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Are successful leaders overly followed?

A leader who thinks and brings his thoughts to reality impacting several people to learn, inspire, create with his innovative ideas, while demonstrating change and replicating success, at a larger scale comes under Thought Leadership. Such people bring about a radical shift in innovation[1], design and vision by affecting industries and also entire ecosystems. They revolutionize their surroundings to such a large extent, simply by what they do, that they automatically enroll more and more people to join in their efforts. Thought Leaders are learned and informed people, sometimes with years of research and knowledge under their belt as well as experts in their domain. Their stories are covered widely, contributing to the success they are today.

By de facto standards, one looks-up to successful people. It is but natural for human beings to ‘Follow the Leader’ but more so, as it is ingrained in our psyche through several systems such as education, psychology, business modalities, seminars, speeches, etc. In retrograde, this term of a ‘Thought Leader’ is overly used, to the extent of being misused and so much so, that it was termed as the “most annoying business slang” in 2013 by Forbes, although it had resumed vigor in the 20s[2].  

Let us talk about the achievers who have created a big name for themselves, the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Narayan Murthy, or Sachin Bansal. People get so inspired and enamored by their lives, struggles, efforts, and challenges, that they want to have the same. There is absolutely nothing belittling with this approach. But this is a short-handed and impractical advent to living substantially, wholly, or in reality. That is because, if we see, the success ratio of the rest of the herd trying to ape the accomplished, is minimal.

Whereas, if you consider for a moment, the ‘failed-people’ who have not been able to make it because of an impediment and have been left behind in the rat-race, technically will be able to throw much brighter light on the top reasons to avoid, to become a ‘Success Story’. There might be several genuine and plausible reasons for such attempters to have not been able to attain their desired outcome: lack of finances, dearth of opportunities, foul-play, bureaucracy, red-tapism... this list can go on. Once we start acknowledging the failure personalities, we will get huge takeaways as learnings from them. They are the right ones to show the actual mirror and pinpoint the pitfalls in the road to eclat.

Speaking of facts, there are several such start-up companies that were set-up by brilliant minds just to be taken over by bigger industry giants and made into overnight success stories. Let us talk about a real-world scenario - many of us think we know that the current big names of taxi on-demand services in India are flourishing since their set-up but the underlying fact is that the first private start-up of on-demand cab service venture was actually by a founder who is considered as a non-celebrated business hero. As another instance, we have Gary Kirsten who was not a very successful name as a cricketer but became a valuable and popular coach for the Indian Cricket Team, leading it to creating successful records. So, who once was not a great cricketer, adds value and learnings to the team, enabling it to win the World Cup.

We need to have more such non-recognized personas onboard to ensure we do not repeat the same mistakes they did, open up new doorways for a new break and to season our ground with their invaluable experience. The world chooses to ignore the calibre of such field-markers as it is not brought to attention and covered widely by the media, newspapers, social media, etc. If they and their near-achievements are landscaped vividly, it is sure to reveal the fine-tuning pointers and fail-proof steps one can learn to overcome and achieve.

To conclude, an IIT / IIM / Oxford degree doesn’t necessarily mean guaranteed success. There are a lot of professionals without IIT degree who are successful CEOs even today and will continue to be, for years to come, as ‘Brilliance and worth, come in all sizes and shapes’.


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