That Leadership Journey – Authenticity




This is the first time that I am posting from my IPad, and I am not too sure how this will turn out. Our election jamboree is underway, and we should have a new government, and new Prime Minister, on the 16th May. A new government, at least.
And so, I googled the symbols of the three major political parties, saved them on the IPad, and decided to try this out.
Let’s see.

Many years back, when there were two major parties in the fray, our maid arrived late for work one day. The previous night, herhusband had gotten drunk, because the BJP people had come around and given them a bottle of whisky and a blanket, to convince them to vote for the BJP. When we asked her if she would vote for the BJP, she just shrugged her shoulders and replied, “Now, let’s see what the Congress people give us.”

Yesterday, we had called in a chap who had to fix our aluminium door. I asked him who he voted for, and he said that he does not vote, because all the parties are filled with crooks. “They come to us before the elections”, he said, “and, forget about us as soon as they are elected.”

Most organisations run polls and have other internal research programmes, to see how the employees view the organisation, it’s strategy, top leadership etc. Years back, when I was in Bayer, a chap from the HQ confessed that it is difficult for top management to read these results. “People from Latin America”, he said, “are always sunny in their response. People from Europe and Germany are always grim. People from India and the Orient are always giving answers that are in the middle, to avoid taking a public stand”. Rationalising these polls is always difficult.

What is even more difficult, I have found, is that these questionnaires are made by people in the HQ based on what they feel are the questions and concerns in the minds and hearts of employees scattered across the globe.

Meetings do not give authentic feedback, as those who attend meetings calibrate their communication to suit the boss, unless they are political ignoramuses like me, who then get a swift kick in the seat of their pants.

The real conversations that take place at the smoking lounges or coffee machines are never known.

Going up the ladder involves hard work, luck, a considerable amount of political smarts, and ruthlessness. This often does mean as well, that you lose the ability to connect with peers and subordinates.

Leadership is then transformed into questionnaires and meaningless empty campaigns on diversity and sustainability.

The biggest mistake that some leaders make (not all, but some), is that they believe too strongly in their own mythology, and completely forget where they came from.

The price of forgetting, is that they forget that peers and subordinates can see. They can, and do, perceive. Leadership that is not authentic does get a cynical response and, as a result, opinion polls are filled out with a bland degree of cynicism, and campaigns are implemented without the heart.

A gap between what is needed to be achieved, and what is achieved, becomes larger.

Authentic leadership is perceived more clearly than we realise, and this is one lesson that cannot be forgotten.

Inshahallah, we, in India, will get an authentic leader after May 16!


  1. I totally connect with you on this topic, Rajiv. It’s exactly like that here in Nigeria. They come around with gifts of cash and bags of rice promising you heaven on earth if you vote them in only to abandon you when they do get in.

    I feel your maid’s position on which side sways her the more. It’s the same here. In the local elections in January, party agents were at polling boots offering takeouts to vote for their candidate. It’s so pathetic but people are hungry and would always fall for immediate gratification.

    Our presidential elections are coming up next year but I’m not as hopeful as you. We’ve already had 2 bombings and abductions since the campaign kickoff with parties blaming one another. It’s such a mess. But I wish you luck.

    1. Sorry for the late reply. Well, we have a lot of violence in India as well. All that is happening this time, is that they spend all their time abusing each other, and not telling us about what they will do! The lust for power has become more shameless

  2. Thoughtfully expressed. A question that always baffles me is – what is leadership? In this day and age when even schools arrange more of “leadership” workshops for Class 7 kids, and less of field trips and football games and drawing and painting sessions, the answer remains elusive. Is a strong leader a good leader? What do we mean by strong? Is a person who takes arbitrary decisions a strong leader? Is a person who takes arbitrary decisions not a dictator? Is a person with a booming voice a strong leader? And many more…

  3. I was curious if you ever thought of changing the structure of
    your blog? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect
    with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or two images.
    Maybe you could space it out better?

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