Free Press Journal

Developing skills to be a successful leader


The unrevealed secret of any triumphant leadership is to polish a particular expertise and then make forays into uncharted territories, writes RAVI VALLURI

Only a trailblazer entity with innovative thinking has the virtuosity and versatility to upend the pyramid and produce dramatic results. This is true of an individual or an organisation. Needless to say a successful leader must be highly motivated, a team worker, independent thinker and be highly focused and disciplined. A successful leader or entity needs a skill set that goes beyond the obvious, to provide the cutting edge to deliver at the world stage.

A master tea maker

Aeons ago, perched on a hill top was a consummate tea maker. His virtuosity in the craft was unparalleled. Serpentine queues of curious onlookers, expectant youngsters seeking to become apprentices and tea lovers desirous of savouring the elixir of life called tea, were commonplace outside his cottage.

One day a querulous Samurai happened to singe his tongue while sipping the Master’s tea. Piqued and incensed, he challenged the master to a duel. The battled hardened Samurai raised his sword and charged towards the Master tea maker.

“I am an ignoramus in strategy and warfare. My entire life has been spent perfecting the art of making tea,” exclaimed the Master tea maker. He took a momentous decision to pass on his legacy and the reins of the establishment to his favourite mentee. The ashen faced acolyte beseeched his master to accept the gauntlet. Giving him his sword, he asked the Master to face the challenger by raising the weapon in the same manner that he raised the teapot.

Accepting the advise, the Master raised the sword without a glitch, undeviating. The combatant was awe-struck seeing the Master wield the sword with remarkable countenance. Assuming the Master to be skilled in wielding the weapon, he beat a hasty retreat from the cauldron.

The story reveals how authentic mastery of one craft is of greater significance than attempting to master multiple skills just to appear more formidable. Certainly, an individual can multitask but only after becoming proficient in one craft. To be a successful leader it is always advisable to acquire expertise in one area of specialisation.

Core competency matters

As a marketing strategy gargantuan corporations like the Tatas and the Reliance group have cannonaded the electronic and print media about their products. The focus on their core competency never wavers, even as they diversify into various product lines. Reliance incessantly focuses on petrochemicals even as it forays into telecom, jewellery, clothing, footwear etc; similarly steel manufacturing by the Tata group is strategically displayed even as they sell salt.

Phenomenal all-rounder cricketers like Imran Khan, Kapil Dev, Garry Sobers, the talismanic Chappell brothers, Shaun Pollock among others have embellished the game of cricket with their splendid stellar performances. They were either gifted batsmen or bowlers. They honed their skills in one particular aspect of the game to produce high octane performances and over a period of time improvised their skill set in other departments of the game too.

Albert Einstein, one of the two pillars of modern physics are better known for his scientific contributions rather than his ability to play the piano, even though he was more than an amateur in the latter craft. Coke and Pepsi have ventured into more than fifteen brands while continuing to market their primary product- the soft drink.

Upgrading and enriching skills

The unrevealed secret of any triumphant leadership is to burnish a particular expertise and then make forays into unchartered territories. Psychologists have zeroed in on certain compelling traits that separate celebratory individuals and organisations from the pedestrian.

These are intellectual and personal skills and enhancing creativity to deliver in such a manner as to be the cynosure on the world stage. Brawny organisations and the gallant never hesitate to undertake a SWOT analysis. They are neither enfeebled by the opprobrium of covetous self-seekers nor overwhelmed by the eulogy of legions of followers.

Intellectual and personal skills

Primary among these skills is the ability to establish a connection, to empathise. The finesse and aptness to lionize interest in other’s cultures, experiences, values, point of view, goals and desires provides the cutting edge. This can be exhibited through gestures, in writing or verbally and is an invaluable strategy to foster esprit de corps among the workforce.

Exceptional leaders have the uncanny skill of disentangling and decoding the most complex and vexed problems. This is often the defining moment in their lives and careers. The momentous decision of Dhoni to tweak the batting order against the Lions of the Emerald Island piloted India to victory in the 2014 World Cup final. The iconoclastic Steve Jobs was expelled from Apple, the company he co-founded, yet he went on to establish Pixar which dramatically altered the contours of the animation industry. Jobs revolutionised the major industries of movies, music and phones.

The trait of an accomplished and contented person is perspicacity. He/she would not exhibit intolerance, ambiguity or uncertainty in grappling with contentious situation. Such well-developed affective skills go a long way in soothing frayed nerves and preventing absolute bedlam in an organisation or in the personal lives of individuals.

Communication – A two-way process

Personality attributes defined by an attitude of glasnost and perestroika are centrifugal characteristics of achievers. They wade through the swathes of covenants, conventions and doctrines to discover perceptible solutions. Intrepid and mettlesome individuals or organisations have the quintessential ability to communicate ideas, feelings and emotions both formally and informally.  This dissemination of thought processes can be verbal, non -verbal and written.