By Swatee Jog
Apologies, dear people, if I may not make sense today at first glance. But do read, for I, like you, am feeling overwhelmed. I faced a queer question today.
When do we know that we are not being led?
· When we’re not moving anywhere and are stuck. When nothing is changing
· When the people are struggling with problems and finding their own solutions.
· When the people stop expecting anything from their leaders because they know nothings gonna change by asking.
· When there’s too much chaos and too little communication top down, that gets drowned amidst the cacophony of confusing messages.
When leaders are and are seen to be overwhelmed by the situation at hand and speak of being and feeling helpless.
· When the people plan to face the calamity and stock things up, prepare for provisions and learn from past mistakes but the same is not seen being done by the leaders.
Today I may sound a tad incomprehensible, but I have allowed myself to feel overwhelmed and yet resilient at the same time. Just like you.
The people of Belagavi are feeling exactly this. No one is questioning the leadership at any level, but there is a sense of being let down. People are managing hospital beds themselves. Getting ‘No, not available, can’t say when’ as answers and yet fighting from pillar to post.
They’re searching for oxygen and bringing the life saver to their loved ones to breathe. When that too is stopped, they’re struggling with other options. Crucial drugs are hard to find and patients are languishing without facilities. They’re not finding oxy-meters and concentrators, there’s no good steamer available either, and the vaccines have become a ‘fastest finger first’ game that also doubles up as hide-and-seek, but they haven’t yet given up. They’re not yelling and making rude comments.
They’re not questioning why thousands of people could gather at rallies and yet one is having to down his shop’s shutters and get beaten when seen on the road. They care for others. They’re not shrugging their shoulders and throwing the towel down.
They’re managing any available vehicle to ferry the patients. They run to get medicines and daily essentials. They wake up and queue up at vaccination centres in the hope that today they will make it. They’re struggling with finances and jobs lost. They’re facing harrowing times with the kids’ online classes. And in spite of this, people are helping each other irrespective of caste and religion to treat, to carry the dead and to give them a dignified farewell. You know of only those who click a pic and post about donations. But there are thousands who have helped without anyone knowing.
My students are wise. This year, in place of Counseling and Stress Management, they have chosen Change management and Leadership as their preferred subject for MBA 4th Sem. As I teach them this subject, I keep sharing interesting insights. I mentioned to one student that leadership is not about being a leader, and a big debate ensued. How else is it, they asked me.
Well, why do you need to be a leader to exhibit leadership qualities? See around and you will realize it yourself.
The US army would prepare and train the top 2 percent for command roles. The scene changed soon when every soldier got access and control over maps and real time data about weather and movement, at times with the help of satellites. This is nothing less than what they had earlier only through the HQ.
But the technology they have in hand is useful only if they are able to take decisions and act accordingly. The same holds true for corporations when every employee is expected to make independent decisions.
Why, even the recruitment ad reads ‘good decision maker’ as a prerequisite. When the foot soldiers get autonomy, have the means to lead and the top management trusts them with the consequences, companies move ahead on auto pilot. Then the leaders are free to dream big and plan ahead. That’s how companies and organizations grow.
What am I trying to say? Look around. We the people of Belagavi have taken the role of the autonomous foot soldier without realizing.
A lot has been said of late about leaders at all levels have failed us. It may be a baseless and impulsive assumption, considering, that they, just like us, could be overwhelmed. But then, the common man has taken up leadership roles without being in a leader’s position. Leading is a verb, but being a leader does not need position. In the same way, holding a position doesn’t necessarily mean you are a leader. A leader is supposed to find solutions. The people are doing just that. We haven’t seen the doctors, the police personnel, the healthcare workers and the teachers giving up- because they are true leaders.
The people of Belagavi are resilient.
They are not confused.
They are determined to come out of this victorious.
The new normal will not just be about education and livelihood. It will also be about leadership.
Leadership is now about people. Leaders can wait.
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