What If a Renegade Leader Ran the Country?

Leaders today face unprecedented challenges. Economic downturns, change in workforce demands, an ever increasing competitive market combined with the need to do more with less makes for trying times for the best of leaders. Those leaders that stand out, take a stand, and make a difference are what I define as renegade leaders.

A renegade leader is a leader who drives results, instills trust in their organizations, allows innovative thinking and creates a bond with their people through credibility, as well as vulnerability. The attributes of a renegade leader are spelled out in the word itself. They are leaders who are Responsive, resilient and willing to take responsibility. They are Energized and passionate about their business or the organization they work for and holding a high bar for themselves, accepting No excuses. Failing forward is preferred instead of falling short. You won’t find these leaders at the end of conference room tables. They are Engaged with their people, understand the needs of their customers, and influence the direction of their industry. Growth and Achievement oriented, they are quick Decision Makers even when the decision is hard to make. Most importantly, their influence expands beyond that of their four walls. They are Externally focused, they care about the success of their people as individuals, that of their community, their industry, and the world in which we live. They are a rare breed.

In the United States, lack of accountability is a virus in most organizations; employee loyalty is low and employee engagement has a rating of less than 29% in most organizations at an estimated cost of over 240 billion dollars a year. Current studies indicate a growing need for an evolved style of leadership, one that meets the top employee engagement drivers and builds success through collaboration versus command and control. The Towers Perrin Global Workforce Study indicates when employee engagement rises, performance increases by 30% or more, the high cost of turnover is reduced as 87% of employees remain loyal to their employer, 68 % focus on and reduce costs, and 72% of employees work harder to produce customer service excellence.

What would happen if a renegade leader led the country and achieved those results in government? Knowing that a full blooded renegade leader is as elusive as the hundred and fifteen pound weight number I see on my scale periodically, I could only image what might happen.

As a transplanted New Yorker, I understand that here in New Hampshire people take their right to vote as seriously as their live free or die mantra. A registered republican who last voted democrat, I was curious to see where republican candidate Governor Mitt Romney rated on the renegade meter.
Here is what I learned; at least what I was told.

As Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney entered into an organization in chaos, the budget was in deficit and the 85% majority democratic House and Senate were not so pleased with their newly elected republican official. Instead of shying away, Romney stepped into responsibility, he evaluated the data to illuminate their current position and created a vision of what was possible. He energetically took on the climb with surefootedness. Obstacles were not going to stop him. He refused to accept the budget as status quo, and instead, he looked for ways to solve the deficit, reducing taxes over 19 times and creating solutions to long term cost problems. He was successful.

Looking at his casual presence on stage, he appeared to be engaged and comfortable with the goals of the nation, the business owners in the room, and knowledgeable about the concerns affecting various industries. His campaign had a clear message, three simple objectives instead of tons of glossy marketing words used to secure a vote. Obviously achievement oriented, he worked his way up the ranks and focused on growth no matter what position he held. The impact he outlined would touch all individuals and put decision making back into the hands of the individual. He admitted he didn’t work alone; he prefers collaboration. As Governor, he sat down with those who had differing opinions, holding regular meetings, both on his campus and that of the democrats to understand each other’s perspectives, and to agree upon the decision making criteria. He claims not to have all the answers, but expressed a perseverance to find them. He shared his heart and his commitment to do his best.

As I watched, I checked the boxes on the renegade assessment and discovered he has a winning score. Now review the other candidates. It just might be possible to have a renegade leader in the white house.

From Sales Executive to Spiritual Leader: Swami Tirtha Maharaj

From a smartly dressed Corporate Executive in gray trousers, a blue shirt, a red tie and a tweed jacket, Padmanabhan or ‘Paddy’ as he was known, became a Swami dressed in saffron coloured cotton. The turning point came in 1986 when he was about to start a new job with higher salary.

Presiding for a Lord Krishna dance ballet, Swami B S Tirtha Maharaj was seated on the stage in Navi Mumbai. One by one, local celebrities followed him on the stage, touched his feet for his blessings. They included billionaire real estate developers, senior police officers, top level bureaucrats, judges and political leaders. On his travels to Britain, he has met Prime Ministers, ministers, members of the House of Lords, and other celebrities; and has delivered discourses at Oxford and Cambridge universities. During his visits to the United States, he has been received by Senators, met mayors and delivered discourses in many leading universities.

Total Commitment Would he have inter-acted with all these people in this manner if he had continued as a Corporate Executive? At the most, he would have become the CEO or the Managing Director of a good sized corporation to promote its products. Now he has no worldly position or titles and he promotes Krishna Consciousnesses. Such is his total commitment to his devotion that he has all but forgotten his past life as a Corporate Executive.

A life long celibate, he was born in a Vadagil Iyengar Brahmin family in 1942. At a very early age, he learnt Sanskrit from his grandfather as he could recite up to 100 verses from a Sanskrit scripture. He passed high school and in 1960 was employed for about six years as a machine operator in Indian Telephone Industries Ltd, Bangalore. He wanted to become an engineer.

