After my MBA, I was off to the corporate world again. For some reason, no one in the consumer world believed that my experience in steel was of any relevance to their world, so I started off as a trainee again. This was a strange phase of my career. We were, literally, at the bottom of the managerial pecking order, and in some ways, this was a good phase in my life. I had experienced an exceptional boss in the steel world, a gentleman by the name of Harshad Priolkar. He was a gem of a boss and a leader.
In this organization, as trainees those days, we were expected to be seen but not heard, and if we were to be heard, it was to simply say, “Yes, Boss”, or “Yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir.” During our training in various departments, we were expected to give our suggestions on how to improve the processes, and we were duly trashed when we did give our feedback.
We had no choice but to eat in the Manager’s Dining room, and were all squarely pegged at one end of the table. We were expected to eat our meals in silence. Life was simple those days.
Now, times are different these days, or are they? My idea, in this little entry, is not to cry about my days that have gone by, and to fall upon any one’s sympathy.
The point that I observed those days, is that the managers whom we were expected to respect and look up to, did not really give us any mentoring or any real inputs. They were pretty full of themselves.
Nowadays, we talk a lot about young talent; about grooming it; about really, really asking people to express themselves, and not simply barking out orders. It would appear that a leader’s job has become that much more difficult.
Or, has it?
I have always held that, you need to earn people’s respect. More about that later. You don’t get respect simply because of the position you hold. You do get a lot of bows, but the bows you get are directed at the chair that you so eagerly warm with your derriere until the next person comes along to warm it up.
It pays to be tough, but it pays to be nice to people at the same time. This can happen only when you respect other people. I read a nice book called “Being Different”, by a gentleman called Rajiv Malhotra, where he got into a discussion about the subtle differences between tolerating another’s religious views and respecting them. There is a fine but very important line that divides tolerance for another person, and respecting them.
The same holds, irrespective of where we are on the corporate ladder. I learned, those days, that respect is to be given to a person, based on how he behaves. Else, what a boss gets, is sycophancy, and this is the beginning of the end.