Nourishing Leadership: A call to action for leaders

By Major (Rtd) Dr. Prebagaran Jayaraman

Image courtesy of Saveurs Secretes

Imagine you’re a competitive athlete. Can you build your muscles with only papadam, that famous thin crisp Indian snack that goes well with banana leaf meals? Of course not; you need a balanced, nutritious diet!

Similarly, what about the ability to give high-value, innovative ideas to be an effective leader in a challenging environment?

Imagine the consequences of leaders at any level who struggle with limited capacity! Failed projects, poor teamwork, conflict, poor commitment, poor governance, and the list can go on.

Without the required capacity, leaders will not be able to perform.

If we take a moment to reflect on the reality around us, we will have enough data to verify the consequences of poor leadership. I still vividly recall our nation’ pride when our national footballers beat the South Koreans and qualified for the 1980 Olympics. My family and I enjoyed the game on our small black  white TV at our estate labourers’ house.

I was a Form 2 student then. Football legends like Mokhtar Dahari, Soh Chin Aun, Arumugam, etc, were our national heroes. Unity was in action and not mere rhetoric.

Today, our national football team is ranked around 130 on the FIFA list while South Koreans are ranked 26. Something for our leaders to think about.

While athletes need a nutritional diet to build physical muscles, leaders must continuously develop their leadership capacity.

I love the following five ideas for leadership by Dr Ram Charan in his book, The High Potential Leader: How to Grow Fast, Take on New Responsibilities, and Make an Impact

1. Increase the Return on Your Time (ROYT): Time is always limited for busy leaders. Are you spending enough time to learn and grow?

2. Multiply the energy and skills of those around you: The leader’s performance depends on the team’s capabilities. Are you developing your team continuously?

3. Master big ideas and execution: We continuously face new problems. Are you capable of developing new ideas and getting them done?

4. Get to know the customers, competitors, and macro environment: The world is highly connected and interdependent. Are you aware of the events around you and capable of making the right decision?

5. Build your mental capacity: Leadership requires complex decisions that demand high mental capacity. Are you feeding your mind with intellectual nutritional diets?

Ideas from global experts like Ram Charan require adaptation to the local context. What worked in New York may not work in Lumut or Putrajaya.

Nutritious Intellectual Diet is compulsory for any leader to add value and do justice to the leadership position. Unfortunately, some junk is very well packaged and perceived as nutritious in today’ world. I hope leaders will have the wisdom to differentiate them.

The real challenge to improving leadership is not the lack of coaches or learning opportunities. It’s the desire to learn and humility to acknowledge that what we know is a drop of water compared to a vast ocean of wisdom.

Major (Rtd) Dr Prebagaran Jayaraman is a performance coach and TTT master trainer