We Are in Safe Hands

I often wonder about the future of this country.  In my observation, while we do have stellar leaders, on average our leadership leaves a lot to be desired.  This is true in all fields from politics to sport to corporations.

Today, I had an experience which made me feel much better.  It all began when I was invited to give a talk on leadership to kids in my sons’ school.  The attendees would be about 20 boys and girls recently elected to the highest student positions that the school had to offer.  They would be from grades 5 to 7 – the seniormost in the school.  I was grateful to the school administration for providing me this opportunity.  I began to prepare with full vigor.

I scoured the net for information on leadership programs for kids.  I looked for enticing stories from the childhood of leaders to recite.  I looked for fictional and non-fictional tales which would communicate the ideas.  I was torn about how “adult” to treat them.  After all, I had not had a serious discussion with 10-12 year old children since I was their age.  I had also never held an official position in school and wondered what it felt like to hold one at such an early age.

All of the above work came to nothing.  I did not find a single article/story/game which I considered useful for the exercise.  I had spent a week and a half looking.  Now I had one weekend left.  I was nervous.  I finally decided to go back to the basics – look at what had been most important to me over my career in handling the situation that these “little adults” were facing today.  I came up with some very basic concepts which I decided to elucidate to the group.  I wrote 7 words on a piece of paper and put it in my pocket: Character, Service-orientation, Vision, Communication, People Skills, Bravery and Capability.  I decided that these were the most important characteristics that the students had to develop in order to succeed in the environment they were in – and in that order.

Still being nervous about this, I kept the paper close at hand.  After the initial introductions, I asked the students about who they admired as leaders and why.  I was very surprised at the answers.  The three selected were Barack Obama, Mahatma Gandhi and Franklin D. Roosevelt (no Shahrukh Khan??).  The reasons, to my elation, were very eloquent and encompassed 4 of the points that I had decided to talk about.  What a beginning!

From that point, it became a very interactive session with my job being to ask questions and the students, together, taking us from the point of having good character right through to being successful.  They were very articulate about their individual weaknesses, as well as how eager they were to work on them.  They were able to articulate the issues they were having today, and figure out what they needed to do about them.  It was a very enlightening experience for me; one which I will cherish for some time to come.

So the question is why do I consider us to be in safe hands.  Since children are the leaders of tomorrow, any organization would be lucky to have such students at the helm.  Being so aware of the needs of leadership; of their own abilities and weaknesses; being prepared to work hard to succeed; understanding that being leaders makes their own needs the least important in the group; and having the years of experiences left to hone their skills, I would not like to bet against these people.  A lot of credit, obviously, goes to the school administration for this.  If this school is even slightly representative of what schools in this country are doing today, I can happily say we are in safe hands.

P.S.  Never had to pull that sheet out of my pocket for the points.

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6 thoughts on “We Are in Safe Hands

  1. First of all, an interesting read.

    Now, allow me to disagree a little, if you..please. Disagreement is about us being in safe hands. Well, I am undeniably and completely inexperienced in the matter of kids (and happily so) but what I still dare say is, didn’t we have the same or similar set of ambitions, purity, thoughts or may be vision when we were of that age. But now that we have grown up (or have we), what are we really contributing to make the country a safer place. The world, the society and the digressions and we ourselves have spoilt us. I hope the audience to your leadership lecture do not have the same fate.

    Reminds me of an Old Gazhal by Nida Fazli…

    ” Bachchon ke chhote hathon ko…chand sitare chhune do,
    Chaar kitabein padhkar wo bhi, hum jaise ho jaayenge….”

    • Thanks for the disagreement Siddhish. I completely agree with your analysis of our times. However, I truly felt different. We did have our set of thoughts and ambitions which died down – but I am not sure it was due to the “char kitabein”, but due to the attitude and environment used to teach us those 4 books.

      What I saw on the day were children who had the thoughts, but also had the tools to analyze them as well as their own abilities in order to achieve those ambitions. What was further refreshing was that these thoughts were not being curbed, but actually encouraged in the environment.

      I am on the same page as you. This experience was a revelation to me too. And in concert with you, I am basing this on the hope that this was not a mirage or an ephemeral scene.

  2. Hi Aviral,
    Our children mirror the environment they live in. If the environment gives them perspectives to choose from, critically question and arrive at decision the kids will respond to it with an open mind. They need to see 9at least ) some significant adults and institutions walk the talk so they don’t lose hope. That’s what we are attempting to do.
    Lakshmi

    • Thank you Lakshmi-di for your comment. As you have probably seen on the previous comment, our education system has a reputation for suppressing this kind of individuality and openness. From what I observed, you and your organization are making a serious attempt to nurture these very qualities. Hats off for being able to maintain this change in today’s competitive world (despite over-competitive parents like us).

  3. Hi Aviral,
    First of all, congratulations on putting up the blog. I like the background colour, graphics, font and most important – the content and thought provoking posts.
    I agree with what you have said here. The past is not a prediction of the future. The current generation has equal access to the most powerful resource in the world at this point – information. With the right attitude, vision and character which the school is inculcating in these leaders, we can expect great results.
    I read about Dr. Devi Shetty who successfully offers health insurance for the poor at Rs. 10 per month. To bring this from ideation to fruition is because of such leadership that you saw in the school.

    regards, Rajesh

    • Hi Rajesh,

      Sorry for the incredibly loooong delay in the response, but I have been kind of ‘offline’ for a while. Thank you for your very kind words. I agree with your insights and hope to keep your interest in this going. Of course, in order to do that, I need to stop having 6+ month gaps in my posts.

      Regards,
      Aviral.

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