There has been extensive discussions among psychologists and behaviourists since time immemorial if leaders are born or made. Great minds have been at work to understand how nature and nurture influences a person’s personality traits and behaviours. In one of their recent books, ‘Leaders In the Making: The Crucibles of Change Makers in HR’, Dr Arvind Agrawal and Prof TV Rao have mapped out the life of 30 leaders to understand what are the crucible moments that shaped these leaders as they went on to depict the role of teachers, parents, neighbours, bosses and mentors in the life of these ‘chosen few’.
Through the life journey of Anand Nayak, Anil Khandelwal, Anil Sachdev, Anuranjita Kumar, Aquil Busrai, Aroon Joshi, Ashok K Balyan, Chandrasekhar Sripada, Dr Harish, Dileep Ranjekar, Hema Ravichander, Kishore K Sinha, Marcel Parker, Niddodi Subrao (N.S) Rajan, P Dwarakanath, Pradeep Mukherjee, Pratik Kumar, Raghu Krishnamoorthy, Rajeev Dubey, RR Nair, SV Nathan, Santrupt Misra, Satish Pradhan, Saurabh Dixit, Shrikant Gathoo, Sridhar Ganesh, Vineet Kaul, Visty Banaji, Vivek Paranjpe and Yogi Sriram, the two authors derived common threads to the making and baking of leaders, the crucible experiences that shaped them and what are the values and lessons new generation of HR leaders can inculcate from these ‘baked’ leaders.
While the origins of the idea was based in the concept of bringing stories of Indian leaders, who rarely share their lives, to the forefront, the efforts of Dr Agrawal and Rao don’t conclude there. They are eager to see more authors and researchers explore HR leaders, who through their grit and determination, reached a point no one had imagined.
Through their book, they have explored old and new concepts, as they undid the stereotypes that many of us assume about leaders. While half of the leaders in the book are from affluent families, with the resources to get the best education, the other half were born in poor socio-economic conditions, with some raised by a single parent.
But each one of them was nurtured with positivity, even in scarcity. They were introduced to the larger causes plaguing the society and the nation in the 1950s to help them understand their purpose. There was freedom in the life of these leaders to create their own path, while their families supported them.
Not just their childhood, even as these leaders entered the workforce, they were given unique projects where they had the chance to explore the ground reality and that led to most of them becoming ‘socially responsible’ leaders.
In many instances, you will come across personal care, concern and connect that these leaders received, which was one of the key foundations through which these leaders could face the life-changing, crucible moments in their lives. These leaders might have been ordinary beings in their childhood, it was these crucible experiences that changed their perspective and their paths forever.
For them, each conversation and each step in their life was a learning experience where they tried to leverage the learnings to get better at work. Their network of people, however small or big, was a source of learning and knowledge.
While many in their places would have waited for others to define their roles and accountability at their jobs, they discovered the power within them to understand the business and what it is that they need to do to make it better.
During the discussion, while Dr Agrawal agrees that if we isolate and replicate some of the conditions that each of these leaders went through, we might be able to design the crucible experience for the new crop of HR leaders, there is no denying that they were some traits among these 30 leaders that made them unique and it was their ability to observe, assimilate and learn from their surroundings.
In the end, we always say that it is the people who matter, and the same notion is offered by the authors as well - it was thepeople around these leaders that made them into who they are. Without the right people, they might have not gotten as far in life as they did.