple things simultaneously. It is essentially a way for our brain to conserve its energy resources. If we find something that is not relevant for us, we shut it out and look towards engaging in something that we feel is important. This challenge of determining how to distribute one’s attention is a significant one for a leader. After all, when you are leading a team or a company, there are multiple decisions that need to be made and a leader’s attention is required in all of these! Through delegation to trustworthy resources, some of these decision making processes can be offloaded or simplified indeed. But the final mark of approval will still come to the leader or eventually the ownership of the outcomes rests with him/her. Therefore, being attentive purposefully, towards varied aspects of a business is extremely crucial for decision making. One may not be so interested in marketing, or sales, or agile with technical concepts or bored to death listening to presentations on customer trends – but a leader cannot afford the luxury of being complacent towards topics that aren’t interesting enough to him/her. The way to ensure this purposeful attention means, we refrain from judging the happenings.

Non-judgmental: Typically when we hear the term non-judgmental, we immediately attribute it to non-evaluation. There is a subtle difference between evaluating and judging. It may seem that I am splitting hair here, but bear with me. Indian bitter gourd – Karela is an infamous dish. 8/10 people hate this dish. Evaluating the dish of Karela leads to a realization of its bitterness. Liking or disliking is being judgmental. In the context of people, a leader has to be mindful of how he/she makes the other person feel. Do the words we use, the way we use them make the other person feel judged? This immediately brings to mind the picture of someone being called “guilty”. Of course, people can be acquitted too, but the connotation of judging to determine the guilt of an individual paints a very strong picture of negative assessment. The same is true of how we judge our feelings – some feelings are good, and some feelings are not good. If I feel neglected, that is bad. If I feel loved, that is good. And with these labels, come the follow ups of “want”. We crave or start wanting more of one feeling – and to that extent, we start avoiding whatever makes us feel bad. This manifests in behaviors where we tend to procrastinate, avoid, or offload the actions.

Therefore, a leader is expected to set aside the personal biases, prejudices and preferences during moments of decision making and executing. But is this a straight forward process? We may deem mindfulness to be essential – but to be mindful, especially about one’s own innate feelings and biases, requires a highly evolved self-awareness. This begins by understanding our own values and beliefs. Let’s talk about that in the next post! 😀

The Dilemmas of Leadership: Pt-1

Who is a leader?

Since time immemorial, the trait of leadership as an important quality of a successful human being has been studied repeatedly. As times have changed, the qualities that represent who a good leader is have also changed. Some qualities of a great leader have persisted, some have been dropped or sidelined and new ones added. All of this to say that determining who a good leader is OR what makes a great leader is not deterministic. It is a function of multiple factors. Therefore, when someone asks who is a great leader? It maybe worthwhile to clarify, under what circumstances? Who is a great leader when an organization/team is sinking in the market? Who is a great leader when leading an army to war? Who is a great leader when rescuing a species from the brink of extinction?

The word ‘leader’, as we know it, comes from a 14th Century English word – “laedan” i.e., ‘ to go before as a guide’. Apparently, during wars, a specific person was chosen to infiltrate the enemy camp and identify all the key posts, men and vulnerable areas to attack. If this person successfully made it back to the home camp, he was then tasked with being at the forefront of the attack guiding the army to all those strategic points. The enemy camp, for obvious reasons, would then focus on taking this individual down. The home camp would ofcourse leave no stone unturned to protect the ‘guide’. This bit of historical perspective really sets the tone to what was traditionally expected of a leader and the team.

If we remove the context of war from modern times or typical day-to-day scenarios, the relevance of the leader as a “guide” still holds true. It is a person who can guide themselves as well as anyone else towards a collective objective successfully. Success, obviously defined by the achievement of the said objective, with as minimal loss of resources as possible. Or in other words, achieving the objective in the most optimal way. Notice how, there is emphasis placed on leading themselves as well as others. The fact that a leader has to lead themselves, though innate, is often glossed over. This attribute is directly related to “Authenticity”. A trait that simply means that an individual’s thoughts, words and actions are in harmony. Seems too idealistic?

