I just attended a 2 day session with my leadership team. Was a unique learning experience, where over exercises, discussions, drinks and cigarette breaks…I got a chance to hear the stories of each of them. Each story is different. Each story is intense. And each story is more powerful than the other.
There was one common thread across all the stories….there is so much about each of us today that is shaped by our past. Sometimes it our childhood, sometimes it’s our earlier bosses, sometimes it is a medley of things….but we are behaving today, and creating the future anchored in the past. A self-made leader, who has lost everything and rebuilt his life, is rightly proud and arrogant in his success today. A leader from a very humble and challenging childhood embodies simplicity even today. A leader, snubbed early in his career, has made learning and knowledge his forte.
But a question that runs through my head is that in a world that is so dynamic, rapidly changing, a VUCA world as many call it, is being anchored and shaped by the past a strength or does it make us a prisoner in the future. Are we as leaders like large destroyers of the Navy, stable and moving ahead with purpose, but the wrong craft for today’s battle. Do we need instead, to be like speedboats, that change course rapidly, but can not be anchored in the sea. To stay afloat, they have to move with speed in the rough seas.
Our past shapes us. But does our past prepare us for the future ? That is the essence of these learning sessions.
Can we use our past not as an anchor but as a google map, showing the street view to our speed boat pilot ? Can we look in our past to find the right questions to ask today, and not focus on the answers we found then, because those may have been relevant in a different time and place.
Our past shapes us from inside. Provides the basis for our values. But how do we change these values, how do we adapt them to be more relevant today. I have valued risk taking all my life. But when I ran a Rs 500 mn business, growing at 100% a year, maybe that was a great value to have. But running a Rs 1 bn business, with 10 senior leaders, is this the value that shall take me forward, or do I instead need to build new values of empathy and affinity ? Can I make this leap, this change? Will my past, that shaped me so well till now, become the anchor that bogs me down ? Can I dig deeper into my past and find a new set of values ? Or can I look into the past of someone else to acquire the values that may serve me better in the future ?
I don’t have answers to these questions. The journey to answer them is life. But they maybe interesting questions for each of you to ask yourself.