Posted by: Suresh Sundarababu | August 26, 2013

Patience – a leadership crisis

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Wikipedia describes it as “the state of endurance under difficult circumstances, which can mean persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting on annoyance/anger in a negative way; or exhibiting forbearance when under strain, especially when faced with longer-term difficulties. Patience is the level of endurance one can take before negativity.”

In today’s world it might as well be a four letter word!

From the time we are born we are in a hurry to get somewhere, do anything but sit still and patience becomes one of those clichés that is meant to be given as an advice to others but not really a practical thing for us to practice. While we all love the story of how a patient tortoise won the race over a speedy rabbit, do we honestly want to be called a tortoise??!

And therein lies the leadership dilemma, dare I say, even maybe a crisis. Who in their right mind wants to be associated with all the negative connotations associated with a tortoise – slow, boring and a cliché!

Leaders these days are measured by their readiness to do something more than the results of that doing something. In a world driven by expectations of instant magical gratification and results, maybe an argument can be made that these leaders don’t really have a choice. Maybe it is O.K. to change from guard rail to guard rail at the first sliver of difficult circumstance, no matter what the cost is to the organization, its customers and most importantly its human capital!

In my humble opinion, that is exactly why patience is THE differentiator between a good leader and a great leader. Anyone can just do something and pray that it works or change the direction at the first sign of trouble and call it being nimble on their feet. It takes a great leader to have the patience, persistence and the perspiration needed to do the right thing. As Arnold H. Glasow said, “The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it”.

After all the tortoise did win the race – with patience, persistence and perspiration!

May you find your inner tortoise at the first sign of your next crisis and be the great leader that you can be!

Posted by: Suresh Sundarababu | August 12, 2013

Dont just leave a legacy live one!

Dont just leave a legacy live one!

My parents are two humble educators (now retired) in India and my brother and I grew up in a middle class family not having all things we wanted, but never lacking in anything we needed.

Fast forward to now, both of us are well educated, taking advantage of the opportunities this connected world offers us in two different countries outside India and being blessed to provide an even better lifestyle for our families.

And along the way the important lessons we learned were not from the educational institutions, but from the way my parents lived their lives. They weren’t loud or demonstrative of what they thought were important. We never had endless hours of lectures of how we need to be and what was good or bad. They led by example. They lived it. They are living a legacy, including being very active after retirement making the world they touch a better place, that has become my guiding light.

As Marc Freedman points out in his blog (link above), we who are blessed with advancement in longevity and health have an opportunity to do work in our lifetime and actually reap the benefits of seeing the change we can influence.

And reflecting on how my parents are a prime example of living a legacy as he explains in his blog, they have given me the following guiding principles to live by:

  • Generosity has nothing to do with having money – if you are not of a generous heart when you have just a dollar, you won’t be generous when you have a million.
  • Being charitable and effecting a social change are two different things – As highlighted in my blog from a month back
  • Do not do good deeds expecting reciprocal deeds. Do them because it brings you joy and satisfaction
  • Unconditional love and support for those friends and family in your circle, Choose wisely as to who you have in your circle (of course one does not get to choose who their family is in most cases!) and surround yourself with those who will hold to a high standard
  • Be the person you want the world to be

I will be the first to admit that I fail more than I succeed. But nevertheless being successful even half the time and see the good it can do, gives me a relentless motivation to live a life of legacy, to take advantage of the blessed opportunities given to me and touch the world around me.

Here is to wishing that all of us can live a legacy that our children can be proud of!!

Posted by: Suresh Sundarababu | July 23, 2013

Characteristics of Innovative Leaders

Characteristics of Innovative Leaders

This is one of the best articles that I have read on what innovative leadership is all about. The author, Bill George, writes about how to develop innovative leaders in organizations and it is worth a few minutes of everyone’s time.

There are a few things that struck a chord within me.

  • “Research and Product Development are not Innovation” – As the article points out billions of dollars flows into R&D, but rarely does something revolutionary comes out of it. Making a product just a little faster, a little slimmer and a little shinier does not create disruption or progress
  • “Large organizations that are heavily dependent on previous successes frequently squeeze out innovative ideas and the innovators who create them” – Having hands on experience with “raging against the machine” to lead an organization in new direction, this point hits home for sure. It is not because large organizations lack smart leaders. Sometimes these are the same leaders who had come up with innovative ideas previously. But somewhere along the line these leaders start to get comfortable (there is that word again!) and stop doing what made them successful in the first place!
  • “The courage to fail and learn from failure” – We live in a society where from a young age it is ingrained in us what success (read mediocrity!) should look like. Taking risks is not encouraged and in fact there is a conscious effort and encouragement to just blend in. In my humble opinion, those stuck in comfort zones make up good followers. Innovative leaders are those who are not afraid to push the boundaries, get a little scrapped up along the way, but know that the reward is worth it.
  • “The best innovators are rule breakers and mavericks who don’t fit the corporate mold” – One doesn’t have to be crazy to innovate. But you got to be crazy enough to break the mold and go against the grain to create progress.

