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Vineet Nayar on 13 leadership ideas that will transform your life 

03 May 2013 | Source: Economic Times
Vineet Nayar

I actually have only nine and I hope you will add four more to this list and make it 13, so that it becomes "our" list and not just my list.

You are reading this article you are like me, trapped in this quick fix world that seeks quick answers, quick cures, quick results and unfortunately even quick romances. Thus we get attracted to all these headlines that make tall claims about subjects which are complex and need deep thought.

For the past two decades I have been in the business of collecting airline miles and yet I found myself reading a blog post on 7 ideas that will help you travel better, written by a person who had made trips between New York and Atlanta. Our mind works in mysterious ways and saying no to all these temptations is the first step in any transformation.

So why 13? I have always wondered why it is always five, seven or ten-what is wrong with 13? I actually have only nine and I hope you will add four more to this list and make it 13, so that it becomes "our" list and not just my list.

Ideas! That is in interesting word. I always carry with me a small note book where I take down action points in the front half and new ideas back to front. When finished, I store these note books away never to open them again. If the idea is good, it grows on you and you experiment with it before the notebook is over. If you did not, then the idea does not have legs and is best left behind.

Over the years many such small ideas have grown into nine beliefs that define a leader. Like my notebook of ideas you should let them grow on you. If they do - it is for you to play and experiment with; if not - they are best forgotten.

It is my belief that a true leader is someone who is an explorer, sees an opportunity in challenges, has an irrationality in his/her expectation, is inspirational and emotional, is driven by a higher purpose, is trustworthy, walks the talk , and above all has earned the right to lead. So let's get started.

  1. An explorer for whom the unknown is a lot more exciting than the known. A true leader is not afraid to stand apart from the crowd, to be different, to step out of the comfort zone and risk all for what he/she believes in. If you are not willing to give up the safety of the status quo and live or die by your ideas you cannot expect others to follow.
  2. Sees an opportunity in challenges. In moments of crisis, leaders are neither distracted nor depressed. They are excited instead, because they see an opportunity in the imperfection and uncertainty. When a diamond-cutter looks at the rough diamond, he gets excited because he sees an opportunity in that imperfection as does a potter when he sees dirty clay.
  3. Has irrationality in his expectation from himself, his team, his idea, his company, and even the world at large. People who are irrational get a lot done because you cannot go as far as your belief may want you to go.
  4. Inspires people by pursuing a vision that gets people to jump out of their beds every day and go to work for an idea which is bold and unique. People feel inspired only when you can help them discover what they want to do and not what you want them to do.
  5. Is emotional. A good leader is not afraid to display emotions at work - he/she rejoices in the team's successes, and shows concern about the setbacks, he/she laughs and cries with the highs and lows in the lives of his colleagues. We are human beings, and knowing that our leader cares for us is a fundamental human need.
  6. Has a higher purpose. A leader is not simply obsessed with getting to the top but also about what he/she would do after he gets there. The ultimate test of leadership is to have a purpose aligned to the greater good of society and not just economic gains. Leaders with a higher purpose have an inner strength and a unique moral compass which guides them to effectively lead their teams through hopeless situations.
  7. Is trustworthy. Trust is the cornerstone of leadership. A manager whose team knows that he/she will, without doubt, stand up for them whatever the situation, truly feel empowered at all times. That kind of trust gives people the courage to innovate, take risks, and to push themselves beyond their comfort zones to find success.
  8. Walks the talk. Megaphone managers have thrived for too long; people now want their leaders to be the change they advocate. They're looking for role models. 'Walk the talk and set me an example' is the writing on the wall. A good leader therefore displays no incongruity between his actions and words.
  9. Earns the right to lead. Leadership is not an entitlement but a right one earns through one's actions every year, every day and yes every minute. The simplest definition of leadership therefore is someone who draws energy, inspiration and the right to lead from those he/she leads. Period.

Every person has a leader within who is just waiting to be discovered. You will discover that magical leader within you, the day you stop pretending to be someone else and feel secure in the knowledge that you are who you always wanted to be.

(Vineet Nayar, Vice Chairman, HCL Technologies and author of 'Employees First, Customers Second')