Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Leadership Lessons - What WORKS when you are a leader?

Here are some lessons that I learned during my journey as the Division Governor for the toastmasters clubs in Tamil Nadu.
  1. If the team WINS, you WIN
  2. Volunteers cannot be fired
  3. Always look at the glass half-full - leaders are always optimistic
  4. Small things make perfection, but perfection isn't a small thing
  5. None of us can achieve what all of us can achieve together - TEAM WORK 
  6. Small actions x Lots of People = BIG Change
  7. Get committed people, give them responsibilities, and trust them to do their work
  8. When YOU do it, they'll FOLLOW
  9. Appreciate even the smallest of the accomplishments
  10. Stay connected with people and keep them informed
  11. Don't just THANK, thank them for a SPECIFIC REASON
  12. Your title is for a year, but the relationship is going to last longer (Don't let your title come in between YOU and YOUR relationship with people)
  13. Advices come for free - Like a "crane", decide what is appropriate for you
  14. & the list continues
Also read:

3Ps of Leadership - Purpose, Productivity & Passion
High Performance Leadership - Project Ideas / Requirements

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Importance of Communication when Leading without a Title

ACG Speech #5 - Speaking to Inform
The Abstract Concept
18th November 2011


Good evening to all the LIONS assembled in this hall. Assembling here on a Friday evening shows your commitment, and passion towards fellowship and service. LION is the leader of jungle, but YOU are the real leaders of our society. According to me, Lions are Leaders who Inspire by Offering Notable Service

(Also read: Leadership lessons - What works when you are a leader?)

Rabbit in front of a LION

To be honest, I am feeling like a rabbit to stand in front of YOU … the LIONS … to talk about LEADERSHIP. Today, I’m going to share with you some wisdom that I gained by serving as the Division Governor of Toastmasters International, an organization that helps people to improve their public speaking and leadership skills.

Setting the stage

Civil rights leader Martin Luther King … Father of our nation, Mohandoss Karamchand Gandhi … Social activist Anna Hazare

How do these individuals inspire people to work for a common cause?  How do these individuals mobilize support of a large number of people? 

1.      They are not the Presidents or Prime Ministers of the nation
2.      They are not CEOs of a large corporation or associated with any political organizations
3.      They were not born into a family of leaders
4.      They neither had large sums of money nor a formal authority over people

So, what are the tricks that these leaders used to attract people and influence them for their cause? How were they able to LEAD WITHOUT A TITLE? Friends, they know how to effectively CONNECT, COLLOBORATE AND CONGRATULATE.

(Also read: 3Ps of leadership by Prof. Debhasis Chatterjee)


I read a quote from your Lions International website “Whenever Lions gets together, problems get smaller. And communities get better”. What an interesting quote. It highlights the importance of team work in serving people. Our leadership skill is put to the best use, when we “Connect” with people and work together as a team.

So, how do you connect with your team, when you are a leader?

When you are in a gathering, take the first step to introduce yourself to others. Always, greet people with a warm and pleasant SMILE.
·         Make them feel SPECIAL
·         Make them feel IMPORTANT
·         Make them feel you CARE

Say, you are in a Lions club meeting and you see a fellow LION member entering the hall.

“Good morning Sir. Welcome!”

“Hello Mohan Sir! How are you? It is a pleasure to see you today. Welcome to the meeting. We were missing you so much” (or)

Staying connected with people is like farming. In farming you plough the land, sow seeds, water the field, remove weeds, and add fertilizer at the right time.

Similarly, you’ve to invest your time in maintaining the relationship and staying connected with people –
  • by appreciating their accomplishments,
  • by listening to their needs, and
  • by re-enforcing their belief that they are important
Even simple things like wishing them on their birthday or wedding anniversary or on their daughter’s graduation go a long way.


“Leadership is not about the Leader” said Wing-Kun Tam, International President of Lion. It is very true.

Verbal – “I/You” ratio.

When we collaborate with a team, we tend to create an impression that we are dominating, self-centered and egoistic. How do we avoid that impression?

There is a simple technique called I/You ratio in communication.

