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Know your enemy within - it helps

By : kooveli madom on 02 September 2015 E-mail Comments     Print Print  Report Abuse

Know your enemy within – It Pays


This booklet is a beginners’ compendium of drivers of success and failure in goal attainment. It attempts to expose what are not taught in classrooms, especially thought processes guiding actions or inactions; or never discussed, but practised; that make people who they are. It is based on an amalgam of theoretical knowledge and experience of the author (an engineer MBA, management consultant, trainer and management educationist) spanning more than three decades. Contents reflect own situational experiences, observation and analysis, learnings from consulting practice, interaction with HR community and management students, in recent times.


This is not a nineteen actionable tips to earn one billion dollars in hundred days for any ordinary person. There are no short cuts and smart tips to achievement. It is simply hard conscientious productive effort. It is more enduring to educate one to fish than make promises of giving it free.


The booklet aims to open the reader’s mind to know the self, others and the environment around, to come up with own approaches to achieve one’s goal.  Strategies to goal achievement vary from one individual to another, each devising own methods in harmony with the self.   There is no one right approach.  There could be many. The intent is to expose these possibilities as well as the many mental blocks we carry, in decisively choosing a path, that impede our progress. Self-awareness is the key to overcoming self- inflicted roadblocks to reach our goal.  


Some of the discussions may sound radical; bordering on illegality, less than ethical, intrigue, aggressive and challenging practices masked as espoused idealism. These have been brought in to expose the reader to realities, that are beyond ideal and one may not find in text books. These are relegated to hard experiential learning; what they don’t teach in Harvard but essential to apply what has been learnt in Harvard. The intent is not to radicalise minds as much as making them oblivious to the mind behind the matter. The word he wherever it appears in the text represents both genders without orientation to any one gender.


1. Why This Booklet Carrying a Negative Caption


The literal meaning of the word enemy range from a foe, an adversary, an opponent, a rival,  a nemesis,  an antagonist, a combatant, a challenger,   and a hostile party; all pointing to an external entity of destructive nature. In this booklet, the word is used for its implied meaning: a catalyst for self-destruction through inability to act in a purposive manner, due to own inhibitions, apprehensions, mind-sets and perceptions about the self, others and the world around.


In its wider sense, an enemy is anything that impedes progress towards our stated or unstated goal achievement. In this sense, an enemy need not be tangible, obtrusive or external but can be subtle, within and creeping. Enemy’s actions to obstruct progress need not be physical, visible, violent, external or discrete in one shot. It can be unobtrusive, subconscious and as apparently innocuous as illusions of fear or complacency within; in acting decisively as needed, for goal attainment.


Strategies adopted for obstructing progress towards another’s goal achievement are wide ranging in terms of their nature, visibility and tenure; as well as the severity, longevity and nature of its impact on the victim. The impact could be creating physical barriers; impeding or making expensive access to resources essential to achieve goal, creating fissures weakening networks, surreptitiously planting and abetting insiders to do the job or most importantly playing on the victim’s psyche that poses an invisible self-inflicted barrier to progress.


We discuss what make some people succeed against odds, while others buckle from own mind-sets, mental blocks on the rights and wrongs, fear of the unknown / imaginary consequences of being seen as different, lack of drive due to low need for achievement, misplaced notions about how our significant others will likely perceive our action, fear of bold expression or action that may be out of sync with social circles or significant others. These emotional blocks reflect a lack of (true) independence in thinking, decision making and action, due to subconscious and debilitating external dependence, amounting to emotional blackmail by the detractors: real and external or imaginary.   


Reflections into the past, experiences of failure and successes, interactions with diverse individuals: achievers and otherwise, observations of traits of apparently ordinary people venturing and finding their space, success stories in the technology space, emerging entrepreneurship by the just-out-of-college types, stories of rags to riches*,  and otherwise of unsuccessful individuals from highly educated class, influenced the content and contour of  this booklet.