Well, I am not saying that not having this authenticity immediately disqualifies someone from being at the forefront. We all display varied degrees of authenticity. But a leader not only has higher degree of alignment, but is humble enough to acknowledge the areas of gap, continuously strives to maintain and increase the degree of alignment or harmony and therefore, naturally wins the respect of the people who follow him/her. This is key – respect or allegiance is not commanded but earned. But do we appreciate this sincerity in a person?

As a crowd, we are so adept at holding high standards on individuals that we want to follow, that we remove the humanistic tendencies from our perceptions of a leader. We demand that they epitomize the pinnacle of everything that is great. Vulnerability is not appreciated – it is a weakness! But is it? And this is where, the subjectivity of the discussion emerges. When is it not just OK, but actually desirable for a leader to be vulnerable and when is it NOT? If a leader has to answer this question, it would require that the person be self-aware and mindful. Let’s talk about that a bit more…..next time. 🙂

Spent….

Empty pages strewn on my bed
You robbed me of my words too!
Today I am spent, my coffers are empty
There’s nothing of value I can give!

We are strangers again today,
Passing by eachother as life moves on,
The caravan of our dreams disbanded,
They now entertain someone else!

Do you think dreams rot too?
Moistened by tears, fodder for maggots
Maybe there’s something left in there
Take it! Fertilize your new garden.

Timeless Beauties of Silver Screen – 2

A few years ago, I had started to do a throwback series on actresses from Hindi film industry – the key motive being to revisit some of the wonderful songs that have been pictured on them. The first part of this series can be found here. After a long hiatus as I continue to start keying in the articles a bit more frequently, I thought it would be good to revive some of these threads left hanging. So here we go! 🙂

Meena Kumari in Pakeezah (Pic Courtesy: thedailnewnation.com)
Meena Kumari in Pakeezah (Pic courtesy: thedailynewnation.com)

Meena Kumari: If tragedy had taken a form, I am sure it would have been that of Meena Kumari. From nearly being abandoned as a young baby at the footsteps of an orphanage, to losing everything towards the end of her life, Meena Kumari or Mehjabeen Bano’s life is as dramatic as the many roles she essayed with natural caliber. In many ways, tragedy and pathos of a role resonated with her so deeply – it seemed as if she had transformed into those very characters. Be it the Chhoti Bahu of Sahib, Biwi aur Ghulam or Nargis from Pakeezah or the title role of Kaajal, she breathed life and tears into the characters that had the audience riveted to the screen feeling the same pangs of desperation and tragedy. Although she had shined equally well in comic and romantic film genres, her calling was meant to be the tragic queen of Bollywood. Her dreams of a happily married life with Kamal Amrohi did not materialize as expected even though they both adored each other. Possibly, deep love can afterall become a golden dagger! Nevertheless, this love and admiration resulted in one of the most iconic movies of all time – Pakeezah. Meena Kumari who was suffering from cirrhosis of the liver gave the movie her all. It took a long time to complete but the success of the venture was something that Meena Kumari didn’t live to see. Separated from her husband and resigned to alcohol, her life met a premature end. It is a forgone conclusion that there can never be an actress like Meena Kumari, for tragedy and pain were truly her companions even as a young child who nearly got abandoned. As for the songs:

  • Chalo dildar chalo
  • Inhi logon ne le leena dupatta mera
  • Chalte Chalte
  • Thade rahiyo
  • Tora mann darpan kehlaaye
  • Mere bhaiyya mere chanda
  • Ajeeb dastan hai ye
  • Hum intezaar karenge
  • Piya aiso jiya mein
  • Na jao saiyyan churake baiyyan
  • Hum Tere Pyar mein
  • Ruk ja raat thehar jaa re chanda
  • Kabhi toh milegi kahin toh milegi
Image result for waheeda rehman
Waheeda Rehman (Pic Courtesy: Pune 365)

