Agony and Ecstasy

Agony and Ecstasy

Passion helps in surpassing obstacles

What does it take to be an entrepreneur? An entrepreneur essentially needs to be a leader with razor sharp business acumen and expertise in the area he chooses. Above all, an entrepreneur needs to be extremely passionate about what he is doing, if he has to take success and failure in his stride.

While this article draws primarily on my experience as an entrepreneur, the idea is also to find the right recipe to become an entrepreneur. Being an architect has given me the pleasure and privilege of being associated with people who have come to me with an entrepreneurial dream in their eyes – because first and foremost many of them need to build a space to house their entrepreneurial dream.

If you have the wherewithal, architecture is a profession that really nurtures entrepreneurial spirit because the reward and recognition for talent is immediate. An architect is an artist first. Adding to this creative dimension is the honing of engineering and architectural skill and the demands of managing an enterprise. Quite demanding indeed. But, then what it takes to sustain an enterprise is the ability to be a leaser and that quality is common across professions and industries.

I have always believed that ‘success cannot be administered’ and that a true leader discovers his/her own formula and methodology to success. Therefore, to straightjacket leaders and leadership skills into a 1000 word treatise, will have its inadequacies. But, I guess, it is still worthwhile to make an effort.

It is said that there are three types of leaders – those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder happened. For now, we’ll only dwell on the first category.

General Eisenhower once said: “Leadership is the knack of getting somebody to do something you want done because he wants to do it”. Quite obviously, what this calls for, is what is described in management parlance as ‘Interpersonal Skills’ and an understanding of ‘Group Dynamics’.

To quote H.D. Thoreau, “If you build castles in the air, your work need not be lost. That is where they should be built. Now, put the foundation under them”. Yes, a leader sets goals and exacting standards and ensures that the objective is achievable.

A leader clearly knows that the individual objectives need not to be aligned with the collective objectives of the team. And, how does he/she do that? By ensuring that every member in the team knows what his/her competencies are and how important it is to use these competencies optimally in achieving the collective objective.

A real leader knows that his strength actually lies in the strength of his associates. He assumes the role of a captain who knows that his team’s strength is only as strong as its weakest link. He realizes that his key role is to manoeuvre his resources well enough to be able to achieve the set objective.

In a team, individual failures in performance should not matter in the short-run. Not even the leader’s own failure. Nor do individual laurels matter. Again, not even his own laurels. Though it helps if the leader is also the best performer, what matters eventually is whether the team’s interest has taken precedence over individual interest.

Here I would like to cite the example of Mark Taylor, one of Australia’s most successful Cricket captains. Mark Taylor led his team to win after win, even at a time when he was in disastrous form. In over 30 test innings in the past matches, Mark Taylor had not managed even a half-century. But, in a match against Pakistan, fortunes turned and Taylor found his touch to score 334 not out to be bracketed with Don Bradman’s highest score.

The coach asked for a team-vote on whether Taylor should carry on batting the next day and every team-member opined that he should. But, Taylor decided otherwise. He declared the Australian innings at the overnight score at the cost of losing a place in the record books. Needless to say, Australia won the match. The story here is about a leader who preserved equanimity in times of his own success, as well as failure, to put the team’s interest before everything else.

The right mix of assertion and forthrightness is what makes the leader effective in driving his team. Like Churchill said, “if you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it the second time – a tremendous whack”. Be concise and precise. Come across as a frank and straightforward person who communicates in no uncertain terms. Only then your associates will be able to believe and accept all you say at its face value. A leader thinks long-term in every given situation. He does not hesitate to root for the idea that may even exceed his term as a leader. A leader is farsighted. But, we all know that farsightedness alone won’t fetch results. What indeed fetches results is the team’s trust in the leader’s beliefs and actions. Their unmitigated faith in the leader’s ability to see the future. Like Sir Isaac Newton said, “If I have been able to see further than others, it is because I have stool on shoulders of giants”.

If such strength is to be derived from a team, it can only come from a leader who knows his own strength. A leader needs to objectively assess his position from time to time. Needs to be rational and must have a clear conscience. Only then, he can be confident. Mark Twain said, “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” He couldn’t be more succinct.

To conclude, a leader is but a sum of his team. His ability to assess, assimilate and act on the interpersonal and group dynamics involved, determines his effectiveness. Be it a nation, a private enterprise or an individual. The future belongs to people who see possibilities before they become obvious.

, Date : 28 August, 2011