One would have witnessed cases of highly accomplished people driven from their state of holistic comfort to one of drudgery due to extreme



*a run-away table boy in a tea shop rising to a star hotel chain owner in two decades, a low level office assistant rising to own the most sought after chain of schools and their franchisees in the IT capital, a once small time electronic components trader running the largest mobile services company, second generation  of a fuel dispenser in a gas station running the largest business empire and becoming the richest man in the country, an ordinary school teacher’s son and his small team creating benchmarks in the technology services industry 


disconnect between their perceptions / illusions, with the ways of the real world and they living in a world of their own making with an artificial shell around them, to seek comfort and avoid interaction with the real world in its variety, uncertainty and imperfections. The belief thatretreating into a shell will relieve the individual of the effort to understand and the need for developing coping mechanisms to deal with the real world, are at best illusions.  


This booklet is an attempt to recognise this enemy within us, examine what made people turn out to be what they became, and draw possible lessons on worldly wisdom for goal achievement. Since most of these learnings are experiential, it is quixotic to expect the green horns to have mastered these real life lessons to be effective practically despite their high academic credentials. This booklet is a small beginning in sharing experiences, pre-empting reinventing the wheel, build confidence and reduce the learning curve. It is believed such open sharing of experience could relieve the learner of the discomfort of exposure, fear of exposing his ignorance or having to seek advice on embarrassing situations.


2. Appreciation of Holistic Value of Cognitive and Affective Traits


Stories of self-made icons, from nothing, to become the richest in the second most populated country on the planet and single digit ranking, globally, in a span of two generations; Harvard dropouts transforming the globe through innovations in the technology space, interactions with management students, experience in handling with fresh recruits (Engineer / MBAs), trend of professionals changing track midcareer, MBAs from top institutions shifting to domains unrelated to their education, children of parents in rags topping professional courses; lead one to believe  mere good education, parental affluence and background, access to comforts and convent education do not necessarily shape / guarantee success.


What is extraordinary about these people? Even accomplished academics converge on the divergent definitions of success and low significance of correlations between academic credentials and performance, with success in real life. Does it vindicate those questioning the relevance of our education system to meet real needs in business, industry and the larger society? Does it mean education has lost its value as a driver of success?


Recent research explores how the heart and the brain interact in a dynamic relationship, regulating cognition and emotional experience, neurological signals originating in the heart modulating and influencing brain activities  and stress interfering with mental processes of memory, concentration, judgements, decision making, creativity and emotions (1). The Heart Rhythm is found to directly influence our physical / mental performance (2). Receiving mixed signals saps energy leading to suboptimal performance, indicating need for heart (emotions) and brain (intelligence) working in harmony, for effectiveness in performance. This is evident in the emerging recruitment practices where proven ability to effectively handle dynamic situations is the key qualification explicitly demanded, than any formal education (3).


Every individual strives for success in whatever goal he is pursuing. Since success is seen to be the synergistic outcome of one’s knowledge base and behavioural elements, this attempt is made to expose the not-so-conspicuous behavioural elements driving goal achievement. Though it is argued that the individual’s personality dispositions to react to situations, determine his destination, it is not clear as to what drives those predispositions. It is likely that life’s experience, critical events and a supportive or challenging environment would have catalysed the formation of such personality predispositions. Only associations are speculated and no causal relationships concluded.


3. Gaps in Our Formal Education System


Motivating this booklet is also the skewed and misplaced over emphasis on endorsed knowledge acquisition through certifications, attending graduate schools and so on, with the sole intent to move up one’s career ladder; and the disappointments confronting many graduates when that intent is not realised at the end of the day. Equally relevant is the growing concern expressed by industry (employers) on the low employability of management graduates (in particular) in contrast to perceptions and expectations, conspicuous under-employment, high NPAs from MBAs on educational loans, closure of several management schools due to the inability to attract the student community due to declining value perception from an MBA graduate. The fact that organisations spend huge resources on training graduates, post their recruitment, to scale them up to an acceptable level of employability also tend to make the formal education redundant.  


This booklet captures learnings from experience, feed-back from HR community and critical observations. It is expected to sensitise potential graduates, employers and academicians on the existence of this gap. Stakeholders should address the same through appropriate interventions in the design of educational content and methodologies for competency development and enhancing employability.


