Home > Leadership > Value-based Leadership – Prof Debashis Chatterjee

Value-based Leadership – Prof Debashis Chatterjee

Last week Prof. Debashis Chatterjee, Director, IIM-Kozhikode addressed the gathering at ISTD’s Cochin Chapter meeting. His talk was about Value-based Leadership and it’s importance in the Corporate world.

The talk has come at a time when the nation is in dire need of leadership – India needs someone who can lead its people out of the quagmire they are stuck in presently.

Prof. Chatterjee started by asking why people follow a leader. After taking a few responses from the audience he said that people seek Pleasure and Security and a leader is seen as the person who can help them achieve that. His opinion is that more than a compelling vision or goal the possibility of achieving one or both of the aforesaid conditions makes people follow a leader.

Leadership is a much debated subject and a badly bruised one too; a million theories and experts pushing and shoving to get seen and heard. So instead of adding his own sets of postulates or theories the Professor decided to share three important qualities of a leader:

1.       Authenticity

Of the three the Professor described this appealed the most to me. A leader gets the trust of his followers by displaying this trait. Do what needs to be done – a leader needs to display this in word and deed. Being human, humble and getting rid of ego are essential supporting factors of this trait. An anecdote was shared to highlight this. He was attending a high-profile wedding in Bangalore – after the ceremony everyone gets in line to greet the newlyweds – he joined the queue with the others and slowly the thrill of attending a big wedding was replaced with irritation. Why did he have to stand in a queue to meet the couple? It was then that he turned around to check who else was enduring the same “suffering”; around ten positions behind him Mr. Azim Premji waited patiently and a few places behind him was Mrs. Kiran Majumdar Shaw. The Prof had a broad smile on his face when he said “my irritation and ego just evaporated at that moment.”

It was a great example of leadership in action – those industry leaders could have taken the easier route; no one in the room would have complained if they’d walked up to greet the couple, but they did not.

The Professor added that transformation will happen at the rate of reality – can you remove all the show and hype and tell it to the people as it is? It makes you more believable and worth following.

  1. Productivity

I have a concern with this second trait because to me it sounds like a managerial skill, not a leadership trait. Maybe I should have asked him right there. Since he said it I shall report it here.

He classified Productivity as Potential minus Interference. We all are talented and have immense potential to be the best in our chosen professions, but we are rarely willing to do what it takes to be the best. Most people want achievement and success without effort. So we fall by the wayside and become also-rans. Th Best do what is needed – they make sacrifices,  stick to the task and they reap the returns for doing so.

Prof Chatterjee said that as leaders we need to unleash the potential of our team – a leader is only as good as his team; when they achieve glory he does too.

Procrastination is a major reason for failure or inability to achieve our true potential. We permit things to pile up because we are waiting for a good day. He said that the big achievers are not those who did things in bursts; rather they just keep doing things in reasonable amounts, but on a regular basis.

If we plan to cover a distance of 1000 kilometres on foot the best way to do it would be to cover 15-20 kilometres a day and just keep doing that – the kind who say that they will wait for the right weather and then do 50-60 kilometres at one  stretch would never get there, he said.

Be consistent and keep doing your quota.  He gave a personal example to illustrate it – having written 7-8 books he is a much published author now, but there was a time when he had not written anything in spite of wanting to do so. He had been waiting for the right day because there were a million other things to do. And then he hit upon this plan to write 500 words every day, before breakfast.

No matter what else was planned he would get this task completed on most days and that is how he removed all the (self-made) roadblocks, harnessed his potential and became a prolific writer.

  1. Connectivity

This is about seeing how the various parts are connected to the whole – like how the blind men could help each other visualize an elephant. It is also about connecting with the people around us – networking and associating. A true leader has the pulse of his following and complete understanding of the environment in which he or she operates.

Disengaging with followers or with associates can be dangerous. Research has shown that by ignoring people a leader can be as much as 40% disengaged with the people around him. He will not get critical information because the channels of communication are shut and he will lose influence and trust.

Although the Professor does not recommend it he said even criticizing people is better than disengagement – because it means you are in touch and that reduces the level of disengagement.

But the best way of reducing or removing disengagement is to praise and recognize people. When appreciated or valued the employees engage strongly with the leadership. So it is important to focus on positives. Believe in the possible!

In the same context he said that leaders should stop passing judgment and stick to the realm of the Real – operate with facts and data and you will rarely go wrong.

It is also advantageous to check how one is viewed by others. A leader can modify his behaviour and mode of engagement with his followers by being aware of what they think about him.

It was an interesting talk and Professor Chatterjee kept the audience engaged with his stories and examples. An evening spent well.

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  1. July 24, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    Wise words indeed! I loved the one on authenticity – that is what we need most these days. Everyone is on a spree to impress every other one and forget who they really are in the process. His anecdote about Azim Premji and Kiran Mazumdar Shaw reminded me of a leadership session I had attended last month. The speaker was mentioning how the culture of an organization is set by its leaders. When you look around, isn’t it so true – a flamboyant Kingfisher that is going kaput, a sturdy and conservative Wipro, a silent but aggressive Birla group…the list is endless
    As for productivity – think I should take a lesson from here. 500 words a day – not too difficult when you look at it that way 🙂

    • JayadevM
      July 25, 2012 at 9:56 am

      Hi Bindu

      That’s right – culture and authenticity have a major bearing on the organisation’s standing in the community. The silent and the quietly aggressive ones are flourishing.

      Do that 500 … Everyday!

      Best wishes.

  2. Jamy
    July 24, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    Great read Jay! Indeed a great leader is one who leads by example not just talk and give directives and take all the credit for the team’s hard work.

    • JayadevM
      July 25, 2012 at 9:56 am

      Thank you, Jamy.

  3. July 25, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    I would definitely go for Authenticity and connectivity….and i am reminded of JRD Tata….we lack good leaders….except for a handful the rest of them become leaders only for their own selfish gains…to project themselves and take the glory for all the hardwork done by those below them…there are so many unsung heroes in each organisation who would never be heard of thanks to the so called bosses…and i am one who believes that my company’s downfall began the day JRD was shown the door by the than Prime Minister Morarji Desai..Good article Jay!

    • JayadevM
      July 25, 2012 at 7:04 pm

      Hi Kathy

      True in the case of the organisation you mentioned – Yes, it lost a leader and lost it’s way. Now they are thinking of closure, right? Sad!

      Leadership exists at all levels – and yes for selfish reasons some go unrecognised.

      But true leaders shine even when they aren’t recognised and live on in the minds of the people who associate with them. They do it not for glory but because they think it is the right thing to do.

      Thank you for sharing your valuable thoughts.

  4. July 26, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Dear Jaydev,
    Inspiring article,leadership by example is ultimate as said in gita.thank you-kvrm

    • JayadevM
      July 26, 2012 at 11:45 am

      Dear KVRM

      Thank you for visiting my blog. Good to here from you.

      Nothing beats “Walking the talk”.


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