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How to work at leadership positions, primarily when you are representing a large community?

There are thousands of articles, quotes, papers that can be found on leaders, their responsibilities, and their working etiquette. But somehow they fail to provide a clear and direct answer to some of the following questions:

Who is a true leader, and how does he lead his life?

Is a true leader someone who manages all the things perfectly?

Is a true leader a person who always makes the correct decision?

Is he/she always responsible for every instance related to the well-being of the community?

I have tried to answer these questions from my own experience as a Student Leader at IIT Gandhinagar .

In my opinion, a true leader has responsibilities beyond the ones that can be written down on paper; it comes when one takes the lead in his/her own hand. It begins when one works with a team (no matter how small or large) and sensibly takes his/her responsibilities. Additionally, such a leader takes complete ownership of the work (or person) who(m) he/she is leading.

In my past one-year, I found myself dumb in various instances as I couldn't take a tactful decision for the student community. At times I was aware of what the community felt and wanted. However, making the decision was not easy.

Taking various opinions and working with other student leaders (majorly the Student Council) helped me in the process and made me strong. It presented me with the direction to make the right decision. So conclusively, it is essential to work in a team and be well aware of the community you are leading so that the best outcome is achieved.

In my case, sometimes, a decision made wasn't favored by the community. However, the rationale behind the decision was rightly taken. To convey and deal with such a situation is not easy.

A leader who leads a versatile community has to face numerous such challenges. Thus, while raising thoughts for the welfare of the team or conveying a decision, it is crucial to put the opinion/decision with the appropriate rationale. (Desmond Tutu rightly mentioned: 'Don't raise your voice, improve your argument').

Over my one-year leadership, certain principles influenced and shaped me. I would like to share them with you in brief.

1. Importance of emotional intelligence for a leader:

Quite simply, the five elements of emotional intelligence (self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills) are very important for a leader.[1]

2. The simple 3 step rule: Ignore-Bless-Address.[2]

Ignore the negativity and negative people in your life. Keep yourself calm and don’t react to people who make silly remarks. This is mainly because it takes a lot of mental space and time when you react and there are no results whatsoever. A leader should also know which things need more attention and ignore/delegate the rest.

Bless such ignorant people for common sense. This creates positivity in your mind and you don't end up hating them. This positive mindset helps a lot in uncomfortable situations.

Address the concern once you perceptualize the situation well. This helps to address the problem better, and any imminent conflict is minimal.

My final words to anyone who aspires to be a leader are: 'Leadership is not about end results, it is about dealing with the situation in the best possible way.'

Author: Lakhan Agrawal, General Secretary, Senior Undergraduate , IIT Gandhinagar


[2] I learned it in a TedTalk at IITGN.

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