Misplaced focus of the educational institutions on mechanical compliance with university norms (that hardly address desired outcomes), strategies adopted by educational institutions to generate temporal hype and visibility; and the focus on physical infrastructure to showcase an institutions’ standing in the pecking order; to attract the student community, are desperate attempts to survival of the institutions, than adding real value to the student community.  This inference is reinforced by the emergence of another class of institutions that train candidates for employability, offer industry relevant courses and so on. If the parallel institutions are to fill this gap, how does one justify the existence of institutions offering courses under the university system? 


The student community realise the true worth of their accomplishments (degree certificate) when they are about to step out of their alma mater in pursuit of a career, when the damage is already done.  This booklet should open the minds of the student and academic community to reality, and the employer community to articulate their specific needs, collaborate with educational institutions and demand the moulding of usable human resources.


4.  What This Booklet Contains


The booklet commences with Section


1, Why This Booklet Carrying a Negative Caption is a brief  rationale for the negative sounding title. This is followed by an Appreciation of the Holistic Value of the Cognitive and Affective Traits in section


2.   Section 3 dwells on the Gaps in Our Formal Education System that has led to the situation narrated in Section1.


Section 5 How We React to Other People’s Success, is a discussion on our reactions to situations we see around us, followed by Section 6 Can We be Wiser Before the Event, which exposes our tendency to be wiser in retrospect. Section 7 Action Orientation With Passion discusses what make winners who they are, Section 8 Mind of the Entrepreneur attempts to understand how an entrepreneur’s mind works.  Section 9 Mavericks as Change Agents tries to relate unconventional thinking and change. Section 10 Thoughts on Success shares some of the behavioural drivers of success. Section 11 lists some Helpful Practices for Effectiveness.  Section 12 enumerates Essential Qualities for a Successful Leader. Section 13 is a Reality Check on MBA Freshers and finally Section 14 is a list of References and Suggested Reading material. Some guidance of value and to demystify illusions, are part of this booklet spread across various sections as appropriate. 


Some sections of this booklet may carry content amounting to radical thinking, exposition of violation of established norms, bordering on illegalities / unethical practices. These have just been subsumed to expose the reader to realities in the real world that are less than ideal, less spoken in public but practised silently and the need for awareness of such practices,  though one need not adopt the same. It is not intended to exhort the reader to fall on the wrong side of the law or even indulge in practices one may not discuss in public space. Even a priest or a police has to know the ways and thinking of the criminal if they were to rehabilitate / apprehend him. That knowledge does not make the priest or the police a criminal nor should it exhort them to practise crime.


Comments, critiques and suggestions to improve are welcome 


5.  How We React to Other People’s Success


Our response to situations and the thought process driving our reactions are influenced by our emotional traits: beliefs, mind-sets, perceptions, aggressiveness, action orientation as well as the balance struck between our need for achievement and the fear of failure (4). Personality traits are intrinsic differences that remain stable throughout most of our life. They are the constant aspects of our individuality (5). These affective elements tend to be more influential than cognitive knowledge in determining our priorities, response to situations and resoluteness in working towards goal achievement.


Every individual, during his journey, must have confronted with the question: why some people are successful and others are not; why some fly high while others apparently similar; don’t. How much of one’s success can be attributed to one’s education, pedigree, parental support, family / social background and birth with a silver spoon?  How do we explain reality defying perceptions on success drivers?  Is there a success formula, or is our understanding skewed or perceptions misplaced? The American-English form of the trait structure identifies five personality factors as below (6).



Trait Characteristics

Inverse Trait Characteristics


Talkative, extroverted
Aggressive, verbal
Sociable, bold
Assertive, social
Unrestrained, confident

Shy, quiet
Introverted, silent
Untalkative, bashful
Reserved, withdrawn
Timid, unaggressive


Sympathetic, kind
Warm, understanding
Soft-hearted, helpful
Considerate, cooperative
Trustful, affectionate

Cold, unsympathetic
Unkind, rude
Harsh, inconsiderate
Insensitive, insincere
Hard, uncharitable


Organized, neat
Orderly, systematic
Efficient, responsible
Precise, thorough
Practical, dependable

Disorganized, disorderly
Careless, unsystematic
Inefficient, sloppy
Haphazard, inconsistent
Impractical, negligent

IVEmotional Stability

Unenvious, relaxed
Unexcitable, patient
Undemanding, imperturbable
Unselfconscious, uncritical
Masculine, optimistic

Moody, temperamental
Jealous, touchy
Envious, irritable
Fretful, emotional
Self-pitying, nervous


Creative, intellectual
Imaginative, philosophical
Artistic, complex
Inventive, intelligent
Innovative, deep

Uncreative, unimaginative
Unintellectual, unintelligent
Simple, unreflective
Shallow, imperceptive
Unsophisticated, uniquisitive.



