To lead, per chance to teach

If I ever really write a memoir, it will have a very special section for the kind of leaders I witnessed in my lifetime. Leaders are people whom others follow. You are not born one, born to one and hence become one, and neither are you made. I believe that you are a leader as long as there are people who are willing to follow you. Simple as that.

I have been observing leaders since 2005. Until 2005, there was only one leader in my life. My father. Since 2005, I’ve worked with and followed a very diverse set of leaders. I have learnt a lot from them. And I owe a lot of who I am to them. Here’s the kind of leaders that I enjoyed the most.

[1] they empower me to take charge

[2] they trust me with information I need to take the right set of decisions.

[3] they give me feedback on a regular basis

[4] they give me the space and forums to step up and lead and they support me when the spot light is on me – positive or negative

[5] they are not hierarchical in their behaviors

[6] they are vulnerable. They don’t hide their failures and their weaknesses. Instead they ask me to fill in for those if I can

[7] they are good humored

[8] they protect my interests when I am not in the room.

[9] they applaud openly, and critique in person

[10] they help me see the big picture when my mind cannot

And lastly they don’t judge me for who I am. But for what potential I have. It’s not whether I meet their expectations, but whether I can be a better employee.

Google is a school for leaders. I’ve learnt more about leadership in the last six years, than in the decade before that. I am fortunate to have worked with so many good leaders, with different temperaments. Some were people focused leaders, some thought leaders, some engineering leaders and some empathetic leaders. If one could mix all of those in a magic potion and drink it up – that would make a super leader. I am yet to meet those. I don’t think they exist.

It’s the subtle acts of a leader that leave an impression on their followers. And most of the time they are not even aware of being watched. A simple email that makes its way to you where your work is mentioned, in the most subtle, and yet the most respectable manner. A simple nod to your objection in a meeting. A simple “well done” after a meeting you sweated over for a week. It all adds up.

I’ve followed many leaders, and I am so blessed to keep finding more to follow. Am I just lucky! Or am I spoilt? Or perhaps just blessed to learn from so many. Regardless, this is an interesting phase in my career. After following blindly for a few years to now following with extreme caution. I am very skeptical about who I put my trust in. My flaw is that I trust easily. My strength is that I put my trust in people. It’s a double edged sword. But every time I am hurt, I learn.

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