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One thought about Responsible Leadership #10 – Gaurav Naulakha

Leadership is the reaction of responsibility

I never wanted leadership. At some point in my life, I swore to myself to stay away from any leadership position ever. I was raised in a family of high standards, by successful people with lots of achievements, my cousins with Ivy league scholars and gold medals. No matter what I do, no matter how high I fly, there was no other way for me because this is exactly how things should be. 

My hard-working attitude together with the huge sense of responsibility made me at some point the best student at school, the winner of all kinds of contests and competitions, the challenge taker from my friends. Obviously, I was supposed to lead some people and projects but suddenly I started to realize that my best friend was being jealous of my achievements but obviously not of the hard work behind it. As a result, I had a really difficult time at school with my best friend trying to turn the whole class against me. I never showed my pain at school, I could not protect myself when I was alone because I could not understand what exactly I did wrong. I was a responsible student, active class member, thankful friend, so what exactly was my fault? And guess what the 13 years old boy did? I decided to refuse any praise. Still holding on to my responsibilities, I promised to myself not to be noticeable anymore. I promised myself to stay away from nominating me for any leadership position ever again. 

All of this continued until one day I joined a very progressive youth volunteering organization (the Robin Hood Army)  which is actually the biggest in India. At that time, I said to myself, I will only learn things and leave directly after I had learned what I wanted to learn. After initiating some projects and optimizing some processes, I actually found myself leading people subconsciously, still refusing any responsibility role.  Realizing that revealed to me the core of leadership. 

Turns out leadership is not something you thrive for. Leadership is the responsibility you take. This is just a tool, a method to make your ideas and your beliefs into reality. 

You may ask: How do people become leaders? Well, I strongly believe that leaders emerge only when there are problems to solve. In physics, the reaction is defined as an answer to certain action. Equally, leadership is a reaction to a gap in the system, to the problem the leader is born to fix.

Let me bring you an example of some anonymous guy called Mr. X. He was an army new swimmer. He was completing his usual running distance when he heard a crash and saw a drowning trolley bus. X jumped into the lake and despite the conditions of almost zero visibility, started to bring people out. He managed to save 46 people and 20 of them survived. As a result of this, Mr. X had lung complications. He spent 45 days in hospital which ruined his sports career forever. Mr. X did not want that leadership. I’m sure he wasn’t expecting further appreciation. He just knew there is something much bigger than him. 

But where does the responsibility come from? It comes from the attitude when we take things personally. Do you think Mr. X would jump into the water if he didn’t take it personally? I don’t think so.

During my graduation, I was always taking things personally. Any people I met, any company I interned in, any problem, any pain, I was taking it personally. Remember the expression, “Nothing personal, just business”. Forget about it. Now and forever, forget about it. Our life is personal. Whatever we do should be personal. 

The first time I took a leadership role after what happened to school, I was supposed to lead a team of three young and ambitious interns. We had no money; we expected no appreciation and the fact that I was leading those people not because I was the smartest or the strongest or the best, but because I believed that my leadership and myself can be useful for the global goal. 

Leadership is just a consequence. Responsibility and personal attitude are the core. This is why I stand for global leaders because I understand this is not about the leader. It is about ourselves. True leaders understand that true leadership is not about their personal success it’s about empowering people around to take responsibility for their lives. 

One of my mentors, Mr. Roshan Shah, said you’re good when your people are good. And here comes the choice: take responsibility for the problem or keep the leadership energy to ourselves but treating leadership as an honor. 

When choosing the recognition and not the result, when going for short-term material values not for the global goal, we start to lose that leadership energy we have been granted. Because this is no longer bigger than us. This is even smaller than what we could ever become. Sometimes I really feel like that 13 years old boy, afraid to be noticed, afraid to be alone, afraid to take the challenge, but now I know the WHY of my leadership and the scars from the past remind me which kind of leader I want to become. 

So next time you’re offered in a leadership position think carefully about why you are doing it.To prove to yourself or anyone else that you’re a cool guy? To brag about your expensive card, platinum credit card, and hot job title on LinkedIn or because you see the problem you can solve and one where you have to take responsibility for people around you: for their lives, for their growth, and for their future. If you feel, you’re ready, go for it. And then your inner values will guide you and then leadership will come by itself as a consequence.