Not Happy But, he was not happy. So, he learned stenography and went to Bombay (now Mumbai) and got a job as a typist with Blowplast (P) Ltd in 1967 and soon became the Personal Assistant (PA) to the company chairman. Sitting next to the Chairman, he easily learnt all management techniques as a participant. He was amazed to note the deficiencies of highly educated, qualified executives. He was promoted on his merit, although he had studied up to Matric or high school. Gradually, he rose from a Depot Manager to a Branch Manager, to a Zonal Manager, then All India Sales Manager handling sales and managing many branches from 1967 to 1979.

Finally, as the Export Manager, he moved to Dubai to cover the West Asia Region between 1979 and 1983. Every month, within 18 days, he visited six countries. In 1983, during a recession in Middle East; he wound up his operations, according to the management directive from India. Mr Manu Chabria, the owner of the well-known Jumbo Electronics in Dubai, took him on from 1984 to 1986.

Well Dressed Smart Executive As ‘Paddy’ – the well dressed, smart executive – he enjoyed ‘the good life’. Taking his clients to five-star hotels, entertaining them, organizing dealers’ conferences, regional sales conferences, aassigning sales and collection targets to the branch managers and the field sales offices, and all activities of a typical sales executive. In 1986, he went to India on a visit and got a job offer from a company in Oman at a much higher salary and benefits. So he applied for a visa to go to Muscat.

Swami Tirtha Maharaj describes the fateful day in his own words: “One afternoon, after a hearty lunch in the Flora Fountain area in Mumbai, I was walking down to take a suburban train back home. At that time I saw ISKCON devotees selling Bhagavad Gita, so I picked up a copy, came home and finished the entire book of 700 verses of Gita in less than four hours. It made me sit up.

“When I read the Gita, especially the second chapter, Lord Krishna was stressing the point that you are not the body. I felt as if somebody hammered me a few times that you are not the body, then why am I running around? Then I understood that if I am not the body, then I should stop the bodily activities like my work on the material platform,” he remembers.

I Was a Spirit Soul “But as I also knew that I was a spirit soul, I was wondering what constitutes a spiritual function within this mundane world. The spiritual function is explained in the end of Gita in Chapter 18:

* For one who explains this supreme secret to the devotees, pure devotional service is guaranteed, and at the end he will come back to Me. (18.68)

* There is no servant in this world more dear to Me than he, nor will there ever be one more dear. (18.69)

Swami Tirtha recalls, “After reading these two verses, I was convinced that this is the function of a spirit soul in the human form of life. So, when I understood this, I had formed a definite conviction and decided that this is the job I must take up from now on. From then onwards, I really thought I was wasting my time and I had wasted my time all my life up to that moment. I could imagine myself travelling six countries a month was just like a dog jumping from one place to another. So, I stopped this jumping business and took to spreading Krishna Consciousness.

India’s Topmost Artistes From 1986 to 1996, he studied the scriptures in depth and contemplated on their deeper meanings and relevance to current situations and lifestyles. In 1997, he founded the Gaudiya Vaishnava Association (GVA) in Kolkata and a year later, shifted its headquarters to Mumbai. In 1999, he was invited to Johannesburg, South Africa, to address the Parliament of World Religions. He launched GVA publications at the beginning of the new century and started his regular tours to the West. In 2005, he moved the GVA headquarters to Parsik Hill, Navi Mumbai and envisioned Bhagavat Dham Temple Complex atop this hill. Swamiji travels the world most of the year on his spiritual mission to lecture on ancient Hindu scriptures and the GVA way of life to numerous communities of overseas Indians or NRIs in Britain, the United States and Europe.

Under his direction, GVA created history in Navi Mumbai by organising the first Kahna Megh Utsav lasting 40 days with India’s topmost artistes in devotion to Lord Krishna. In 2007, he laid the foundation for Bhagavat Dham complex and within a year, the temple took shape so that in 2009, GVA moved to this location on completion of its first phase to become a major landmark for Navi Mumbai. In 2010, his first book, ‘Actually There’s No Problem‘ was launched on Lord Krishna’s birthday celebrations attended by thousands of devotees to become an instant success.

With No Regrets Does he ever regret taking this major step moving from an executive to a swami? Swami Tirtha is very clear, “Since I was convinced thoroughly and I had a definite conviction that Krishna is God, He is the Supreme Person, there is a Spiritual world and we are basically spiritual entities not these physical bodies. It was also clear to me that in a human form, life offers an opportunity to get back to God to serve Him with love in His abode. Due to this conviction, I never, never, ever regretted. I had even stopped recollecting the fact that I was once a Corporate Executive. Those memories got completely obliterated without leaving a trace. I am now forced to revive my memory because of your question.”