The most powerful communication combines both intellectual and emotional connections.
·         Intellectual means appealing to educated self-interest with data and reasoned arguments. We are good at that.
·         Emotion comes from engaging the listener and answering their unspoken question – “What is in it for me”? … by frequently using words such as "you" and “we”.

For example, don't say, “I met the Zone Chairman last week. I was asked to organize a blood donation camp. I have to form a team. I’m looking for people. If any of you are interested to join the organizing team, let me know”.

Instead, you can say “We have a tremendous opportunity to serve our community. Our Zone Chairman has given US the task of organizing a blood donation camp. We need volunteers. Each one of you is qualified to join this noble cause. Will you be able to join me in this mission to serve our society?

Look at the impact that it creates.

Leading by example

What I just shared with you is a verbal communication technique to inspire and influence your team.
Knowingly or unknowingly, we are doing much more communication non-verbally than verbally. How do you inspire people to follow your cause, without verbal communication – “leading by example”.

Let me give you an example. Joe Girhard is a Guinness record holder. Joe worked for General Motors and he holds a Guinness record for selling the most number of cars, not just one year, not just two years but continuously for 15 years in a row.  In one of the interviews, he was asked “Joe! How were you able to sell more cars, when your colleagues in the dealership had exactly the same opportunity as you?” Well! It was simple. He said, people watch what you do … much more than listening to what you say. Many of my colleagues were selling Chevrolet, but there were driving a Honda, Toyota or a Volkswagen car themselves.  But, I was selling a Chevvy and also owned a Chevvy. When my prospects see that I believe in the product that I sell, they tend to buy it from me. I just walk my talk and that made the difference.”
What an excellent example of leadership? Leaders just don’t preach the world to act; they “lead by example”. When you do it, others will get inspired and automatically follow you.


Genuinely appreciating the performance of your members!!

I read a book called “How to teach so that kids can listen”. The book talks about “How to motivate kids to get repeatable behaviors?”. The author says “Don’t just compliment your kid, but compliment them for a specific reason”.

For example, instead of just saying “Son! You did a fantastic job”, you should say “Son! I like the way you are keeping your room neat and clean. You are saving a lot of time for dad and mom. Great job”. When you communicate the specific reason for which you are appreciating them, they remember it better. They feel “I’m getting this appreciation because I kept the room neat and clean”.

You can use the same technique for adults also. After all, we were also kids once upon a time.
For example, instead of saying “Ramesh! You did a great job of conducting an eye camp”, you can say “Ramesh! You displayed extraordinary commitment, team work and service mentality by organizing the eye camp. You were able to make it happen despite the challenges you had in mobilizing funds. You are trustworthy and I can rely on you every time. Great job”.

At times, folks will come to you and ask for feedback on their performance. “How did I perform Sir? What can I improve?” Our, natural tendency is to either say “You did a great job” or to start listing a long list of mistakes they did. The specialty of LIONS is “You are serving not only with your money, but also with your energy and your time”. So, never hurt volunteers, because each one of them is trying to do their best.

When giving feedback to your team or team members,
  • highlight the areas they did well
  • highlight the areas they could’ve done better
  • end it with appreciation of their good work
The LAST impression is the LASTING impression. When giving feedback, always END WITH A HIGH NOTE.

Leaders can be MADE

How many of you think that you should be BORN with leadership skills to be a LEADER? How many of you think that you can acquire skills to be a LEADER? I strongly believe that leadership is something that can be learned. Leaders don’t have to be BORN.

Leaders can be made – all we need to have is the determination to be leader. If there is one magic pill that we can swallow before going to the bed and wake up the next morning as a GREAT LEADER, everybody will be leaders today. But Leadership requires constant practice with persistence, patience and passion, you can be great leader too. 

(Also read: 3 types of people taking leadership roles)

I want all of you to do an exercise. Close your eyes. Imagine, it is 2013 and it is your LIONS international convention. There are 100s and 1000s of people in the audience. The hall is filled with enthusiasm and energy. You are called to the stage – for your best performance as the LEADER WITHOUT AUTHORITY. Everyone in the audience are applauding you, when you walk to the stage. You get the award from your international president. Your dream will come true, when you follow these simple techniques to effectively CONNECT, COLLABORATE AND CONGRATULATE PEOPLE.