Leadership by Example: The Ten Key Principles of All Great Leaders. By Dr Sanjiv Chopra with David Fisher(THOMAS DUNNE BOOKS, St Martin’s Press, New York, May 2012), printed and bound in India by Replika Press, Pvt Ltd, pp 208,ISBN 978-0-312-59490-9.
There are numerous books written on the complex subject of leadership by many authors and the most of them make leadership as a very serious study. Dr Chopra’s book is a layman’s inspiration and motivation for future leaders uncovering greatness in every individual. The Ten Key Principles of all Great leaders that I call as Ten Commandments or Leadership Steps if followed by any one with the passion as narrated by the author can surely aspire to be a great leader.
In the Acknowledgements the prime author of the book Dr Sanjiv Chopra highlights influence and innumerable discussions with colleagues, mentors, friends and family, his child hood growth in India, forty years of living in the US and traveling over the world. Undoubtedly the most influential people in his life were his parents and his elder brother Deepak Chopra who is a prolific writer and orator. He was also influenced profoundly by his many distinguished senior colleagues in Harvard Medical School for 30 years.
The 16 pages Introduction is in fact he summary of the book. The author marvels the V formation of the flocking migratory birds that ha no single leader. Each bird as a leader flies till tired and drops back and replaced by another. During the entire long migration flight most of the birds have the opportunity and responsibility to become the leader of the formation and it is similar in our lives too. Live leadership stories of the young 9 years old Melissa Poe, Mahatma Gandhi who often looked frail but made tremendous difference in the lives of so many million people. Quoting Gardner, the great educationist, author says that great the leaders provide leadership in two different ways: through the stories they tell and through the kinds of lives they lead infused by passion and sense of purpose. Their courage and accomplishments become legendary tales and we can apply them to our own lives, to make our lives better, to improve the lives of those people who matter to us, and make a positive contribution to the world.
The book is interspersed in 10 Chapters and the author us ten words of the ‘LEADERSHIP’ as mnemonics- each letter signifying the trait reminding something larger. The letter L reminds that leaders must listenwell. The E stands for amazing empathy and compassion. A forattitude, meaning leaders should be upbeat and courageous. D reminds us that leaders have great dreams and are decisive. E points to essential quality of being effective. The R is for resilient as leaders must be a risk taker. The S represents sense of purpose that all great leaders have. Hreminds us of humility in addition to important quality of humour. TheI stands for integrity. And finally the P- leaders must have people skills and adhering to their principles- and they pack the parachutes of other people metaphoring for mentoring. In between the pages are bold full page equations highlighting the leadership traits. In the end is 14 pageEpilogue with many anecdotes.
Chapter 1 starts with first leadership trait of listening. ’True leader is a listener”- the leader listens to the ideas, needs, aspirations and wishes of the followers and respond to them in appropriate fashion. The Turkish saying, “Listen a hundred times, ponder a thousand times-speak once” and Barack Obama’s November 2008 speech,” I will listen to you-especially we disagree” are two of he many quotes in this chapter.
The 2nd Chapter deals empathy with the quote from Dalai Lama, “Be kind when ever possible. It is always possible.” Empathy and compassion are timeless and there can not be better leader with this sole trait than Florence Nightingale, the name synonymous with offering care and compassion to those in need. When all medical staff used to retire for the night and silence and darkness prevailed upon miles of prostrate sick, she with a little lamp in her hand, made her solitary rounds!
Great leaders have a positive attitude, which is invariably upbeat and optimistic and well covered in Chapter 3 with live examples. When in 19914 Thomas Edison’s laboratory got burnt destroying completely all his life’s work, when other people offered condolences, sixty seven year old Edison replied, “All our mistakes are burnt. Now we can start anew.” Three weeks later he delivered the first phonograph, and then quickly rebuilt his laboratory, where he worked for another seventeen years. Oprah Winfrey overcame child hood poverty and sexual abuse to become one of the most admired persons in the world. The noble laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is amazing leader fighting to bring democracy in her country through non-violent means with extraordinary example of civil courage.