Imagine for a minute if Steve Jobs or Larry Page or Jeff Bezos or Howard Schultz were not the top dogs who can make their own rules and were just one of the employees in a large organization. What were their chances of success in developing innovative products? Would the leadership at their organization allowed them to break the rules and create products which by all accounts have united and advanced this world?

Are you one of those leaders in influential position in an organization that has the power to allow or destroy innovation? This is definitely worth a read and reflection for all leaders, innovators or not, and one that could kick start your organization towards creating and thriving on progress

Posted by: Suresh Sundarababu | July 13, 2013

Leading a Social Change Vs. Charity

Leading a Social Change Vs. Charity

There is a huge difference between writing a check for a cause and leading a social change to make the world you touch a better place!

Don’t get me wrong. Without those generous checks there will be no change and it is the lifeline to countless organization leading the change worldwide. And the volume of small checks allows an easy way for individuals to be part of the change.

But money alone will not bring about sustainable change. To go beyond just stopping the bleeding and to solve root causes of these problems what is needed are passion, commitment and leadership. The author in the article (link above) explains very well the difference between charity and strategic philanthropy. As he states both are necessary, but it is imperative to be strategic to eliminate the root cause and make sure the resources are going towards ling term fixes.

African Leadership Bridge (www.africanleadershipbridge.org) is just one example of a non-profit that is trying to be strategic in its mission to bring about sustainable change to Africa by educating and mentoring outstanding students in the US with a vision for them to go back and lead the creation of an Africa where all its citizens have an opportunity to realize their full potential.

Every single person can be strategically charitable if they just chose to give little bit more of their time and passion to a cause near and dear to them.  As Margaret Mead said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”.

Here is to hoping that you get inspired today to change the world around you one step at a time!

Posted by: Suresh Sundarababu | July 3, 2013

List of top 10 Disruptors

List of top 10 Disruptors

This link is Clayton Christensen’s (if you remember from my post a few weeks back he is a Harvard professor who is considered the guru when it comes to defining disruption) top 10 disruptor list. It was published about 6 years back and very intriguing to look back at the list to see if they are still relevant

For example, in my opinion, Netflix truly belongs in the list. Even after the storm that they weathered in recent years they still fundamentally changed the way movies are rented. And in true disruption sense they made it simpler, cheaper and have continued to innovate with movies being streamed now taking advantage of the advances in technology.

On the other hand Blackberry probably does not belong in the list now. It surely did belong a few years back when they were the standard in corporate email for mobile devices. And somewhere along the line they just got comfortable (that bane of a word that is the root cause of all mediocrity!) with what they had. And that has spelt trouble with the likes of Samsung and Apple dominating the market today.

Time and again there are examples market leaders getting comfortable and resting in their past laurels only to be blown away by new upstarts. From the PC industry to the car manufacturers to banking you can find countless examples of market leaders struggling because they stopped doing what got them there – innovating!

Would love to hear your thoughts on who else should be on the list or who should not be and reasons behind it.

Posted by: Suresh Sundarababu | June 25, 2013

Evolving job needs

Evolving job needs

Let me start by saying there is absolutely nothing wrong with just having a job. Everyone wants to provide for and take care of their family, enjoy their hobbies and in general feel like a productive member of the society. And there is nothing wrong with that.

And I am no different. But over the last few years, it has become clear to me that a job that does not do anything more than provide a paycheck every two weeks is just not satisfying. And in the long run it will be detrimental to all the things mentioned above.

A fulfilling job is one that connects my need for providing for my family AND my need to make a difference to the world around me (as mentioned in the last post not the world at large but the immediate world I touch) while leading a successful disruptive business. Yes, I want it all and I am on a quest to find it! 🙂

A recent article (link above) by Austin’s own Dan Graham the CEO of Build-a-sign, an innovative start up shaking up an old industry, talks about integrated life culture in the business world. Great read! And a visit to their website to learn more about who they are shows that it is not just talk. They walk the walk by giving back to the community and having fun while creating a meaningful and growing business. (Disclaimer: I do not work for Build-a-sign (at least not yet)!!)

Smart companies, especially those who are disrupting the establishment have figured this out more than anyone else. To attract talent in a competitive environment and especially the socially connected next generation, it is no longer just enough to throw money, stock options and other common perks. And these companies also do not want employees who only have $$ $igns in their mind!

And it is encouraging to see the most disruptive and innovative companies embrace this culture to be more than just a marketing message but strive to live it and differentiate. And the trend seems to be growing and those who want more than just a job can find one without having to settle and indeed can have it all!

And I am ALL IN on that quest!

Posted by: Suresh Sundarababu | June 17, 2013

Forbes 100 Best Quotes on Leadership

Forbes 100 Best Quotes on Leadership

Wikipedia describes Cliché  (/ˈklʃ/ ) as an expression or idea which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning, or effect, and even, to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel.

