E-Canteen Fundas: Being a leader is all about being 'other-centric' and genuinely caring for your team

To get the best out of your team members, care for them as one would care for one’s children. Love is bringing out the best in your team members, by exploring their talents and helping them 
As a leader, it is always others first | (Pic: Edexlive)
As a leader, it is always others first | (Pic: Edexlive)

Bhaiyya,’ said Rinku. ‘Some of my team members are not fully loyal to me or the team. You keep telling us that it’s the leader’s job to develop the individuals in the team. Why should I?’

‘Yes,’ said Rahul. ‘Why should we care?’

‘Because your results are dependent on the individuals in your team,’ said Rakesh. ‘When individuals feel taken care of, they perform well and you get better results. There’s an old saying that goes — The wise leader meets the individual’s needs, just as a parent does for his children.’

‘That’s too much,’ said Rinku. ‘On one hand, they’re not doing enough and you say we have to care for them like parents.’

‘Good leaders do that,’ said Rakesh. ‘They’re genuinely concerned about every team member and their growth. Though you may feel they do not deserve any love from us, we must persist as parents do with children who may have different ways. As they say, evidence of trust begets trust and love is reciprocated by love.’

‘But can’t we get work done without getting too close with them?’ said Rahul. ‘This caring and loving stuff is sounding too sentimental.’

‘Rahul, it’s only when people feel emotionally connected that they take up things on a personal level and go to great lengths,’ said Rakesh. ‘Do you want your team members to work in a normal, transactional way or do you want them to feel fully connected to the job like they own it? As we all know, team members and employees have made the greatest sacrifices for their teams in the past. The choice is yours — would you like your team members to be superficially involved or deeply involved.’

‘I’d like them to be deeply involved,’ said Rinku. ‘Whatever it takes.’

‘Right,’ said Rakesh. ‘In which case, follow the Chinese philosopher and general, Sun Tzu, who said — Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys, look on them as your beloved sons and they will stand by you even unto death.’

‘Isn’t that a bit too intense?’ said Rahul. ‘Might work on the battlefield. But here, all we need is some good work without having to go through all this love business. And bhaiyya, many sons and daughters are abandoning their parents these days. These people might abandon us too.’

‘I think you need to first understand what love means,’ said Rakesh. ‘Love is to bring out the best in people you love and care for. So, with regards to all the people you love, ask yourself — are you bringing out the best in them?’

‘Never thought of it like this, bhaiyya,’ said Rinku. ‘Bringing out the best in others sounds like a cool definition of love. Now what Sun Tzu said about loving your team members makes sense — we care enough to bring out the best in them and it’s the leader’s job to do it.’

‘How do we actually get the best out of them, bhaiyya?’ asked Rahul. 

‘Firstly, delegate wisely, that is, give them jobs that make them stretch and let them find their way,’ said Rakesh. ‘Make them feel like they have a stake in the group, allow them to contribute and make mistakes because that’s how they grow. Be around to guide and support them without getting in their way or suppressing their creativity and initiative. Like how it should happen in a family.’

‘But we do all these things anyway, right?’ asked Rahul. ‘What’s the difference here?’

‘Rahul, don’t just go through the motions looking for results,’ laughed Rakesh. ‘Genuinely care for them and they will give everything for you. As a leader, you must genuinely be other-centred, not self-centred. Be approachable. Know them well — their aspirations, motives and limitations. Listen to what they have to say and weigh it. Then you can develop them in the way that’s best for them.’

‘Hmm,’ said Rinku. ‘It needs patience and genuine interest in the team members’ development. I must confess I haven’t walked that extra mile with my team.’

‘Ideally, such leaders develop their team members gently, non-intrusively, without them even realising that the leader is doing it,’ said Rakesh. ‘This has been the approach of Confucius, another great Chinese philosopher, on leadership, and its best expressed in this quote — To be able, yet to ask the advise of those who are not able, to have many talents yet to ask the advise of those who have few, to have yet to appear to want, to be full yet to appear empty, to be transgressed against yet not mind.

‘What does that mean, bhaiyya?’ asked Rahul.

‘It means that the leader who loves his team like a parent develops each individual in a manner that the individual feels she has done it herself. Though the leader knows everything, she will still seek advice and help from team members who do not know more, making them think and feel valued. Though the leader has everything, she appears to want, thus, motivating the team members to strive for more. Though the leader is attacked, she does not mind, knowing that these are her children. Such is the stuff great leaders are made of.’

‘Wow,’ said Rinku. ‘I have to learn to be other-centric, think about my individual team members' good, and facilitate their development in a fashion that they feel they have done it themselves. That way they grow the fastest. That’s true love.’

‘Thanks, bhaiyya,’ said Rahul. ‘I would like to bring out the best in all my close relationships by knowing them and their deepest aspirations and helping them achieve that. Like you said, that’s true love.’

Pro Tip: To get the best out of your team members, care for them as one would care for one’s children. Love is bringing out the best in your team members, by exploring their talents and helping them open up possibilities that even they may not be aware of.

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