Chapter 4 states that all great leaders have great dreams- and they aredecisive. The very essence of leadership is vision, which is the art of seeing things invisible to others. No one can better articulated the importance of a vision to rally support than Dr Martin Luther King during his seventeen minutes speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on 28 August 1963 to more than two hundred thousand Americans in support of the civil rights movement. Besides numerous other stories, Mahatma Gandhi’s 240 miles salt march in 1930 lasting 23 days attracted the attention of the world. When British soldiers brutally attacked unresisting marchers in another town, people in the US and Europe as well women factory workers in London were captivated and horrified. Author then highlights Gandhi’s listed seven sins of he world-wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice and politics without principle.Great leaders not only dream but difficult decisions when necessary like General Anthony Mcauliffe did in December 1944 in Normandy or President John Kennedy blockaded Soviet missiles delivery to Cuba while most Americans wanted him to launch military attack on Cuba. Finally author sums up beautifully that both managers and leaders make decisions but singular difference is managers are for today but leaders are for tomorrow.
The 5th Chapter states great leaders like Gandhi, Peter Drucker, Winston Churchill, Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Eisenhower, MacArthur, Patton, Rommel, and Charles de Gaulle were all very effective. Was Adolf Hitler an effective leader and author(s) say there is no simple answer to that but death of millions and the ruins of his nation would strongly argue against it? Mohammed Yunus who managed to translate visions into practical action for he benefit of millions of people through his Grameen in Bangladesh was joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize sharing it with his Grameen Bank. Citing example of Papa Jaime in Colombia, author reaffirms that there are also people who can turn tragedy into something of great value.
In the next Chapter author highlights that all great leaders are Resilientand for them failure is but a stepping stone on a long arduous journey exampling Nelson Mandela following Gandhi’s principles of nonviolence, with 27 years in prison for his political beliefs and emerging as the first democratically elected president of South Africa after the end of apartheid, yet carried no resentment against his captors and was awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 1993..Out of the ordinary people, Bill W., the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous(AA), himself an wrecked alcoholic, through his sheer resilient set up AA to help millions overcome their addictions.
In Chapter 7, sense of purpose has been stressed adequately. Remarkably fascinating story of a 9 years old Rajasthan village lad Satish Kumar told his other that he wanted to join the wandering Jain sect of monks. Influenced by Jain monastery, Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave, nine years later he followed the precepts of non-violence walked around India convincing rich land lords to donate part of their property for country’s most destitute and poor known as Untouchables and successfully collected five million acres of land. In 1962, he learnt 90 years old Nobel Prize winning writer and philosopher Lord Bertrand Russell had been arrested and imprisoned for protesting against nuclear race, he was so impressed that he decided to visit capitals of four nuclear nations: Moscow, Paris, London and Washington by walking half way around the globe with his friend Mannon. The amazing story unveils that Satish Kumar had done more, seen more, accomplished more, walked more than most and ha never ceased in bringing his message to others.
In the next Chapter virtues of being humble are highlighted. Sir Edmund Hillary who made history when he climbed Everest had said he was just a very ordinary bloke but media has transformed him into a heroic figure was indeed being most humble. Bill Gates, Newton, Abraham Lincoln who as the President of the US used to polish his own shoes were very humble. Kennedy, Gandhi, and Golda Meir possessedhumour too.
The 9th Chapter deals with integrity and great ideas. Shakespeare considered integrity far more valuable than money. Few leaders have ever demonstrated their integrity at greater cost than Sir Thomas More who preferred losing his job than his integrity.
The last Chapter states that all great leaders have people skills; they strongly adhere to their principles, and they pack other people’s parachutes. Indira Gandhi, industrialist Andrew Carnegie, Charlie Plump a retired Captain of the US Navy, Dr Carson, Borlaug, Naryana Murthy, Justin Zagi, Jennifer Staple and Wendy Kopp are some of the exemplary leaders listed in the concluding chapter.
Finally the Epilogue mentions how some leaders become by chance rather than choice and Truman was one of them. Rajiv Gandhi was perhaps another example though not mentioned by the author.
The author has in the entire book shared truly inspirational stories in very lucid style. The book is so absorbing that one likes to finish it one sitting only. It is recommended to be read by all young men and women on the threshold of their careers, motivational leaders and all those who desire to improve their leadership skills in any walk of life.
Col NN Bhatia was commissioned in 13 Kumaon in 1963. He commanded 2 Kumaon (Berar), which is one of the oldest Indian Army battalions. After retiring from the Army, he served in the Intelligence Bureau specializing in the industrial security & conducted security audits of large numbers of vital installations. He is a free lance Industrial Security Consultant & prolific writer on matters military & industrial security. He is deeply involved in release of 54 Indian POWs languishing in Pakistani jails since 1971 War. He can be contacted at email@example.com & Mob No +91 9818044762.