Is Everyone a Leader?

‘A Leader’ is a term tossed around to mean different things in different situations. Probably a word with as many definitions as the number of perspectives, leadership is a concept that has been and is being constantly researched. 

Sachin Tendulkar – the God of Indian Cricket, highest run-scorer of all time in international cricket, the first batsman to score a double century in a One Day International, the holder of the record for the most runs in both Test and ODI cricket, and the only player to complete more than 30,000 runs in international cricket. Extremely hard-working, and an epitome of humility, Sachin was constantly trying to improve his game. He was an inspiration and role model for aspiring cricketers. These remarkable achievements would lead anyone to believe that all his records would be just as flattering.

But is that true?

Sachin captained only 25 of the 200 plus test matches that he played in; a mere 4 of those were victories for India.

So then, was Sachin a team player or a team leader?

Whether it be in the game of cricket or anything else in life – some of the best players have never been great captains. On the other hand, players like MS Dhoni, Mike Brearley, Stephen Fleming rank among the best captains of all time. They may not have been the best in their categories, but they were all good team players too.

Imagine a scenario:  A highly skilled carpenter, the world’s best, working in an organization. He excels in creativity, his work is flawless, and he is most sought after. He is the pride of the company.

Do you think he stands a chance of becoming the company’s CEO?

The organization would probably promote him horizontally so that he earns as much as the C-level employees.  His expertise as a carpenter would normally not get him the position of CEO, unless of course, he has the skill to lead as well.

Creative employees don’t need to take up senior leadership positions in an organization, they can continue their work skillfully to be part of the success of the organization. Individuals who are specialists in their fields, need to be left alone to pursue their craft, without the burden of responsibilities like goals and targets.

Should one remain content as a team player only?

“Lions led by donkeys”, is a popular phrase used to describe the incompetent British commanders (the donkeys) who sent their brave soldiers (the lions) to brutal deaths, during the First World War. The courageous warriors paid the price for their leaders’ ignorance and inability to strategize. The leaders supposedly were ignorant about the state of the battlefields and sent away their armies to face machine guns. Using this controversial and much-debated allegation just as an example, let us ask another much-discussed question,

Who should aspire to be a team leader?

Leadership is a journey, and one must continue on that journey only if one is enjoying it.  To be a successful leader, one does not need a title, nor does one need to be in the topmost position of the organization. If a leader can be defined as ‘Someone with passion and expertise, who can empathize and rally people to move forward towards a goal’, then Sachin was definitely a leader.

A team leader or a person in charge of a team, on the other hand, need not have the expertise, but needs to have a vision and adequate knowledge. They must know how to handle people, how to get the team to do things, and how to bring the best out of the team. For a team to be successful, the team players need to excel in their fields of responsibility; they all need to be leaders of their area of expertise.

If we take a look at the District Public Relations team of 2020-21, we notice that all the team members are the best in what they are supposed to do – the Infrastructure team has the best techies in the District, the Newsletter team has the best editors in their team, the Design Team has the most creative designers, the Communications Team members are the best reporters, waiting to communicate to the world the most recent news of District 105. All are leaders in their trade, and the PR Manager is just another member of the team. The teams are successful because the team players are brilliant, and the team leaders have the know-how to get their teams to deliver the best.

An expert in his trade our carpenter too is a leader, but should he aspire to head the company, or stay content as a team player? The concept of ‘Lattice’ promotions probably addresses this concern. All employees and team players get equal opportunities to move in any direction as part of their growth- up, left, or right and irrespective of direction, deserving pay opportunities are attached.

Specialists, creative artists, technical experts, might lose their special touch and end up as failures if leadership is not their forte. The lattice model allows employees to concentrate on their preferred field and dig deeper to expand their expertise and knowledge.  Sounds perfect for our Sachin Tendulkar!

Without commenting on the fairness of the, “Lions led by donkeys” phrase, let me offer my perspective on who should aspire to be a team leader.

Someone who understands the Why, who can empathize, who is committed and decisive, who enjoys the company of others, who can give productive feedback, …………..(I could go on), can aspire to lead a team.

Let me now leave you with the question,

“Is everyone a leader?”

Deepa Surendran, DTM

Deepa Surendran, DTM, is the District Director for the newly formed Toastmaster District – District 127 (2023-24). She has undertaken and successfully delivered various leadership roles within the Toastmasters fraternity. She is also a passionate author and has penned several books.

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