“I can confidently say, that this path can be tried by any mundane worker today. One should not waste one’s time, but start on the spiritual task of spreading Krishna Consciousness all over the world and wake up the sleeping souls,” concludes Swami Tirtha, “This will also enable one to gain eternal abode in the transcendental realm of Gokula Vrindavan for rendering loving service to the Supreme Divine Couple, Radha-Krishna. Hare Krishna!”

Thirteen Essential Qualities of Successful Leadership and Becoming Enlightened Leaders

My three decade of senior and executive leadership, the quantitative research into intrapreneurship for my Masters Degree in Management, and my research for my Ph.D. dissertation in Leadership provide me with a unique vantage point about what are the important skills or traits to become a successful and effective leader. I will share not only what I have learned in the “real world” and the “academic world,” but insights as to the effects of overcoming adversity has on the shaping of successful leaders.

I personally interviewed sixteen prominent and successful sentior business excecutives of major companies, political leader (two US Senator), military (US Armry Major General) and academic leaders (University President) on leadership, entrepreneurship and overcoming adversity, including two self made billionaire entrepreneurs and several mega millionaires entrepreneurs, that were successful at overcoming adversity and had all became accomplished in their respective fields and well respected leaders.

The sixteen successful major leaders that graciously participated in my Doctoral Leadership and Overcoming Adversity research each had their own life journey. These sixteen prominent leaders were successful at overcoming the obstacles in their youth and adult lives which helped them to grow.

Prominent academic leadership scholars and best selling author, such as Bass, Bennis, and Kouzes & Posner, and others essentially agree with the sixteen prominent leaders that I personally interviewed identified nine important qualities of a leader.

Here are the nine most frequently cited leadership qualities, skills, or traits are found in the classic academic leadership literature, and were either cited or agreed with by sixteen leadership and overcoming adversity research participants for my Ph.D. dissertation in Leadership Studies from Gonzaga University:

1. Honesty or integrity
2. A high level of people skills and effective dealing with others
3. Initiative, assertiveness, drive, or determination
4. Excellent communication skills or willingness to speak up, take a position, or take charge
5. Vision (being forward-looking)
6. Strong desire or passion to lead, inspire or motivate
7. Positive attitude and self-confidence; personal charisma
8. Knowledge of the business and/or group task at hand; competence in their field or business
9. The ability to overcome adversity, obstacles, or set backs

These were the sixteen successful leaders who were interviewed for the leadership and overcoming adversity scholararly research for my Doctoral dissertatation:
Dr. Anthony Bonanzino (Intrapreneur turned Entrepreneur), Jack Canfield (Speaker, Best-Selling Author “Success Principles” and Co-Author of “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series), William Draper III (success Venture Capitalist and former President US Import Export Bank), Mark Victor Hansen (Speaker, Best Selling Co-Author “One Minute Millionaire,” “Cracking the Millionaire Code”, and “Cash in a Flash” and “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series), U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Monzer Hourani (Immigrant and Entrepreneur), U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawai’i), J. Terrence Lanni (Chairman & CEO, MGM Mirage-now retired), Dr. John Malone (Self-Made Billionaire, Chairman of Liberty Media Corporation, and Former Chairman of TeleCommunications Inc., and serial Entrepreneur), Angelo Mozilo (Entrepreneur, Founder and former Chairman & CEO Countrywide), Larry Pino (Entrepreneur), Dr. Nido Qubein (Immigrant, Serial Entrepreneur, Best Selling Author, Speaker and President of High Point University), U.S. Army Major General Sid Shachnow, Retired (Holocaust victim, immigrant, who went from US Army Private to US Army two star Major General, and now Best Selling Author), Dr. John Sperling (Self-Made Billionaire, Chairman of Apollo Group – which owns the University of Phoenix), Dr. Blenda Wilson (University Chancellor, University President and retired President & CEO of Nellie Mae Foundation), and Zig Ziglar (Best-Selling Author of over two dozen books and world renowned success and sales management expert and self help guru).

These sixteen successful major leaders that I interviewed for my Doctoral research into leadership and overcoming adversity specifically identified an additional four important qualities that are not commonly found in the academic leadership literature. These additional important factors or traits included:
10. Being a Servant-Leader, serving people, and especially being a humble leader
11. Having either religious faith and strong family ties, or both
12. Framing or recognizing the worst adversity as an opportunity, not as an obstacle
13. Having a mentor, or mentors, in their development as leaders and as individuals

These important and key thirteen leadership characteristics, skills, or traits which were presented in my Doctoral dissertation Leadership and Overcoming Adversity Research was peer debriefed and agreed with by five internationally known best-selling authors, and well-respected leadership scholars.

Five well respected leadership scholars, and true thought leaders on “leadership,” specifically Dr. Kenneth Blanchard, Dr. John Kotter, Professor James Kouzes, Dr. Paul Stoltz, and Dr. Meg Wheatley, all offered their reviews and positive comments on my scholarly leadership and overcoming adversity research conclusions and findings the Thirteen Essential Qualities of Successful Leadership and that show how to become an Enlightened Leader.