One of my college batch-mates took critically ill couple of years ago. Many of us did not know the serious situation he was in, till one of my other batch-mates informed us about it and personally rallied to seek support. He sought physical help to move him to a city where better care could be provided and monetary help to get the best possible treatment. Soon, a few others joined hands to support the move to the new city and raise the funds. Within a few weeks people who had graduated with us, before and after us, all contributed a significant amount. We graduated almost 18 years ago and only were in touch with our own small circles, but we came together in ways to help that was not imagined. All because of this one person who took a deep personal interest. His commitment and selflessness impacted all of us in positive ways, including the one who was ill. He now had a fresh lease of hope, love and energy in unexpected ways.
Such stories of one person making a difference to others is not unusual. We hear this quite often in our personal lives. It is also true in the business world.
I was reading an article earlier this week about Varghese Kurien, the architect of the milk revolution in India. It said that he was responsible for making India the largest producer of milk in the world and creating one of the largest farmers’ co-operative organisations. He, of course had an entire team behind him that helped in making this successful. But it was his vision, drive and methodical approach that helped make Operation Flood a success. The key point that struck me, was the ability of one person to rally around and energise thousands more. The article went on to say that post his death, there have been changes and milk production has moved more to the private sector. So, something changes when such inspiring people are not present.
One of my earliest clients after I started nu-i was a man with a vision for his organisation. He believed in building strong team that could take care for the long term and invested in creating processes and systems for sustaining his vision. His work increased the visibility of his team in the global organisation. He was invited to play a global role and moved out. We were confident that things would continue with the same level of enthusiasm and engagement, given the capabilities that had been built. However, this proved wrong. Within months it seemed like we were interacting with a totally different organisation. The vision had watered down, the team’s focus had shifted and the larger purpose that held the team together had changed.
That’s when I realized, just as many stories of one person making a difference, we have heard of stories about things changing after that one person is not on the scene. I wondered why that happens, when organisations and communities are not built by just one person, but by teams of people, and by the systems and processes that are in place.
As I reflected on this phenomenon, I stumbled on some answers. I believe the One Person, brings the following three important ingredients to catalyse the change.
Larger Purpose: The person has a larger purpose and a story. They are not here for their own personal gain. They want to accomplish something bigger than themselves. It is beyond their lifetime and transcends the immediate. They always rehearse why they do, what they do.
Total immersion: This person is immersed fully in their purpose. They give themselves fully into the purpose and stay deeply connected to it. They do not get distracted by the external noise nor do they get bogged down by the obstacles.
Relentless energy: The person has boundless energy that infects others and engulfs them into a similar zone. Their passion becomes the fuel that propels the forward momentum. They energise every person around.
In our day-to-day language we say the living being needs a soul. That is true about any institution, or an organization, or even a campaign. They all need the essential spirit. A deep purpose, inspiring immersion and relentless energy, together can become the soul. It energises the people and keeps them going. However much we say, organisations are run with policies, systems and processes, this important life force cannot be replicated through mere systems and processes. It requires human factor. When people who provide that spirit move away, they create a vacuum that cannot be filled up easily, until such time another person steps in with a larger purpose, immerses herself and operates with relentless energy.
I believe it is a great leadership task to identify and nurture such people. I know the usual management or leadership training programs do not create such individuals. Our organisations do not have processes to foster such people. How then, can one go about growing many “One Person”, is something I need to ponder over and it might just be the topic for my next blog.