A Session with Tathagat Varma on Creative Leadership

There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into sun” ― Pablo Picasso

As leaders, you do realize, bringing out the creativity flavor in your employees is one of the billion-dollar questions of this economic era. After embracing digitalism in our blood, there is no backing out from developing a creative culture to keep pace with this modernization.

Read more about Digital Transformation & Leadership @ http://goo.gl/hv6gV2

I always feel uncomfortable when people speak about ordinary mortals because I've never met an ordinary man.” -- Joseph Campbell

There is a possibility resides in every being. They have their own place, pace, and way of expressing those talents. But the problem is the realization and the trigger for realization.

The blog is based on our session with Tathagat Varma, a famous thinker, thought worker in leadership world. Follow the blog & the video to know more about this true leader's debate on organizational culture building.


1. How do you explain the phenomena of Leadership?

In my talk shows, I often ask my audience “How many of you have kids of age twelve or more than twelve. I tell them, friends, look these are your future employees. Look at their value system, anxieties, motivations. Because that’s the kind of people you are going to lead in the future” says Tathagat Varma.

So, when I look at leadership, the big trends I see is the Servant leadership. The concept Servant leadership is there for around fifty years but sadly, we haven’t understood that quite well. There is a big change I have noticed that people have deficit intellect to understand Influential leadership.

In my experience I have understood, if you can be a leader without people reporting to you and still your influence is there to motivate them, putting impacts on them, then I think you are the true leaders of this age.

2. In your language how do you define Lean leadership?

Now if I look at Lean, I think it’s a mindset about doing things more efficiently and using less to deliver more. For example, you go to any car dealer, pick a green car among three hundred cars, you pay the money and drive out with the car. This was the process how many big brands sold their products. So, when Toyota started its venture, they realized that affording hundreds of cars in one place is difficult. They neither have that much money or land.

So, they ended of creating a suitable system where they displayed two or three cars and started giving catalogs. They told their customers to look at the catalog and somebody will explain what you want. When you place the order, we will build a car according to your selection and you can pay after that.

Lean to me is a very strong customer sensitization or empathy. Second is to reduce the waist in the system or how can we remove any wastage, re-work. The third element is the respect for employees.

3. What are your insights on building Self-organized & Self-managed teams?

In this context, Tathagat says “Human beings are designed to collaborate. Because it’s a survival mechanism."

In today’s generation, I have seen this fear in leaders to create self-organizing teams because of job securities. But in my thinking, the leadership roles should be beyond self-interest. He should know where to step back and think that my job is not to tell people what to do or being judgemental about things. As a leader, my role is to serve the team, set the directions but letting your team decide how to do things. It’s all about servant leadership.

4. How do you motivate people as a leader?

People love to work in such places, where they feel good and don’t regret any decisions. They are well recognized and properly appreciated for their energetic efforts. For example, you walk into a hotel and you notice many things, it's not just the quality of food. Other things are there, cleanliness, the behavior of the staff, the cost of the food -- entire service you take consideration before deciding to be a regular customer. Why we do that? Because we want to be happy where we are spending our time.

It’s same with employees, we spend half of our day in the workplace, spend half of our time thinking & forming plans for the projects, even half of the time we talk about things i.e. related to work. It’s funny, but unconsciously we do it.

You know, free & open culture matters a lot. What’s fascinating is, we feel it outside and a job of a leader is to intentionally create it inside.

Answering to my question, Tathagat says “The thing that motivates people the most is being in charge of their own destiny. You have seen many people voluntarily work for many projects, it’ because of their love towards their work and the autonomy in decision making. Here nobody’s telling me what to do. I am deciding what is my passion and I love to do. There’s no fear ridicule, rejection or fear.”

 “This is the real secret of life, to be completely engaged with
What you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is a play.
                                                                                         -- By Alan Watts

Like in the scrum, there’s open allocation, where people choose what they want to work, nobody is allocating them. In this scenario, they become more responsible and reliable.

5. Do you believe there are differences between Eastern & Western work culture?

Yes, there is a difference in how people collaborate. It all depends on social conditioning & civilization. For example, in eastern civilization we more work together in a team, where in western, lots of people act individually. There are lots of research have done in this.

The main point is, the process depends on the people we work with. For example, a process works really well in Netherlands but if you bring it in any city of India, it may or may not work and there’s nothing wrong if it doesn’t work. Because people who are working have a different mindset and social conditioning. So, if you want to be an effective global manager, you have to understand & appreciate cultural differences.

6. What are your Core Values in developing & transforming an organization?

My first principle would be trust. I think as a leader, you should be able to say to your employees “Hey! I trust you. I know you will make mistakes because you are doing something new. We all will make mistakes. But I still trust that you will do the right thing in the end.” There is a difference between making mistakes and mistakes have been made. Making mistakes is a bad thing but mistakes are made kind of understandable in transforming industries.

So, here a highly trust culture is important. If you don’t trust, then your employees won’t take further steps for new innovation.

Respect is the another part of my core values. In a team, it is very common to give feedbacks and argues over some decisions. But I believe humans argue because they have thinking capacity and they are civilized enough to decide what’s right and what’s wrong. Let them be, because every time something exciting and useful comes out when people properly communicate what’s in their mind. But create a culture where people do dialogues with the safety net of respect for each other.

Don't forget to watch the video for more questions & answers!


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