“Never take your success for granted, for failure always lurks around the corner. How often do we see star salespeople make poor sales leaders? What makes you a great salesperson does not automatically make you a great sales leader. The context is different and the skills needed to succeed are also different.”
Marshall Goldmsith’s book `What Got You Here Won’t Get You There` is a classic in management literature. The magic of the book is in its title. In one sentence, it tells you why the factors that made you successful today may not be relevant tomorrow.
Perhaps, the book’s impact on me is such that I can’t help but study different models of success in varied spheres of life. Elections in India offer a fascinating panoramic view of the diverse and highly unpredictable Indian social-political architecture.
I sat glued to the television set as the Vidhan Sabha election results of five states were being announced. As a post graduate student of Politics and an ex-journalist, I am fascinated by the discussions on swings, issues, mindsets and current affairs. As the results tumbled out of the ballot into our homes, the trainer in me could not help but put together some management lessons from the happenings at the hustings.
1. Success is ephemeral and failure not permanent
In 2014, Mr Narendra Modi was the toast of the nation, and the Congress faced a severe threat of long term irrelevance. The Party, which ruled the country for most of the post independence period, was staring at a bleak future. Subsequently, it kept losing state elections. Possibility of a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ seemed real. Yet, just four and a half years later, the Congress has claimed the Hindi heartland and the ruling alliance cannot take victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls for granted.
In the corporate context, a successful promotion guarantees more responsibility and not necessarily greater joy. The joy often is short-lived, and success sits uneasily as the professional now needs to reinvent himself and justify his growth. Never take your success for granted, for failure always lurks around the corner. How often do we see star salespeople make poor sales leaders? What makes you a great salesperson does not automatically make you a great sales leader. The context is different and the skills needed to succeed are also different.
2. Don’t write off anyone
Rahul Gandhi has been the butt of jokes for the past few years. After fourteen years in politics, but only one year as Congress President, he has risen like a Phoenix. He has moved from apparent irrelevance and incompetence to a position from where he could be the next big thing in Indian politics.
In the corporate world too, we find lines being drawn between the talented and the not-so-talented. However, people with a great attitude and persistence often outshine those with talent but lacking in attitude, skills and patience. Organisations are often surprised by how the person who was written off makes it big one day and is also more focused.
3. It never really is about that one person
There is something luring about charisma and magnetism. A charismatic person always seems to dazzle people with abilities uncommon. We somewhere `fall` for such people in various sphere of life, if only to fill in a gap within us. We are taken in by the hope they present and the leadership potential they carry.
Yet, be it politics, sports, career or business, winning and losing is never about just that one person. Of course, that one person – the leader, is crucial as the fulcrum of success is built around him. But everything is a team game. It takes a lot of people to make our life what it is. There are the obvious ones like our family, friends and colleagues who contribute, but there are many unseen, unheard and unknown faces who keep us in the balance.
Though the NDA rode the Modi wave in 2014, the alliance in the final analysis will be judged by the collective contribution and wisdom of its members. This is a great lesson for the Congress too. Though Rahul Gandhi is being credited with the victories, but they are also because of other key personalities, party workers and the organisation machinery.
In the corporate world too, flamboyance is seen as a virtue. But as Jim Collins, author of the classic Good To Great, says in an article I found on the Internet: “You can’t build something really big just on charisma alone. At some point the scale is too great; you can’t reach that many people. If you want something to really grow over time, you’ve got to build mechanisms that can touch everybody every day. What you get in the end is more reach, more power, the ability to affect more people. It’s a leverage game.”(source:https://www.jimcollins.com/article_topics/articles/the-death-of-the-charismatic-leader.html)
Legacies are created by putting in place by institutionalizing the core values and by rigorously implementing robust processes and systems. As they say, `Leadership is not what happens when you are there, but what happens when you are not there`.
4. Underpromise and Overdeliver
We live in times where expectations are already set high. To fuel those expectations further by promising the moon is fraught with risk. The 2014 election campaign was all about passion and promises. A severe reality check seems to have happened in these state elections. The Congress, with its promises en route to power in these elections, also needs to be on guard. Ultimately, you are judged by performance and not intent alone.
As a professional too, in the quest for growth, it is advisable to steer clear of over commitment on deliverables. A better strategy is to aspire high but commit lower. The stakeholders will benchmark you on what you said you will do and not just on what you managed to do. Overpromise may create short term gains, but is likely to provide long term pain.
However, when you underpromise and overdeliver, you will create a much bigger credibility for yourself. While you may lose in the short term, you’ll be a clear winner in the long term.
5. Hard Work Creates Success And Success Creates More Hard Work
It is an old maxim, ‘Creating success is tough, staying successful is tougher’. The thing the Congress now needs to do after a come-from-behind combat is to work harder. If the ultimate goal is power at the Center, the road ahead is tougher and more tricky. The electorate in the new India has only those as favourites who perform. People vote not for promises, but on evaluation of those promises. Fulfilling the promises made is the key.
In professional life too, it only gets lonelier at the top. While growth is exciting, the challenges simply magnify. As you grow in your career, time does not expand, but tasks and complexities do. It is important to always remember that you get paid for performance, not for efforts. Yet, there can be no performance without hard work.
6. The Threat Of Irrelevance Hangs Like A Damocles Sword
In today’s ruthlessly expectant world, you are only as good as your last performance. Be it sports, politics or the corporate world, people only look at what you are doing today and at best how you fared yesterday. Today’s hero may quickly lose the sheen and slide towards irrelevance. Going into the Big 2019 elections, people will keep a keen watch on how the newly sworn-in governments in the states are performing. Promises and performance will be discussed at homes and across media.
Success is not for those who are not prepared to sacrifice their comfort zone forever. Continuous success in the corporate world too comes through continuous discomfort. The talent and technology power around us are so immense that constant reinvention is the key. The Congress has reinvented itself remarkably well so far, but the job may not even be half done. And as soon as it feels it is done, some more may be required. That is life.
The key lesson for both the BJP and the Congress is the same: What got you here won’t get you there. The same applies to working professionals as well as entrepreneurs.
Article Contributed By: Hariharan Iyer, who lives in Mumbai, is an Inspirational Speaker, Corporate Trainer, Author and Reiki Grandmaster. He is practicing meditation for over 25 years and Reiki for over 21 years. You can get more details of his work from his website www.lifetransformation.in. You can write to him on [email protected].
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