When Competency is Leadership

When Competency is Leadership
We have often come across unique personalities in our daily lives. People who inspire us show us a new frame of perceptions and eventually become our role models. This makes us aspire to emulate them, and most of us try our level best to achieve what they have. Yes, in our hearts and minds, our role models are our leaders. True leaders earn this kind of respect; they do not steal, inherit or buy it. This is what makes them so special to us.
But, in the midst of all this, we forget one crucial criterion in this equation of admiration. To truly become like this leader, one has to rise above the average and embrace all that comes with being special. We assume that if we work hard and do whatever it takes to reach that level, we will automatically imbibe knowledge that helps us deal with being that distinguished. But this is almost never so. How often have we seen our leaders falter at the top, appearing to be suddenly susceptible to all the adverse repercussions of a mistake in judgement? To truly be a leader, one must begin to deliver on the very expectations one has from his own leaders.
The most subtle of these expectations is competency. A leader is one who has what is commonly referred to as core competency. He has come as close to perfection as possible in the craft of his choosing. Be it the undisputed number-one ranked tennis player, or the self-made IT billionaire; they would have been the best at what they do best. This, obviously, reflects their adeptness and skills at matching and overpowering all other competitors to this top position. Therefore, to be the true leader in a field, there is no doubting the need to be the best in the field; by the virtue of one’s own core competency.
However, we might always overlook the other face of competency – how to use your core competency, and how to deal with its consequences. There are leaders who have let their skill overpower their basic judgements, and have lost everything to their ego. There are leaders who, at their prime, begin to indulge in extravagancies only to realize that their edge has diminished in time. But worst of all are those leaders who betray all the people who helped them to be who they are, and in the process, betray their admirers as well. We can give innumerable examples of these from history – all underlying the simple point that core competency is not everything.
What, then, must a true leader wield as strongly? For one, he must be fully averse to compromising on his values. A leader sets himself apart by defying the norm. But if he does so by defying his own values and compromising on his integrity, he reduces himself to the vilest form of behavior. He disrespects what makes him who he is, and in the process loses himself to himself. Secondly, a leader never overestimates his competency. It is by merit of his fortitude, hard work and perseverance that he has risen to where he is today. To extend his reach beyond his grasp is blind egotism, and every such overreach stretches his ability to cope with his burdens even further. Eventually, he will bring about his own collapse. Finally, a leader does not borrow courage. He fights his own battles, making the victories that much sweeter. He does not cheat, or use underhanded techniques to give sharpen his edge. Even if you are a police commissioner’s son, having policemen as bodyguards does not make you immune to the law. Using borrowed resources and purchased power will never make anyone a true leader.
At the end of this, one will realize that there is nothing that one did not already know in the above paragraphs. All of us have heard these words before. On some inspection, we will then realize that a true leader is not very different from each and every one of us, except that he has made the decisions that many of us ignore everyday. It takes hard work to develop core competency, and determination to wield it well. Every single one of us is capable of this. Every single one of us can be the leader we deserve.
Pranav Pai

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