Waheeda Rehman: I had previously mentioned that very few actresses have aged gracefully and can carry themselves with a charm and demeanor that can put the current genre of actresses to shame – Waheeda Rehman is definitely one of those. At the peak of her career, she was an actress that everyone aspired to be like, and long after she withdrew from being active on media, people continue to long for Waheeda Rehmanisque beauty and grace. It seems barely surprisingly how madly in love Gurudutt was with Waheeda Rehman. After all, he was the jeweler who polished this gem! In all fairness, some of the most outstanding actresses Bollywood has seen came from South India (that’s my customary South Indian gloat that I feel I had to let float!) and so did Waheeda Rehman. After the debut role in CID, Gurudutt cast her in the ambitious Pyaasa and Kagaz Ke Phool, movies which provided a platform that mirrored the real-life turmoil of Gurudutt. Their association that gave such gems like Chaudvi Ka Chand, and Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam did not last long. Gurudutt died a broken-hearted man. Music and dance played a significant role in her movies (who can ever forget Guide). Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar, Rajendra Kumar, Manoj Kumar, Raj Kumar – towering actors of their period all vied for casting her as the lead actress. Even as recently as Rang De Basanti, Waheeda Rehman’s role as the mother of the pilot killed in the MIG-21 crash is heart-wrenching. The scene of her receiving the last remains of her son is etched unforgettably in mind. A living legend, Waheeda has ofcourse received numerous accolades that barely do justice to her contributions to films. As for the songs, the list is so enormous that am afraid, I’ll definitely have missed quite a few, but the ones that come to mind right away are:

  • Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai
  • Koi nahin hai phir bhi hai mujhko
  • Piya tose naina lage re
  • Chaudvi ka chand ho
  • Bhavra bada nadaan hai
  • Sach Hue sapne tere
  • Apni toh har aah ek toofan hai
  • Rimjhim ke tarane leke
  • Waqt ne kiya kya hasin sitam
  • Rangeela re tere rang mein
  • Hum aapke aankhon mein
  • Jane kya tune kahi
  • Kahin pe nigahen kahin pe nishana
  • Sapne suhaane ladak pan ke
  • Mehboob mere tuhe toh duniya
  • Humne dekhi hai un aankhon ki mehekti Khushboo
Image result for vyjayanthimala
Vyjayantimala (Pic Courtesy: Hindu.com)

Vyjayantimala: I mentioned earlier how South India has given some of the greatest actresses to Hindi Film Industry. The aspect that set aside all of them was their dancing ability. And speaking of dance, Vyjayantimala’s name would stand out like the pole star. Be it her super expressive eyes, the breathtaking beauty or the graceful dance, the wholesome personality that evoked admiration and respect was the key attribute of Vyjayantimala. There were songs composed, dances choreographed and movies made keeping her in mind. For decades she was the unparalleled superstar of Hindi film industry. A filmography that gave such historic movies like Bimal Roy’s Devdas and Madhumati, Dev Anand’s Jewel Thief, has ensured that her iconic roles and stature in Bollywood would be permanent even after over 6 decades. At a time when none of the actresses wanted to play the role of Chandramukhi in Devdas, Vyjayantimala came forward to play the role of a secondary heroine despite the outstanding success of her debut movie Nagin. Bimal Roy spotted the charm and charisma that embodied in her and naturally cast her in the lead role of his best-ever movie Madhumati. Madhumati electrified the entire nation – few movies have captured and held the audience in rapt attention as Madhumati. Acting, songs, and story line – each have remained legendary to say the least. Naya Daur, Asha, Katputli, Prince, Sangam, Jewel Thief, and Amrapali are some of the other memorable movies. As I said, the songs in her movies are a key draw for me:

  • Dil tadap tadap ke keh raha hai
  • Aaja re pardesi
  • Zulmi sang aankh ladi
  • Ghadi Ghadi mera dil dhadke
  • Rula ke gaya sapna mera
  • Aasman ke neeche
  • Honton mein aisi baat mein
  • Char gaya papi bichua
  • Dil pukaare
  • Badan pe sitaare lapete hue
  • Tumhein yaad karte karte
  • Baharon phool barsao
  • Eena Meena Deeka
  • Maang ke saath tumhaara
  • Saathi haath badhaana
  • Man dole mera tann dole

Coming up: Asha Parekh, Helen

ಅಲ್ಲಮನನರಸುತ್ತಾ…….

ನೆನೆ ಎಂದರೆ ಏನ ನೆನೆವೆನಯ್ಯ!
ಎನ್ನ ಕಾಯವೇ ಕೈಲಾಸವಾಯಿತ್ತು
ಎನ್ನ ಮನವೇ ಲಿಂಗವಾಯಿತ್ತು
ನೆನೆವಡೆ ದೇವನುಂಟೆ? ನೋಡುವಡೆ ಭಕ್ತನುಂಟೆ?
ಗುಹೇಶ್ವರ ಲಿಂಗ ಲೀಯವಾಯಿತ್ತು!

“ಮಾತೆಂಬುದು ಜ್ಯೋತಿರ್ಲಿಂಗ” – ಆ ಮಾತು ಅಲ್ಲಮರದಾದರೆ! ಪ್ರಭುದೇವರ ಮಾತೆಲ್ಲ ವಚನ, ವಚನವೆಲ್ಲ ಮಾತು. ಅದೊಂದು ಭೋರ್ಗರೆವ ಮಳೆ ಸುರಿದಂತೆ. ಭವದ ಬರಬರ ಬಿಸಿಲಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಝರ್ಝರಿತವಾದ, ಬರಡಾದ ಮನಸ್ಸಿನ ತುಂಬೆಲ್ಲ ಹರಡಿರುವ ಅಜ್ಞಾನದ ಧೂಳನ್ನು ತೊಳೆದು, ’ಶಿವೋಹಂ’ ಎಂಬ ಸುಜ್ಞಾನದ, ಸ್ವಜ್ಞಾನದ ಗಂಗೆಯಾಗಿ ಹರಿದು, ಹಸಿರಾಗಿಸುವ ಅಮೃತವರ್ಷಿಣಿ!

ಶಾಲಾ ಪಠ್ಯಪುಸ್ತಕಗಳಲ್ಲಿ, ಅಲ್ಲಮರ ವಚನಗಳನ್ನು ಕಬ್ಬಿಣದ ಕಡಲೆ ಎಂತಲೇ ವಿವರಿಸುತ್ತಿದ್ದನ್ನು ಕೇಳಿ ಕೇಳಿ, ಅವರ ಬಗ್ಗೆ, ಅವರ ವಚನಗಳ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಒಂದು ಬಗೆಯ ಭೀತಿಯನ್ನು ತುಂಬಿಕೊಂಡಿದ್ದ ಮನದಲ್ಲಿ, ಕನ್ನಡ ಹಾಗೂ ವಚನ ಸಾಹಿತ್ಯದ ಬಗೆಗಿನ ಒಲವು ಮೊಳೆತು, ಬೆಳೆಯುತ್ತಿರುವ ಸಂದರ್ಭದಲ್ಲಿ ನನ್ನ ಕೈಗೆ, ದೈವ ಕೃಪೆಯೆಂಬಂತೆ “ಶೂನ್ಯಸಂಪಾದನೆ” ದೊರೆಯಿತು. ಮೊದಲನೆಯ ಓದಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಅಷ್ಟಾಗಿ ಅರ್ಥವಾಗದಿದ್ದರೂ, ಕಥೆಯ ಹಂದರ ಮನಸ್ಸಿಗೆ ಮುಟ್ಟಿತು. ಪುನಃ ಪುನಃ ಓದುತ್ತ ಓದುತ್ತ, ಬೆಳಗಿನ ಸೂರ್ಯೋದಯದಂತೆ, ನವುರಾದ, ಹಿತವಾದ ಭಾವ, ಅನುಭಾವ ಹೂ ಅರಳಿದಂತೆ, ಚಿಗುರೊಡೆದಂತೆ ಭಾಸವಾಗುತ್ತ, ಅದರಲ್ಲಿ ಹುದುಗಿದ್ದ ಅಧ್ಯಾತ್ಮದ ಗಣಿ, ತಂತಾನೆ ಪ್ರಕಟವಾಗ ತೊಡಗಿತು. ನಂತರ, ಹಿಂತಿರುಗಿ ನೋಡಿದ್ದೇ ಇಲ್ಲ.

ಚಾಮರಸನ ಪ್ರಭುಲಿಂಗ ಲೀಲೆ, ಹರಿಹರನ ಪ್ರಭುದೇವರ ರಗಳೆ – ಇವೆಲ್ಲವನ್ನು ಓದುತ್ತ, ಅಲ್ಲಮರ ಬಗೆಗಿನ ಒಲವು, ಭಕ್ತಿ, ಹೆಮ್ಮರವಾಗಿ ಬೆಳೆದು ಬಿಟ್ಟಿತು. ಇವರ ಜಾಡನ್ನು ಹುಡುಕುತ್ತ ಹೋಗುವ ಹಂಬಲ ಮನಸ್ಸಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಗಟ್ಟಿಯಾಗಿ ಬೇರೂರಿತು. ಚಾಮರಸನ ಪ್ರಭುಲಿಂಗ ಲೀಲೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಮಧುಕೇಶ್ವರ ದೇವಾಲಯದ ವರ್ಣನೆ, ಶಿವಮೊಗ್ಗೆಯ ಶಿಕಾರಿಪುರದ ಬಳಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಅಲ್ಲಮರು ಹುಟ್ಟಿದ ಸ್ಥಳದ ವಿವರಗಳು – ಇವೆಲ್ಲ ನನ್ನ ಮನಸ್ಸಿನಲ್ಲಿ ತೀರ್ಥಕ್ಷೇತ್ರಗಳಾಗಿ ಬಿಟ್ಟಿದ್ದವು.

ಅಂತೂ ಇಂತೂ ಶಿವಮೊಗ್ಗೆಗೆ ಲಗ್ಗೆ ಇಟ್ಟದ್ದಾಯಿತು – ಮಧುಕೇಶ್ವರ ದೇವಾಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ನಿಂತಾಗ, ಇಲ್ಲಿ ಅಲ್ಲಮರು ಮದ್ದಲೆ ಬಾರಿಸಿದ ಬಗೆಗೆ ಐತಿಹ್ಯ ಇರದಿದ್ದರೂ, ಚಾಮರಸನಿಗೆ, ಅಲ್ಲಿ ಅದರ ಅನುಭೂತಿ ಆದದ್ದರ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಲವಲೇಶವೂ ಸಂದೇಹ ಮೂಡಲಿಲ್ಲ. ವಾಗ್ಮಯವನ್ನೇ ತನ್ನ ಡಮರುಗದ ನಾದದಿಂದ ಸೃಷ್ಟಿಸಿದ ನಟರಾಜನ ಲೀಲಾಸ್ವರೂಪರಾದ ಅಲ್ಲಮರಿಗೆ, ಮದ್ದಲೆ ಆಟಿಕೆಯಾಗಿದ್ದಿರಬೇಕು. ಮಾಯೆಯನ್ನೇ ಆಡಿಸಿದವನಿಗೆ, ಮದ್ದಲೆ ಅಸಾಧ್ಯವೆ?

ಅಲ್ಲಮರನ್ನು ಅರಿಯಲು ಅವರನ್ನು ಮೊದಲು ಅರಸ ಬೇಕಾಯಿತು! ಅವರು ಓಡಾಡಿದ ನೆಲದಲ್ಲಿ ಕಾಲಿರಿಸ ಬೇಕಾಯಿತು….ಅವರ ಅನುಭಾವದ ಹೊಳಹಿನ ಒಂದು ಕಣವಾದರೂ ನನ್ನ ಮನದಲ್ಲಿ ಮೂಡಬೇಕಾಯಿತು….ಅವರನ್ನು ಅವರ ವಚನಗಳಲ್ಲಿ, ಅವರ ನೆಲದಲ್ಲಿ, ಅವರ ದೇಗುಲಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಹುಡುಕಬೇಕಾಯಿತು. ಕಟ್ಟ ಕಡೆಯಲ್ಲಿ, ಅಲ್ಲಮರನ್ನು ಅರಿಯಲು, ನನ್ನನ್ನೇ ಅರಿಯುವುದು ಅನಿವಾರ್ಯವೆಂಬುದೂ ಮನದಟ್ಟಾಯಿತು. ಇದು ಜೀವಮಾನದ ಪ್ರಯತ್ನ.

ಬಹುಶಃ ಅದಕ್ಕೆಂದೇ ನಾಲ್ಕು ವರ್ಷಗಳ ಹಿಂದೆ ಬರೆಯಲು ಶುರು ಮಾಡಿದ್ದ ಪುಸ್ಕತ, ಇನ್ನೂ ೫ ಪುಟಗಳನ್ನು ಮೀರಿಲ್ಲ. ಅಲ್ಲಮರನ್ನು ಅರಸುವ ಪ್ರಯತ್ನ ನಿಲ್ಲಿಸುವ ಮಾತಂತು ಇಲ್ಲ, ಈ ಪುಟಗಳಿಗೆ ಮತ್ತೆ ಜೀವ ತುಂಬುವ ಆಸೆಯಂತೂ ನಿಚ್ಚಲವಾಗಿಯೇ ಉಳಿದಿದೆ. ಈಗ ಮತ್ತೊಮ್ಮೆ ಪುಸ್ತಕದ ಪುಟಗಳನ್ನು ತಿರುವುತ್ತಿದ್ದೇನೆ….ಮನಸ್ಸಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಒಡಮೂಡಿರುವ ಆಲೋಚನೆಗಳಿಗೆ ಹೊಸ ನೆಲೆ ಕಟ್ಟುತ್ತಿದ್ದೇನೆ.

Keyboarding from Toronto…

Ok! Let’s get to the point right away! I graduated! MBA is now another 3 letters added to the list of qualifications. Montreal is now a beautiful memory – a place I now visit as a former student, a visitor, a lover longing for those mural clad streets, the sunny weekends reverberating with the sound of tam-tams, and breath-taking view from Mount Royal and Beaver lake.

If you want to lose the sense of time, I suggest taking up something you feel passionate about. It seems like only yesterday that the childhood desire of pursuing an MBA became so immense, that I couldn’t rest till it was done. How the two years slid by doesn’t seem a mystery at all! The semesters were packed with classes, interviews, workshops, exams, friends, parties, late-night homework sessions, video games, board games and ofcourse ample stress! 🙂

Now, I am in Toronto. I work as a Manager at a cool firm, bringing together futuristic technology and innovation. The beautiful Lake Ontario is what I wake up to in the morning and come home to after work. There are four books on the stand next to my bed in different stages of engagement. The kitchen feels warmer – what with the heat of the freshly cooked food still lingering around. Life goes on…I have seen everything that happened like a distant view, like the fresh spread of the white snow on the far landscape of Toronto Islands. Sometimes I wonder if this is all indeed what I have lived through – so surreal and yet so intimate!

After the long hiatus, I feel I am ready now. The detour was beautiful, the lessons learnt were life-altering. It is time to get back into this journey. It is time to resume my soliloquies….