The table sensitises us to the finer shades of individual personality traits. It does not lead us to a one to one relation between traits and   success outcomes such as: is cognitive education (subject matter competency) or affective traits (training one’s mind to assess and respond to situations) the success driver?


Does it need an environment of entrepreneurship one has grown up in, to succeed? Is fear, our lack of drive and hunger for achievement, the driver for not making an attempt and thereby impeding potential goal attainment? Is it that we don’t articulate our goals or lack goal clarity? Cases that defy popular perceptions of why people rise from nowhere, stare us every day. Are our perceptions based on limited and skewed understanding of the relationships on narrow tangible cognitive elements?


How often we have felt why we couldn’t accomplish what our close friend, our nemesis, our neighbour, our schoolmate, someone we would have considered very ordinary or even inferior to us, in academics in school or college, could accomplish? How often we have felt we could have been better off, but for some missed opportunities. How often we wonder, how someone who was no one, breaking the glass ceiling and rising like a phoenix and getting noticed. How do we explain A graders in college being surpassed by C graders, in real life, and college drop-outs becoming industry leaders and global icons who make history; and even role models in the same institution he dropped out of? Is this the problem of shortcomings of the institutions which could not identify and recognise the valued but latent affective elements, and over emphasising the cognitive traits, to rate individual competency, that triggered the dropping-outs?


What is the thought process that crosses our mind when we encounter above scenario? We tend to justify others’ success and our lack of it, by reminding ourselves “if only I were in the same situation or had the same opportunity, I too could have been there and even better”.  Unfortunately, such thought processes occur after the event; remain as only potential lessons for the future.


What we fail to recall is that the winner never had the conditions (situation / opportunity) cut out, but he orchestrated the conditions to aid his goal achievement. Creating necessary conditions is part of the process of a winner to goal achievement.  This may be called as transformational leadership traits (7). What those conditions are, are not found in text books or is there a definitive formulae. These are contextual, unique to the individual and his/her predispositions to respond to situations; and what one considers necessary to achieve one’s goal. Responses are driven by contextual factors, thinking on the feet, instinct, the uncontrolled urge to get at it, one’s own postulates and the determination to do what is needed to make it; unmindful of the consequences and conflicts. As a precursor to action, one has already made the choice from among the options and against all odds. One could call it passion.


We cannot recreate a situation that Bill Gates had when he set out to create Microsoft, and draw comfort from the argument that I can also do it under those conditions today; since today can never be that day and those conditions can never be replicated in its purity and holism even to simulate experimental conditions! Those conditions comprise the tangible and intangible, visible and invisible; and are unique to the individual. May be Gates never started with a grand plan that he is going to create a Microsoft, that one day will conquer the world. It just evolved after cruising through several hills, valleys, headwinds and turbulences during the journey, without notice and oblivious to and uncertain of the outcome.  Opportunities surfaced one after the other or were deftly crafted and capitalised. Passing through turbulence in pursuit of a self-defined goal, demands vision, resoluteness and an attitude to overcome challenges to reach the destination. This is rarely learnt from text books, but have to be instilled and internalised through practice, experiential learning, introspection, and self-reinforcement through training one’s mind.


6. Can We Be Wiser Before the Event


Predictably we tend to be wiser after the event. We debate on what stock we should have purchased once we see its price movement!  That post-event debate doesn’t prepare us for the next similar opportunity, as next opportunity will be argued to be different as we get closer to it, and we again retreat from it. This scenario gets re-enacted again and again in a recursive manner, and we refuse to be ejected from this orbit of post event repentance, due to the strong force of gravitation to seek our comfort zone.


