Monday, December 3, 2012

3 fundamental elements of leadership - by Prof. Debashis Chatterjee

I had an excellent opportunity to listen to Prof. Debashis Chatterjee's educational session on "3 fundamental elements of leadership", at Reverberations 2012 in Cochin. This blog post is a quick summary of the key lessons from the educational workshop.

(Also read: 10 leadership skills by DTM Ted Corcoran)

The 3 fundamental elements of leadership are:

1) Purpose
2) Productivity
3) Passion

Prof. Debashis related the above 3 elements to head, hands and heart. Purpose is defined by your mind (aka "head"). Productivity is achieved by your "hands". Passion is created at your "heart".

(Also read: 3 types of people taking leadership roles - builder, maintainer, destroyer)


A leader should have a clear/well defined purpose.

  • You've to live for something that is bigger than you
  • If you do not have a PICTURE of something that you want to be... you are not going to be successful in achieving that.
  • If you have nothing significant to die for, what is the point of living?
  • Have a purpose that is BIGGER than you
  • Corporations reward employees for not just achieving individual purpose, but collective purpose
  • Only somebody like Gandhi can say, "My life is my message". He narrated an incident, where one of Gandhiji's shoes fell in a railway track when the train departed. Gandhi immediately threw the other shoe also into the railway track saying... a poor man who will find one of my shoes can find the other pair also and use it".


A leader should work hard to achieve his purpose, together with his team.

  • When you work hard, the body will revolt, but until the mind revolts do not give up
  • As a leader, Gandhi always traveled in 3rd class because that is where his followers were. You should always be with your team.


A leader should always lead his team with "passion".

  • Mother Teresa's definition of leadership "Small work, Great love". An example of that is "When Prof. Debashis visited Mother Teresa, he forgot to take his briefcase while leaving her place. A lady with a pacemaker came running with his brief case down the stairs and handed that over to him with lots of passion"
  • Always respect others (both superiors and followers) with the attitude "I'm great to myself as you are great to yourself, therefore we both are equal"
  • A politician was able to win the election because he did not miss a single wedding or funeral in his locality
  • A politician cannot win the next election, unless he/she can connect with the next generation. 

Key remarks from the Q&A session

When answering a question about leaders who just do not "retire", Prof. Debashis said,  

As a leader,
- You've to be good at what you do
- You should enjoy what you do
- You should stop when it is right enough :)

When answering a question on poverty, he said

"Poverty is largely mind made". You should know "How much more I need to have to be happy. How much less can I have and still be happy". You've to balance these two always.

When answering a question about "How to sensitivize people about the mistakes that they unknowingly do", he narrated an interesting story,

Mother Teresa was traveling to some place in a flight. She asked the air hostess to make an announcement in the plane..."If there is left over food, I'll take it with me and serve it to the needy, because there are a number of people in this world without food". Nobody in the flight had the meal that was served in the flight that day. They gave all of that to Mother Teresa. In fact, Mother Teresa was able to get much more from other kind hearted passengers that day. We need Mother Teresas to sensitivize people on "What difference they can make on others' lives".

When answering a question about "How to discover your TRUE passion", he gave an anecdote

A small kid was regularly urinating on the bed during the nights. His mom advised the kid not to urinate. The kid asked his mom to wake him up, just when he gets the urge to urinate during the night. His mom told "Kanna, you are the only one who would know when you have the urge to urinate. How would I know?". You are the only one who knows what your TRUE passion is :) When you get the URGE, you'll discover it automatically.

About Prof. Debashis Chatterjee

Prof. Debashis Chatterjee is a ACC Research Fellow, IIM Kolkata, Pre-Doctoral Fulbright Fellow, UST and MIT and Post-Doctoral Fulbright Fellow, Harvard University. He has taught for more than a decade in IIM Lucknow and IIM Kolkata. To know more about him, visit Prof. Debashis' IIM page.

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