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Sanil Sachar

Sanil Sachar is an author, entrepreneur, motivational speaker and movie producer from New Delhi. He is also the founder of coworking incubation centre, “Huddle”, and co-owner of TRUSOX, a company that promotes sports.

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Sometimes Being a Leader is Just Like that Lift at Work: A Leader’s Elevator Pitch

Founders and creators are being asked to step down, organizations, even countries aren’t appreciating their leaders. Doom is nigh if we’re all heading towards a leaderless world.

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If I had to simply define what being leaderless is, it’s sitting on the passenger seat of a moving car, with no driver.

I met with several leaders. All in search for the answer to a simple question – Define a leader. These were frontrunners of the past, several of the present and even more of the future. The definitions were scattered, a bit like the versatility that’s demanded from anyone who leads. Which brings us to one of the most important points and that is the importance of understanding perspective.

Spending several hours researching, countless more collating all the answers in a bite size article, another common element to reach each of these leaders was a lift. The definition of a leader can be articulated in comparison to a lift journey. So, for lack of a better term, here is an “elevator pitch” based on the encounters with these leaders on the big question – Leader, what does it take to be one?

The lift won’t always go where you want it to

Leaders need to be able to cope with change. Even if you press the button to go up, the lift might go in the opposite direction. In order to lead, one needs to expect anything. While your team will sulk or (more likely) panic, it’s your role to influence the direction of your goals towards where you intended on them reaching.

This won’t happen with a click of a button. While leading might come across as a one person job, it isn’t. Leadership only works when an entire team comes together. This gets us to the consequent necessary attribute –

Everyone should be aware of which floor they’re approaching

Isn’t it confusing when a lift opens to a floor with no announcement or sign? Isn’t it frustrating when you find yourself outside the lift, stranded on a floor you didn’t want to be on? It’s worse if team members work towards a goal not knowing where it leads to.

Leadership should spur communication, between all members. We should be open to listening to each other. Many people listen only to respond. Leaders need to listen in order to understand.

Communication will bring a flow to the journey. If everyone didn’t know where to go, you’ll be stuck in a lift with all the buttons pressed. Sounds pointless, doesn’t it? It is. It’s also a waste of time.

Smooth communication results in coordination. So, you rather stay on one floor and settle all matters, than try and go both ways at once (but that will only cause a disaster). Leadership is being able to see from both sides of the binoculars.

One phrase that isn’t related to elevators but stuck with me is:

“Leaders need to be straws”

A straw serves one purpose in several ways. It’s straight and simple for those who prefer minimalism, stretches out for longer glasses, and bends into fun shapes to attract youngsters to have healthy drinks. Similarly in order to be a leader, we need to be able to serve each of our stakeholders - but more importantly, never lose our individuality and identity. A straw always remains a straw, despite their actions. A leader needs to be a straw.

Leadership can be awkward. Leaders shouldn’t be.

Just as lifts are awkward places for strangers to meet, being a leader is like being the only stranger in a lift. People will look at you in a funny manner because you’re different. Not because of your position but the approach you use. Leaders always tend to have a different way. This is solely why a leader is always looked at skeptically till they deliver. Until then, they’re just ***** (add any censored adjective here).

Lifts tend to get spoilt

There is nothing known as smooth progress while moving upwards. There are always new surprises and these need a calm demeanor to deal with them. Stressful situations are just like being stuck in a lift. You feel there’s no room for error or less breathing space. But if everyone in the lift knows where they are going, they’ll know exactly how to get out. A leader should gain and give trust in order to overcome such hiccups. It’s scarier being out of the lift with your team inside. Being inside together will always keep you in control.

Leadership builds leaders 

This is self-explanatory. Lead in a manner that when you walk out of the lift, everyone else in there knows where they are going, why they are headed there and most importantly, how to get there.

But are lifts always the way to the destination? No. Most of the time, it’s best to take the stairs and control the situation at your own pace. After all, to be a leader, you have to try something on your own. 

While we are heading towards a leaderless world, let’s make sure it’s not a world with no leaders but one where everyone can be a leader. Let’s lead in order to be led.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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