When Windows invaded more than half the planet’s homes and offices; Apple changed the personal communication space; Facebook redefined the social interaction space and Twitter enabled sharing ones thoughts with a community, is it that we have missed the bus for good and cannot create another Microsoft, Apple, Facebook or Twitter? Do we need to follow them or can we not create one for ourselves; may be of a different kind?  Did any template exist for the Gates of Windows or the Jobs of Apple to follow? Can we not truly create (and not look for a formula) what we want to; whose name and character will only evolve as we commence the journey? Many times replicating the past could be restrictive and counterproductive, we becoming oblivious to greater latent potential in the present.  Copy-cat is never the way to stardom.


Did these icons know a-priori their destination when they started their journey; that led to where they are today? Did they know their destination a decade or two in advance?  Do they know now where they will be a decade from now? Did they start with a formula or a strategic plan for decades?


Education itself can be a barrier making one to indulge in analysis from past experience leading to paralysis and forgetting the action essential to achieve results in the present.


7.  Action Orientation with Passion


Most achievers possess a child-like optimism, adventurism, courage (misplaced?) and passion to achieve a secretly nursed goal,  a spirit of adventure and hunger for intoxication from the experience. They set off on a journey little knowing the destination, other than the direction, with passion as their only asset. They are willing to experiment, optimistic, forward looking, believe in  themselves, persistent, willing to fail and learn from it. Pursuit of success is a journey; failing being part of that success. They celebrate the learning from the failure as much as the successes.


They have to start somewhere, inch through intermediate stopovers to reach a destination they continuously explore: action being more significant, than the pursuit of clarity on the path.  Analysis should not lead to a state of paralysis. Striking a judicious balance between pursuit of clarity and action towards the goal, determines the outcome.


The tipping point in the balance between action and analysis for clarity for comfort is driven by individual traits. This state of the mind will be grey and we can never measure the intensity of clarity and comfort in that greyness in order to compare across individuals. That action oriented approach does not imply lack of direction, planning and a goal. Instead, it highlights the mind of an entrepreneur, a transformational leadership trait (7,8,9,10,11), an  attitude of risk taking, exploration, spirit of enterprise, treading the unknown path, accepting what unfolds, continuous learning and unlearning, willing to fail and  change; a never-say-die attitude, determination, passion, enjoying the process and steering the way. It simply means unbridled clarity, focus and determination on goal achievement as the superordinate goal and means or the path being subordinate to the end.


These traits are never visible or measured across individuals. These achievers will never have all the resources, name and fame at their command nor know all pieces of the puzzle and how they would fit in, when they set on their journey. This state of dilemma need not signify end of the road for those who could not be one of these icons?


8.  Mind of the Entrepreneur


An entrepreneur is one with a never-say-die attitude, daring to pursue a goal, owning no resources except the passion and determination to achieve, getting up and start walking everything he falls.  He is not the one to give up. He realises that the future always evolves despite all the   strategic planning tools and techniques, mastered in business schools. Real world is a test of our ability to comprehend complexity, confront uncertainty, risk, fail and learn from it, and never give up. It is driven by a deep rooted belief that one can achieve what one set out to, despite unfailing setbacks,  reaching a point of refusal to learn (change ones belief). Negative experiences are only viewed as lessons to be learnt and never allowed to distract from the  end goal.  Is this the optimism of a punter?  Should we choose to refuse to learn from failures? May be!  If you think you can, you will. If you think you may; you will never. Did anyone imagine America will ever be led by a black of African Muslim origin, post the 26/11 bombing attributed to the Islamic world?


The world is available for anyone who wants to make what he wants out of it? Achievers design and create their own destiny, not mimic a winner they look up to as a role model, but learn from them to pursue own path, choosing what he wants to be and make icons of themselves.   In fact they consciously allow others to mimic them in order to capitalise on their mistakes from mimicking.


The intent of this discussion is to reinforce the belief that beyond intelligence, birth, inheritance, luck and opportune time, there is something very unique to one’s mind that drives one’s destiny? Success and achievement are more to do with ones’ heart and less to do with the brain. The ones with the right heart will relentlessly pursue, gain access to the brains needed to give the shape to their dreams.


