Monthly Archives: December 2018

Triumph and Disaster the two imposters…

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same…” is a line inscribed above the entrance to Wimbledon’s Centre Court, for players see before they battle of the most coveted and prestigious tennis cup.

Indian Born Author and poet Rudyard Kipling, best known for his Novel “ The Jungle Book” is a part of every literature enthusiasts book self. I first came across his poem “ IF” in my first year of college. Like every young person who is on his first sojourns of philosophy and path of understanding the world and the people in it, I was much inspirited. I walked around with in my wallet and wrote a few lines from it on every gift gifted at the time.
It was only much later that I learnt the Interesting story and Inspiration behind the poem.

Kipling had been friends with Dr Leander Starr Jameson who led five-hundred of his countrymen in an unsuccessful raid against the Boers, in southern Africa. The failed ‘Jameson Raid’ was later considered a major factor in starting the Boer War (1899-1902).

Dr Jameson was a brave leader who had to withstand several challenges including betrayal from his peers and biting failure. He had been commissioned by Cecil Rhodes, then Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, to run the raid. This plan to start an uprising as a consequence of the raid, had been encouraged by British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain, father of future Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.

However when Chamberlain heard the raid was to be launched, he was unsure of its merits, panicked and changed his mind. He rallied up the high powers in London against the Raid. Chamberlain ordered the Governor General of the Cape Colony to condemn the ‘Jameson Raid’ and Rhodes for planning it. As a direct consequence of this, Jameson and his troops were attacked and captured even before they could enter Johannesburg. He lost several men of his men in this brutal attack and surrendered.

Jameson, although he had the blessings of the British Government to begin the raid, became the fall guy in the power play between Cape Town and British Government. He faced a brutal trial, yet kept his integrity and silence and never squealed on the extent of support he had from the British Government for the Raid. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison. Typical of his spirit, Jameson was not broken by his imprisonment. He decided to return to South Africa after his release and rose to become Prime Minister of the Cape Colony in 1904.

He was an inspirational leader with many qualities of integrity, fortitude and focus and determination Rudyard Kipling wrote the Poem as a tribute to the leader and from its 8 verses we can learn several qualities of a good leader.

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same…” is inscribed above the entrance to Wimbledon’s Centre Court, which players see before the battle of the most prestigious tennis accolade. There is no such thing as “too many times” to read this poem. I suggest you read it and see how many of these attributes you possess and how many we can work on developing. For then one day you’ll be a man – my son!

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too.
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster,
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make a heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling

Boardroom Superheroes

Some of the biggest block busters churned from the film industries across the world are centered on superheroes with fantastic powers. Is it possible that there are some leadership lessons we can derive from these popular superhero movies? Since in our work spaces, strive as much as we want, we cannot always be the smartest, wisest or the best.

Watching the movie ‘Doctor Strange’ from the Marvel house of superheroes was a recent addition to my list of ‘things to do’. This list was started to draw up 10 things that I normally don’t do and see if I could push myself to do it. I am not a superhero movie fan to say the least and have often wondered what draws people to them with such fervour. I was soon to find out with this one.

Dr. Stephen Stranger’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a practising Neurosurgeon. His life changes after a car accident leaving his surgery performing hands useless. He is grappling with ways to heal himself. With western medicine offering him no cure to his condition, he reluctantly threads down the path of mysterious enclave and finds himself in Kathmandu seeking his Karma-Taj. He soon learns that the enclave is at the front line of a battle against unseen dark forces bent on destroying reality. Before long, Strange is forced to choose between his life of fortune and status or leave it all behind to defend the world as the most powerful sorcerer in existence. As someone who is not obsessed with superheroes and Marvel Comics (unlike so many people I know) it is easy to brush it off as violent, unrealistic and clichéd. Over the years I have learnt that a movie holds only as much meaning as we make out of it. What we can imbibe from it can make all the difference between good and bad.

In my view that there are there are some great leadership lessons we can learn from it.

1. Our pride limits our possibilities.
Dr Strange is an accomplished doctor and is “full of himself”. With no means to a living, he is forced to give up his pride and look for new ways to find a cure, a new identity and to really find himself again. He must give up his pride and ego and surrender to the ways of his new mystic world to learn about it and become a sorcerer. Although confidence is a necessary thing for most of us to succeed, an excess of it makes us believe that we are invincible. As we see with the outcome of this car accident, Life has its ways of forcing us to step down from the mantels we place our selves upon. The swift and tactful blows it offers, force us to reinvent ourselves. This is inevitable and clearly out of our control. Yet, keeping our pride at bay and etching clearly the line between confidence and vanity will define how quickly you can realign and adapt to new circumstances.

2. Learn from others who threaded the path before.
The good doctor needed to learn at every step of the way. He was not born gifted with his skills to save the multiverse from the dark forces. He had to ask and receive. He had to admit that he did not know it all. And he had to understand that there were others who have faced the strife that he has. We often tend to believe that the whole world revolves around us, our experiences and our feelings and thoughts about it. We forget that this universe if a few million years old. There is more than a good chance that some one has had to go through the same thing before. Others have suffered before what we suffer now. Others may strive to overcome and surely a few would have.

This awareness will also help us realize that we may not always have to create solutions; we merely have to discover them or learn them from someone else. Seeking guidance from those with similar experiences saves us precious time and will offer insights which may elude us while we are in the midst of our journey. As they say “Seek not just the answer but its keeper as well”.

3. Determination Determines your destination:
As is quintessential to most superheroes, Doctor Strange is set apart from his peers by his resilience and unvarying determination. I believe that the factors that determine our failures are the ones that can define your success as well. Like how entrepreneurs fail because their passion blinds them to reason. They also succeed because of their unfazed passion and “Never Say Die” attitude . Our failures and our success are two sides of the same coin.

Doctor Strange is determined and never loses sight of his goals. While he may not be the most knowledgeable sorcerer or the wisest of them he clearly hits a home run with determination.

What we can be is the most determined and the one that puts in the most effort with the goal in mind. We must keep pushing to overcome barriers and find solutions and tackle the challenges on hand to take us a step or two closer to the goal. Solutions tend to present themselves by the very virtue of having relentlessly tried.