Who is a leader? What is the primary focus of a leader? What is the ultimate goal of a leader? These are some of the common questions asked by the younger generation. Let me share with you my insights on what makes a leader and whether leadership principles can be incorporated into a formula that can be memorized.
Who is a leader?
So is there a specific definition about who a leader should be? Absolutely no. For it is not like the law to be defined rather every definition leads to various qualities of leadership. It is not in the ‘what’ but in the ‘how’ a leader resides. Leading matters but what matters more is how to lead. Even when you have all the equipment to build a bridge, if you don’t know how to build it then what’s the point? Over the years of building up my business from scratch, I have derived few leadership principles from my experiences.
A leader must be like water.
Less rigid and more flexible. A leader is someone who is ready to take up any shape as the situation arises. Finding ways to engage your team in activities where they can destress and reconnect with themselves as well as function effectively is the new rule in leadership. Don’t put employees in a circle of targets, pressure and deadlines. Give them time to breathe. Flexibility is the key to employee management.
At one point in the business it seemed like Jaipur Rugs would have to be shut down. I turned inwards and read scriptures and various other books from which I discovered one simple truth: “You can blame other people but, ultimately, all limitations are within yourself.” I understood one thing…to change my business, I need to change my thinking. Therefore, I adopted the concept “finding yourself through losing yourself”. For my business to grow, I had to become free-flowing and flexible like water.”
Believe in yourself
A leader should believe in themselves before getting ready to convince others. Do not succumb to your fears. They are just a figment of your imagination. Understand yourself thoroughly before you place yourself in front of everyone. Your ideas and dreams shouldn’t be an extension but an expansion of a business that will selflessly be an institution to serve the common/greater good.
Be ready to unlearn
Expect chaos. Be ready to untangle yourself from resistance. Open yourself up to a new world of possibilities. Unless we unlearn, we cannot move forward. The idea is to understand the nuances of creation in the most simplest way possible. For unlearning is the first step in separating your ego and self.
During one of the lowest points in my business, I realised that young professionals had knowledge but knowledge gained without practice develops ego. So to remove that and to develop respect for each other, I started an initiative called the ‘Higher School of Unlearning’ where the MBAs and CAs worked with the older, uneducated managers in different departments.
A leader should enhance the mental capabilities of employees by providing them with opportunities. Leaders should empower their employees only then can a leader sow the seeds of inspiration in them. Leadership is all about creating and encouraging ideas in other’s minds and inspiring them to take decisions. It is the ability to create more leaders by empowering them rather than by controlling them. Convince your teams for cross functional collaborations, this might lead to innovation.
Jaipur Rugs has a number of leadership skills training programmes for women of age group 18-35 in order to tap into their natural leadership ability. These programmes identify women to promote to managerial roles in the Jaipur Rugs value chain. These programmes have helped a better connection with our women weavers and spinners because of the comfort they feel in dealing with other women from their own village.
Never forget to praise and lend an ear
Shower your team with love and praise. They deserve to be appreciated even in their smallest achievements. Speak to them and let them know you value them. For these are the golden threads that will lead to the success of your organization. A leader’s expertise is calculated on the basis of how an organization is engineered on the bricks of passion and dedication designed effortlessly by its employees.
At Jaipur Rugs, we have kept an open door policy for all employees. They know that they can come and talk to me whenever they want. If they are unhappy, I want to know about it; if there is a problem with a co-worker or project, I need to be aware of it so that I can help. I may not personally be able to solve all the problems, but it is my duty to listen.
A leader’s success lies in creating an environment for the employees where innovation and creativity thrives.
If you put a potato, an egg and coffee beans in boiling water, the outcome is vastly different. A hard potato becomes soft. The egg becomes hard. The coffee mingles with water to give out a unique flavour. The outcome of any adverse situation is decided by what we choose – whether we react or respond to a situation. In the end we are the ones who are left with the options to decide. So act and don’t react.
As a leader you must realize that the journey is going to be filled with many twists and turns but you are the one who is going to drive. So make sure to put the seat belt and enjoy the ride!