Failures help seasoning and hardening. Those who have failed are more likely to pursue a path to success; never giving up until  reaching the destination; continuously shifting the goal post, raising own standards and achieving them. Distant observers may not even comprehend where they are going, till they reach their undisclosed destination.  They are seen only when they have arrived, they do not announce their ETA (Expected Time of Arrival).  They are the silent achievers, valuing only the outcome.  Pursuit of their goal makes them oblivious, immune and insensitive to the pains. They promise less and perform more.  On-lookers find them deviants and mavericks, poorly aligning with social norms; may even be ostracised from their groups, as they make a poor fit!


9.  Mavericks as Change Agents


Entrepreneurs are different! To be different is no crime. To be different is to dare and be creative. We wouldn’t have had the gadgets we enjoy today, if there weren’t mavericks (crazy minds) before us. How crazy would it have been to imagine, half a century ago, that the world will communicate over space, instantaneously, at no cost, as we enjoy today.  Don’t we need crazy minds over conformists to take us to new experiences? It is easy to agree but difficult to disagree and stay there. One should choose the difficult path, to get intoxicated from the experience of challenging, failing, achieving; qualities that set apart the creators  from the also-rans. How many of us are ready to take the risk of failure, rejection, potential of being charged for sedition, leaking state secrets, challenging norms / accepted practices when we don’t have to? Can we progress if we continue to be just compliant? How many of us dare to stray away from our comfort zone of social acceptance and periodical eulogy? Change can only be brought about by revolutionary thinkers branded as mavericks.


One need not emulate others’ path, but may learn from them to chart one’s own path. One needs imagination, dare to think crazy, be different, be branded a maverick, walk solo and be humble every time they reach their next goal-post, only to shift it further. An outsider may believe they are punishing themselves; but they are enjoying the discovery process, failure and success; only to replay again. They are the serial entrepreneurs!


Do we encourage and create mavericks? Do we need to train people to think and design? Is thinking an art unique to an individual or can people be trained to think? Is there a method in the madness? Design thinking is already an academic discipline being pursued by product designers in the technology space.


Points to ponder: Is there a lesson for students of management from these events from history? Can we try to understand the mind of these special characters?  Can we motivate the student community to introspect ans ask the questions: Do I aspire to be one? Can I be that one? Do I have to? What if I don’t?


