“Those who govern must see how the people react to administration. Ultimately, the people are the final arbiters.”
That quote itself talks about how Lal Bahadur Shastri was a leader who focused on people before everything else. Today in changing times, when the employer-employee dynamics are shifting, this is a crucial lesson to learn. And this is not the only lesson he has to teach today’s HR leaders.
The second Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri, was born on 2nd October 1904 and died due to a heart attack. Though conspiracy theories have been brewed around his death but nothing substantial has been proved yet. From swimming to school because he had no money to get on a boat to becoming the second Prime Minister, Shastri is an inspiration to generations.
Here are some qualities that HR leaders can imbibe from Lal Bahadur Shastri that truly made him a great leader:
Treat all humans as equals
Just because you’re the head of an organization, of higher caste or a Prime Minister, you’re not entitled to anything. Shastri believed in this principle so much that he dropped his surname, Shrivastava to oppose against the Indian caste system. It is said that he got the company to revoke his son’s promotion which was not based on credit. While startups are clearly adopting flat hierarchy modules of operations, corporates still aren’t comfortable with the idea. You do not need to adopt a full-fledged flat hierarchy system, but you should be mindful of the way every employee is treated specially as an HR professional.
Value of integrity
In a world of the blame game, it takes a lot to stand true to principles and values and take complete ownership. Due to social media, most of us have gotten into the habit of accepting credits and despising criticism. This is the exact attitude we carry at our workplaces without bothering to take the complete onus of our actions. Back in the day when Shastri was the Union Railway Minister a train accident took place near Ariyalur in Tamil Nadu which happened to kill around 150 passengers. Shastri took it to his integrity and felt responsible for the incident. He resigned from his position as a Railway Minister.
Empathy towards people
Shastri is probably one of the best examples of a balance between empathy and control. It was he who suggested using water jets instead of lathi-charge to disperse a crowd. So while he did not wholly obstruct the idea of lathi charge because that was crucial to maintain some discipline, he used a tool that was more understanding and yet gave across the message that it was intended to provide. Similarly, companies mustn’t run into extremes when it comes to the introduction of new systems as it might ruin the entire purpose of it. Make sure to keep people in mind before adopting new methods of discipline.
Lead by example
Leaders must inspire and not just instruct. The best way to inspire teams is to do the given instructions yourself first. This ensures that leaders have enough experience before asking the employees to do so. When Shastri suggested to cut down on meals when there was a food shortage in India, he skipped two meals while he suggested others skipped one. Similarly, he never promoted the idea of luxuries because he considered himself a ‘government servant’, He bought a car on loan because his family forced him but apart from that he lived a simple life, staying true to his words.
Lal Bahadur Shastri was also a revolutionary who introduced ideas like the Green revolution, the White revolution and was the first person to appoint women conductors in public transport in India. Though his leadership term lasted for a short span of time, his life has many examples of determination and selfless leadership that can always be looked up to.
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