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Self-Actualized Leadership and Mastery

Anand Nair
Anand Nair
Founder & CEO, Academy for Excellence in Management Education
Anand Nair has a rich experience of over 30 years in the corporate world and has worked in severa... more>>
This is an era where globally, an enormous financial disruption is being felt. It is very decisively becoming clearer that the manner in which Corporates across the world, including India, conducted their businesses during the past 20 years will now have to adopt radically different methodologies or strategies to conduct their businesses over the next 20 years to survive and outgrow this bludgeoning financial disruption. It is no more an era of Management or vying to absorb the best and most effective ‘Managers’ to get the job done. This is an era where every Organization will require extraordinary entrepreneurial Leaders to reinvent the wheel, to disrupt this ever growing disruption and survive their organizations. And such Leaders will have to become part of their system from the very grass root levels of their organizational hierarchy itself!

But even before we address the very understanding of what really are ‘extraordinary entrepreneurial Leaders’, we need to first understand why India, itself, has not been able to create and nurture a large number of effective Leaders in its Corporate world to the extent seen in most western countries. This, unfortunately, is an amazing truth. Is it because our ancestors were products of two centuries of an oppressive rule by the British Empire and hence found sub-ordination a better tool for survival than leadership? After all it took our country over 50 years after the British Empire sailed back, to change Bombay to Mumbai, Madras to Chennai, Calcutta to Kolkata and Orissa to Odisha (half a century to do this and not earlier, just in case the Brits returned much too early, and changed it all back again!). Was this thought process of glorified sub-ordination filtered down generation after generation to young traditional minds of the average Indian youth who tended to learn more at the feet of their elders than in modern day business schools? Or is it that our Corporates have spent much too much time on seeking out good ‘managers’ from Management schools over the last 3 decades leading to an overdose of management professionals being employed (and a prolific growth in the number of Management schools, some spread over numerous acres of land and some spread over the size of a retail store!)? Or, more humorously put, is it because as parents, most of us spend the first two years of our children’s lives teaching them how to talk and walk and the rest of their lives teaching them how to shut up and sit down? Any which way you may like to put it, we never created Leaders worth their weight in salt. We never created Leaders in abundance and hence we don’t have enough Leaders to disrupt the disruption that every Organization perilously faces today. Period!

Having now established, if I may say so, the reasons why we don’t have adequate number of Leaders amongst our fold, let us examine who really is an extraordinary Leader and how does one become one. As a professional, I started my career as a mere sales rep and rose, over three decades, to a CEO. So how was I viewed by my professional colleagues, my team and the top brass above me? Those who loved me said I was an epitome of integrity, charisma, understanding, a visionary, an innovator, a team player, a man of excellent man management skills and whatever have you. Those who hated me, just wished me dead! And yet I reached the top most echelons of my professional career and ‘teed’ off most successfully! Frankly, most professionals understand Leadership through either traits or styles. Every book I’ve read on Leadership contains only this mumbo-jumbo with a little imaginative additions here and there.

So in reality, what made me a successful Leader? What were those ‘traits’ that I had within me to become what I finally became? Here I would like to quote my dearest childhood friend, Partho, who has been a disciple (including myself) of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and has been in Vedantic practice for many years, “Real and effective leadership is not a matter of learning techniques and mental formula, or changing behaviours, to suit a professional need; real leadership is a direct function of what you are and what you possess — within and beyond yourself. In other words, leadership is a function of your whole consciousness and not merely of your personality.”
He further adds, the extraordinary Leader is a highly Self-Actualized one. Self-actualized leadership is a process of realizing and effecting leadership through personal mastery and excellence. It is leadership born of self-realization and actualization. You cannot be a true leader without first being a master yourself. In other words, to become a true leader, you need to work on yourself, and attain the capacity to inspire and lead.
A true leader inspires by being and not so much by ‘doing’. His or her being is primary: the ‘doing’ flows out of being. No matter how many techniques and formulae of leadership one learns, unless one has touched one’s own heights and depths, there’s no way one can bring inspired, effective and sustained leadership to others.
Self-Actualized Leaders are ones who can create Mastery in whatever they do. Whether it is a mere assignment at grass root levels or developing a Team or even running a global empire, Self-Actualized Leaders are extraordinary entrepreneurial Leaders that the world at large requires today.  And whether, Corporates across the globe believe it or not, it is only this breed of extraordinary entrepreneurial Leaders that will be able to disrupt the present disruption and recreate an absolute new world order in the manner in which business has to be conducted, now and in the future.

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