And leadership quotes over time has become cliche’s! Repeated again and again so much that we hear the words but don’t really stop to understand the meaning of it.

In my humble opinion, some cliche’s are well worth everyone’s time and in fact should be repeated and practiced again and again. Maybe lot of the inadequacies in leadership exhibited today worldwide, corporate or social, could be enhanced if these cliche’s are given more respect!

Kevin Kruse in the above Forbes article compiles his top 100 leadership quotes. May be 100 is a little too much and hard to remember all the time. Nevertheless it is useful to have a handful of favorites as your own favorite list. This list should resonate with one’s core value system and something that is not heard as words but seen as action.

I have about 10 or so, but today wanted to expand on three which are in this list and I feel very passionate about

#14 – Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has. —Margaret Mead

Even one person can change the world. Not the one with 7 billion people, but the world around you! The two or three at home, four or five you know at work, six or seven friends that do absorb the things you do and can be inspired! And the force multiplier of this effect is magical to watch. And one example is the African Leadership Bridge. It started as an idea by one person to help one deserving student and now, while still small, we are trying to change a continent! (www.africanleadershipbridge.org)

#22 – Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm. —Publilius Syrus

Almost everyone wants to lead. Most of them will even do a good enough job when everything is going right. There have been many CEO’s who were named to the best CEO’s list and have written books about leadership when their stocks literally doubled every quarter, but found to be lacking when going got tough. True leadership is exhibited when the weather changes and things aren’t going too well. Are you the first to jump ship, or are you the one steering the ship with a calmness that is reassuring as well as motivating to the flock?

#90 – You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do. —Eleanor Roosevelt

Time and again we set our sights on something safe or easy to achieve. Because failure is scary. And there are so many reasons (good logical ones!) as to why the safe and easy is the way to go. And unfortunately (or fortunately!) the right thing to do in most situations are not for the faint of heart. But when one chooses to conquer this fear and does the right thing, even if the end result is not exactly what you wanted, the reward is lasting and most certainly long lasting than safe and easy!

And here is hoping that your list is full of cliche’s that matter to you!

Posted by: Suresh Sundarababu | June 12, 2013

Disruptive Innovation

Disruptive Innovation

Since I am going to be sharing my thoughts a lot about disruption and innovation, thought I should start with the basics of what it is. Disruptive Innovation was a term coined by Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor and pretty much considered the guru when it comes to the definition of disruption.

And the link takes you to that definition which also has a few examples. But the list can be updated to keep up with today’s disruptions.

For example Social Media. Long gone are the days that my parents in India have to wait for the snail mail to reach after two weeks to find out what I am up to. Now all my mom has to do when she wakes up,which I swear she probably does every day, is to go to my Facebook page and she is pretty much up to date!

And how about what LinkedIn has done to networking. The power of connecting with thousands of individuals, most of them willing to help you and guide you is astonishing! And I for one am blessed to have the network I have!

We live in exciting times where technological disruptions have leveled the playing field for the have nots. When I was still back in India, it took five years of waiting time to get a phone line (land) connected to your house. Now a days everyone, I mean everyone, has a cellphone which is much more powerful than any computer that was available 20 years back and infinitely more cheaper. So what used to be the “rich man’s gadget” is now available for the “common man”.

With the power of this device in your hand, being aware of what is going on around the world so that one can demand and work towards a better life, getting educated about better ways to take care of your newborns to increase life expectancy or easily accessible ecommerce engine in the hands of remote entrepreneurs to better themselves and their families have become possible.

These are but a few examples of why I am so passionate about disruptive technologies. It is probably the most powerful thing that can make this world a better place by leveling it.

More to come on days to follow 🙂

Posted by: Suresh Sundarababu | June 11, 2013

“The true mark …

“The true mark of a leader is the willingness to stick with a bold course of action — an unconventional business strategy, a unique product-development roadmap, a controversial marketing campaign — even as the rest of the world wonders why you’re not marching in step with the status quo. In other words, real leaders are happy to zig while others zag. They understand that in an era of hyper-competition and non-stop disruption, the only way to stand out from the crowd is to stand for something special.”
-Bill Taylor, from article “Do You Pass the Leadership Test?”

How true! It is so easy to just run with the crowd. There is nothing wrong in conforming and may even cause chaos if most don’t. But to make an impact, to leave a legacy in even a small way you got to Zig!

Posted by: Suresh Sundarababu | June 11, 2013

The African Leadership Bridge

The African Leadership Bridge

The prime way to make a long lasting sustainable change is through education. Having benefited from coming the the USA to get my education to better myself, I am now fully committed and involved in contributing towards the creation of Africa in which all citizens have an opportunity to realize their full potential.

At The African Leadership Bridge, we combine all my personal passions together. At this start-up charity, we bring super talented next generation leaders to the USA, to get educated in our universities and our free market way of life with a vision of them going back to create a sustainable better Africa

A small organization with a gigantic vision!

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