Sunday, September 4, 2016

Leadership and its paradoxes

I was never a leader because I understood leadership to be titles and reputation and thus I was one of the masses that believed it’s their right to blame leadership for everything happening in their community and professional lives.
In a journalism class, my writing teacher would sit talking everything under the earth, without writing even a single word on the board.  Students were agitated – they wanted notes, dictations, books and he instead in our class was challenging all of that. He was silently questioning deep-rooted attitudes, somewhere trying to liberate those latent faculties that make a human being a writer. But not many are seekers of themselves, of true knowledge! Not everyone wants to be challenged! We all live in self-made bubbles, our kingdoms in which our notions are kings ruling over all subjects of our psyche.
I was always keen to listen to him but maybe was too inexperienced to understand him and his intentions then. I was only twenty-one years old in his class, fresh out of a small town.
Years later when journalism as an industry had disillusioned me and that happened in the first job itself, it was my teacher’s attitude of non-conformity that helped me believe in myself, pitch my voice and have the courage to stand out, take decisions that would normally not be taken in a career. Not that today I have made renown of myself, that was never my goal – but I do see that my wisdom permeates my knowledge, and my quest keeps getting liberated and wider.
Understanding leadership and its fundamentals began when as a volunteer I started gathering a team for an activism driven media. It was a cause I was extremely passionate and selfless about, involved putting up a team of twenty people from around the country. These people came from different professions, were highly skilled and were all there to contribute selflessly to the cause. However, by the time I could implement something I was left with only one collaborator.
If it was a 9-5 job and I was in it just for the heck of it, I wouldn’t have probably bothered. But what I was doing was driven by my heart and spirit and with so much of energy invested in it, as the endeavour progressed I had many questions. I wanted to understand how and why do people blame me for something they haven’t been able to adhere to. I started questioning my skills, abilities, attitude and behaviour. I wanted to for the first time, impelled by a real life situation understand - how leaders lead the team, how organisations work and how synergy is built. For the first time, I understood success isn’t easy, leadership isn’t glamourous – leadership is about relationships, it goes far beyond one’s ideas and perceptions held dear at any point, it involves letting go at every moment. It involves empowering other people; it involves acting foolish to let others take the limelight, and it involves a whole lot of moment-to-moment positive investment in people. In a way it’s like consciously parenting, educating, and mentoring, supervising lots of people together – it’s a tough job, and maybe that’s why leaders are built by tough life situations. They aren’t built by comforts and can’t be built by selfish motivations. They are far and few!
Accept challenges, look within rather than blaming the system and other people or for that matter fate, believe in yourself and your cause and be bluntly honest in looking within for the cause of misery, problem or challenge that manifest outside. Adhere to a value system and make it your prime intention and practice and in due course, as you lose track of identifying yourself special, the world will start to recognise you a leader. Leaders are born and not created! Thus the best mentor will give you an environment that challenges your fears. Whether you jump to flight from the cliff is a choice only you will make.

Venus Upadhayaya is a journalist and a passionate media professional, she works for school staff leadership development and empowerment of young people, her email is .

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