10.Thoughts on Success


  1. If one has never failed in life, one hasn’t done anything worthy of celebrating the success. Only a person who dares to walk can slip and not a sleeping one. Those who don’t make mistakes have rarely attempted anything; it means one hasn’t pushed oneself to the edge. There is nothing as exciting as being-on-the-edge, sometime in life. Success / achievement that come without pain / risk / fear is not success. Fear is a good experience, so is bad experience. Nothing can substitute the experience of near drowning in a pool. There is opportunity in every crisis. Success can take many forms and shapes. Forms and shapes are immaterial, achieving them is. To succeed, one needs achievement orientation.
  2. If we want to see something we will see, if not, we will be blind to what is in front of us even with a healthy vision. We can see and hear only when our mind is open, not because one has good eyes or functioning ears. Mind is like a parachute, it works only when it is open. Keep your mind open. You will be able to see opportunities invisible to others
  3. If one is criticising you, it means he finds you worthy of competing with. The worst punishment is being ignored. Respect your rival as you consider him worthy of being taken note of (worried about?). Learn from competitors, competition is the essential driver to excel.
  4. When you start getting too comfortable with something (career, earnings, social status and circles) it is time to remind yourself to look elsewhere or change; a prolonged state of comfort is the beginning of the end. Too much comfort implies you are not challenged; not being challenged reflects a state of complacency and others considering you not worthy of challenging; the beginning of degradation and the end.   Push yourself to the edge and experience the adrenaline rush.
  5. To be matured, one should experience the highs and lows. Lows are the catalysts for seasoning and ruggedizing, leading to maturity. The highs help relax and ponder, not to get excited. Humility is strength and not a weakness, a manifestation of confidence, not inferiority.
  6. Do not judge a person by his/her looks (or a book by its wrapper); like the depth of a river to assess its safety, by its average depth!
  7. Challenge yourself to surpass your own standards. Be your own competitor and set standards for others. That gives you a front runner advantage without being charged for insider trading.
  8. What happens when you differ? You break out of the mould to exercise your independent thinking and expressing yourself; get ridiculed and criticised; you may not find acceptance in your immediate circles, used to seeing you in a mould of their making. When you pursue your new path, you get observed; and then followed. Every invention or change is the work of people who dared to break out of the mould, walk the path solo, and then being followed when others see value from being that different and your way.  All great men were once considered mavericks, punished for being different; some became heroes while some perished. You don’t gain anything by being a blind follower, out of fear or for the comfort of being in agreement and eulogised in close circles. Do what you enjoy doing, to excel.
  9. Some basic principles to follow, when in doubt. These are like superordinate goals, suggesting the line of action / considerations guiding your decision, when confronted with situations pulling you in conflicting directions or when you are in a dilemma. Superordinate goals are deep rooted, superseding everything else. We all have had situations when we had to choose one over another, though both may be seen as equally important / right in isolation; or in a different situation. Effectively handling such conflicting situations under scrutiny and criticism is the mark of maturity and self-confidence. Coming out unscathed boosts confidence level and hunger for more. Recall the celebration of war heroes welcomed
  10. Know yourself and your value. Never sell yourself cheap. If you don’t quote your price, no one will? You are what you think you are, not what others speak about you in your presence or behind you
  11. To be rejected is no shame, may be you didn’t lose; it was a blessing in disguise; and those who couldn’t find value in you, lost. May be they were less than comfortable to have someone of higher stature and competence like you amongst them. They would have seen you as a threat!
  12. No man has ever died of hard work. For many great men, work is the intoxicant that keeps them mentally and physically active, and healthy; maintain their social status, economic freedom and self-esteem.
  13. Never trust someone showering praise on you; beware of hidden agenda. The most potent weapon to destroy someone is to shower praise, so that he drowns himself in a state of complacency. So also is to shake his/her belief in the self, self-esteem and self-confidence. Be first yourself and for you.
  14. Successes from short cuts have short life, like being a king in a village. When you get exposed to a larger space and competition, your real worth gets exposed. Expose yourself to competition. Competition alone drives you to excel. All innovations have their roots in competition and hunger for growth and survival
  15. Our biggest enemy is our diffidence, losing focus and dissipating our energy in unproductive directions, over-dependence on soothsayers, belief that some divine miracle will solve our problems.  Cultivate the ability to see the method in the madness and practice order-in-disorder; these enhance one’s understanding and confidence level.
  16. To be selfish is no crime; it is criminal to pretend to be philanthropic, and self-destruction to take beatings for another. More people get fooled by someone’s magnanimity to come to their rescue; remember your distress can be someone’s opportunity. Accepting unexplained magnanimity creates obligations, emotional bonding (dependency) and loss of freedom to pursue your larger objectives. Your low could be just a blip, but the temporal unhealthy bonding with your saviour could be disastrous for long. There are no failures in life, only setbacks. While failures are irreversible, setbacks are transient. Let not the setbacks snowball  into a failure
