Accountable or Responsible

What we don’t let go, we carry as a burden. A few weeks back, I was at cross roads of my career, especially that as a leader. While a couple of seductive options (materially) laid bare before me, it was a painstaking to take a call on the way forward. One evening on my regular journey in the e-World, I chanced about my favorite  “The Fable of the Bridge” by Rabbi Friedman that threw gave me a whole lot of lessons as well as direction to the path I should take. (Received via Yahoo group mail – yes it was very popular those days) Read on…. (reproducing it for the benefit of those who haven’t read it before)

It is a moonlit night and alone in his thoughts he starts crossing a bridge. The man sees out of the corner of his eye a stranger dressed much like himself coming towards him. He thinks the man approaching is putting his hand out to greet him. However, the stranger has the end of a rope in his hand with the other end entwined around him.

The stranger asks the man to hold the end of the rope. Whilst perplexed the man complies.

The stranger asks the man to hold on tight with two hands and then promptly jumps off the bridge toward the swift running deep river below. “Hold on” the stranger cries. The free-falling body hurtled the distance of the rope’s length, and from the bridge the man abruptly felt the pull. He held tight despite being almost pulled over the side of the bridge.

Peering down at the stranger who was close to oblivion, the man yelled, “What are you trying to do?”

“Just hold tight,” said the other.

The man tried to haul the stranger in but he could not. He could not get enough leverage. His strength was almost perfectly counterbalanced by the other man’s weight.

“Why did you do this?” the man called out. “Remember,” said the other, “if you let go, I will be lost.” “But I cannot pull you up,” the man cried. “I am your responsibility,” said the other. “Well, I did not ask for it,” the man said. “If you let go, I am lost,” repeated the other.

The man looked around for help, tried to invent solutions but could not think of any that would work. He waited for someone to come and help pull the stranger up, but no one came. Fearing that his arms could not hold out much longer, he tied the rope around his waist.

“Why did you do this?” he asked again. “Don’t you see what you have done? What possible purpose could you have had in mind?” “Just remember,” said the other, “my life is in your hands.”

Time passed and a decision needed to be made. The man could not hold on much longer.

A thought occurred to him. If the stranger hauled himself up and he kept the end steady and pulled a bit, together they could get the stranger back to safety. But the other wasn’t interested.

“You mean you won’t help? But I told you I cannot pull you up myself, and I don’t think I can hang on much longer either.” “You must try,” the other shouted back in tears. “If you fail, I die.” The point of decision arrived. The man said to the other, “Listen to me. I will not accept the position of choice for your life, only for my own; the position of choice for your own life, I hereby give back to you.”

“What do you mean?” the other asked, afraid. “I mean, simply, it’s up to you. You decide which way this ends. I will help you if you help yourself.”

“You cannot mean what you say,” the other shrieked. “You would not be so selfish. I am your responsibility. What could be so important that you would let someone die? Do not do this to me.”

He waited a moment. There was no change i the tension of the rope. “I accept your choice,” the man said, at last, and freed his hands.

This was the Eureka Moment for me too. I was clinging on to something that I should have let go. There was no way I could lead or help others by doing things for them. I realized that while I am accountable for others, I was not responsible for them.

unlocking-power-accountability-employees

Definitely it was not for me to be tied up like this man in the fable to others’ needs and happiness alone. It was about choices and not perfection of the solutions. I had to take a call and make my choice. It wasn’t easy to let go of something that was a passion for many months – a shared passion with the team. And Lo!

I found the solution again. What was I clinging on to? Was in a role – did the best and move on.

A man was running for his life to escape a hungry tiger.
He came to the edge of a cliff, stepped over and held onto a vine. The tiger couldn’t reach him, but there was no way up again.
Looking down he saw another tiger at the bottom waiting for him to let go and fall.
A rat appeared and began gnawing at the vine.
The man noticed a strawberry growing on the face of the cliff.
He held the vine with one hand and with the other grabbed the strawberry and ate it. How sweet it tasted!

The choices that were offered by life was too sweet to be missed anymore. Decision was clear and action too – I MOVED ON. No sense of doership or ownership, just like the flowing water below the bridge. Instruments in place for carrying out the bidding of the Divine. Enjoyed the journey, met a lot of co-passengers – most of them friends for life.

Love or Hate the Act, not Actor

Starting with an excerpt from “About” section of this site.  Easier said than done! Basic premise is that no one is bad, only their acts are.

Love or hate what I write or do, please don’t love or hate me. In short, love/hate Sureshisms and not Suresh.

 

I “have tried to imbibe this philosophy in my career of nearly 29 years, of which it was Team Lead or above after the first 4 years which has saved me a lot of blushes, retain exceptional talent and also get along with people better or atleast as much as any of my colleagues could. A subordinate making a blunder is never damned (or allowed to be damned by his peers or superiors) whatever the cost and (s)he was defended & protected to the core (Unless it was an act against principles of ethics and integrity). It is not very difficult. List down whatever good this employee has contributed and you have an answer, why “a” blunder however costly it may seem, should not be the reason to dump the person into the cellar.

“Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”
― Dale Carnegie

 

Just look around, everyone seem to be fed on staple diet of Condemnation, which is being relished too and you see only bad (Work, Politics, Religion, Media). What does it change? Zilch! Whereas compassion and understanding, a tinge of positivity goes miles to change things and transforms the unchangeable.

My eternal favourite Sloka on Leadership from Bhagavad Gita 3:21

yad yad acarati sresthas; tat tad evetaro janah |
sa yat pramanam kurute; lokas tad anuvartate ||

Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.

Take away: A leader who does not lead by example is not a leader at all. Not about preaching, it is about doing. What you do, is emulated – not what you talk

And another thing I picked up along the journey is Leadership is not about Power, it is about Empowerment. Else you remain a Manager or the dreaded 4-lettered word “BOSS”

Signing off with a quote about the fakes, I love (Author Unknown)

“Whenever they are condemning weaves or breast implants, some people speak so passionately that their false teeth almost fall out.”

Leading from Behind

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि॥ २-४७
Karmanyevadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana,
Ma Karmaphalaheturbhurma Te Sangostvakarmani|| 2:47
16251623_10154136361947536_2686620056870680894_o
Thus says Bhagavad Gita in the Chapter 2 (Karma Yoga). It broadly translates to “You have the right to work only but never to its fruits. Let not the fruits of action be your motive, nor let your attachment be to inaction” As in any of our scriptural texts, the purport goes far beyond the literal translation.
Most of us work for a material result and it is this result that motivates us to work. For instance, if every student study for the sake of marks, they become obsessive and selective in their study. The knowledge or learning thus becomes a lop-sided, short-lived gain. They lose out on long term gains like insight into and understanding of the subject. In fact healthy study habit itself is a casualty. By healthy study habit, I mean that which signify the ability to learn and apply.  What this in effect does is to constrain oneself into boxing their belief that all events in life is defined in terms of Success or Failure, which defeats the larger purpose of life.
Another example: Consider a teacher working in a school, with her Principal watching over her shoulders. More often than not they end up demonstrating their sincerity and diligence to the Principal and not focused on helping the students learn. As the world often does, Principal becomes pleased and will rate them high even if the teacher is not successful in their primary duty of facilitating learning.
boss
As Henry Ford said, “Measure of Quality is what we do when no one is watching” Unfortunately, many work for the approval of the world and not for our own approval
Another purport, though the verse above says, that there should be no attachment to inaction too. Wrong action many times results in disaster. Some time we need to take a call on detaching from work itself. We become obsessed with our own creations at work. Even when we know we had gone wrong, we persist for a bit more to make it a success, many a times knowing well that it wouldn’t work.
digging-shallow-well
Pic Courtesy: Web: Shallow Waterless Well and Not giving up

Take the case of this well digger.  He continues to dig a well deeper and deeper just because he started it, knowing well after a while that it is not going to yield any water. This despite experts with technologically advanced Water table Prospecting tools, sounding out to dig one well at a particular spot. Ego did not permit him to abandon and move towards that spot.

dsc01041
Pic Courtesy: Web: Digging deeper and deeper
It is not too difficult to find such well diggers at work. Lack of an objective feedback system insulate many from determining the pitfalls of a designed intervention. In such cases, detachment from work and looking at it objectively would help us realize the futility of our effort, retrace the steps and pursue more effective path.
In reply to a question “As a person taking up an assignment at the corporate level, how can I be effective as a leader” during one of the Satsangs in the Art of Living Ashram many many years ago, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:
Improve your communication skills. This involves a great deal of listening and detachment from the situation (rising above the situation). This is much needed for anyone in corporate as your grown. A good Manager cannot afford to be impulsive, short tempered, incommunicable, unfriendly and lacking in confidence. In the presence of these things one will not be able to do business properly.
Remember one thing, the manager of the Universe is not so obvious. The one who manages this universe does not make it so obvious that he is doing it; or that He is in control.
Similarly, manage from behind. Leading from behind is the best. When you want to lead a project you should not emphasize your leadership too much. You should do it from behind.
There is a saying in Sanskrit, Paroksha Priyahi Vai Devaha, which means that the Gods like to do things indirectly and not so obviously.  A person feels, ‘I am doing it’, but it is the Gods who make them do it. So they give the people the joy of feeling that they are doing it, but in reality, it is the Divine energy that does it in a subtle manner, which is not so obvious.
14657280_10154612230743555_5576410596857431123_n
Satsang in The Art of Living Ashram
By the way, it was “Yours Truly” who posed the question and received the answer.
Good Leadership should be like the string in a garland – invisible to the outside world, but in its absence, the flowers fall apart
Further read: