Two lessons on leadership

Two lessons on leadership

Two lessons on leadership, I cherish and keep as a benchmark.


The first one.


Former President, late Dr Abdul Kalam, used to relate a story about the launch of a satellite by the Indian Space Research Organisation in July 1979.  He was in charge of the project at ISRO at that time.


Some members expressed reservations about its readiness, Dr Kalam overruled them and ordered the launch to go ahead.


The launch failed, the satellite plunged into the Bay of Bengal. As the team leader, Dr Kalam was humiliated by the failure and was terrified of facing the press.


He was saved from this embarrassment by the Chairman of ISRO, Mr Satish  Dhawan, who faced the television cameras and said that despite the failure, he reposed complete faith in his team to deliver on their next attempt.


The following August, Dr Kalam and his team went ahead with another launch attempt. This time they succeeded. Mr. Dhawan congratulated the team and asked Dr Kalam to address the press conference.


In telling the story in later years, during and after his term as President of India, Dr Kalam would recall with great feeling, “When failure occurred, the leader took responsibility. When success came, he gave the credit to his team”


The second one.


On the midnight of August 14, 1947, when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was making the famous “While the whole world was sleeping…” speech, 78 year old Mahatma Gandhi was walking along the alleys of the then Calcutta, with a plea to stop the communal violence.


The whole nation celebrated on 15 August 1947. But in Calcutta, Mahatma Gandhi was worried and trying to end the violence due to the Partition.


“To me, peace between Hindus and Muslims is more important then the declaration of independence”, he said.


“I cannot rejoice on August 15, I do not want to deceive you. But at the same time, I shall not ask you not to rejoice. Unfortunately, the kind of freedom we have got today contains also the seeds of future conflict between India and Pakistan. How can we therefore light the lamps?” said Mahatma Gandhi.


On 9 August, Gandhiji arrived in Calcutta, planning to go to Naokhali (now in Bangladesh) where communal violence was at its height. Other leaders urged Gandhiji to help bring peace to Calcutta as they felt that would restore peace to all of Bengal.


The Mahatma decided to stay at Hyderi Manzil, close to a Muslim dominated slum, Miabagan.


From 13th August, Gandhiji worked hard to bring about peace between the communities. Even the angry mobs did not stop Gandhiji in continuing with his efforts to bring an end to the violence 


After a few days, when his efforts turned into reality. 


The Governor-General Lord Mountbatten, noting this, wrote “In Punjab, we have 55,000 soldiers and large scale rioting on our hands. In Bengal, our force consists of one man, and there is no rioting.”

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