  17. Everyone wants to be safe, secure and avoid risk. The biggest market is for safety and security; that is why insurance firms thrive on people’s scramble for safety. But risk and returns are positively correlated. You can expect returns only if you venture into the unknown space (risk). That is why you have few leaders (who venture) and large followers (preferring safe zones). If you have to be above the crowd, risk venturing into the unknown space. It pays. 
  18. One man’s food is another’s poison. Do not believe that someone’s path to success is the right one for you. May be you have a better one in store, look for it. We are more comfortable to follow someone; few dare to lead change as change causes discomfort of various kinds, puts you on the defence, having to explain your position to even the insignificant others. Many tend to avoid it.  Remember, satisfying someone else is not your goal in life. First satisfy yourself. Playing second fiddle is different from leading from the front.   
  19. One learns from failures, success only blinds you. Every failure leads to introspection and reflection; the most effective form of learning and internalisation.
  20. There is no substitute to the joy of success after a failure! The more you fail before you succeed, higher is the value and joy of success. Learning from failure can never be taught in a classroom. It is highly personal and emotional, has to be self-learnt by going through the process, cannot be transferred to another in its entirety and purity. Many corporations scramble to recruit failed entrepreneurs, as entrepreneurship is deep-rooted in the individual and cannot be transplanted; but one hears of claims to train people on entrepreneurship. Such claims may carry a different shade of the meaning of the word entrepreneurship. As entrepreneur never gives up, shrewd employer take him for his entrepreneurial attitude.
  21. Thin line divides confidence and arrogance; so are innovation/enterprise/initiative and illegality; the hero and criminal. Your confidence could be seen as arrogance by those who are used to sycophancy. Do not buckle under pressure to buy peace or draw comfort from acceptance or even eulogy.  It is not worth the price you pay by selling your future and your freedom; striving for acceptance. Potential leaders are generally not accepted as good followers, as expectations are different for the two roles
  22. If you kill one you are a criminal; if you massacre millions, you are a hero.  This is our society. Creating favourable public opinion (PR, advocacy, lobbying, marketing, intrigue) is part of every successful entrepreneur’s job. Creating conditions for success for followers is the most critical task of a leader. This can be through lobbying, opinion leadership, policy advocacy using methods fair and foul, intrigue not being a taboo. Most CEOs in large corporations spend more time in boundary management, political management and environmental management. Dividing line between right and wrong gets thinner and thinner; even overlap bordering on conflict of interest / illegality.
  23. Dare to question even the authority, as claimed authority could be usurped or transgressed authority for gain. Right and wrong are relative: right for one is wrong for another. Successful one is the one who can make the wrong look right.  Communication, persuasion, orchestration, force or even intrigue, are strategies adopted to right the wrong
  24. Not taking risk is the biggest risk. There is nothing in life without risk. Only the nature and severity varies. By not taking risk yourself, you may be paying someone a premium for shielding you from the risk, from which you are not full insulated, though you may be led into an illusion of safety. You only trade risk for the returns of an apparent emotional temporal comfort, for which you pay a disproportionate price.
  25. Catch the bull by the horn, few have the guts to do so, but returns are the highest in doing so. Side-tracking an issue will not eliminate it. You save lot by directly dealing with it than attempting evasive tactics or soft pedalling. Leadership is also the courage to expose oneself. Demonstrate your leadership when an opportunity arises.
  26. Every idea has a right time; many great minds were crucified because they were before time. Be alert and sensitive to writings on the wall.
  27. If you do 99% and drop off (abandon your project / pursuit), someone else will do the last (1%) mile and take credit for the 100%. Never leave something without seeing its logical end, else you will become someone else’s unpaid worker, as that someone will find value in the scrap you have left, and extract gold from it, as you didn’t have the perseverance. Conviction, persistence and perseverance are critical emotional traits of winners
  28. Practice continuous learning, unlearn and relearn. Knowledge has evolved over time, many concepts and principles (of management) have undergone paradigm shifts with time. One needs to be open to recast one’s knowledge base with changing times.


11.Helpful Practices for Effectiveness


  1. Have an open mind and enjoy your work and life. Open-ness is a positive state of mind to receive another’s ideas/views. People like to be heard!
  2. Keep physically and emotionally fit, be sensitive to personal hygiene. It helps in exuding confidence, positive energy, acceptability, participation and getting people to action
  3. Build and maintain professional and social network. Don’t burn your bridges behind you. You may need to retrace the path to pursue relationships under a different paradigm, even after decades of separation and silence. Recall how school and college alumni re-establish old contacts as if they last met each other the previous day. Alumni network breaks all barriers.
  4. Life comes as a package. Do not try to pick and choose within the package. There are no garbage collectors to pick what you choose to discard
  5. Believe in yourself, have a can do and will do attitude. This helps in mobilising participation
  6. Dare to fail, enjoy challenges, learn from failures. It gives you the adrenaline rush to face challenges
  7. Be simple, humble, young in mind, open to learning from generations Y / X.  By practising this you never go outdated, but gain confidence and will be better accepted
  8. Look forward to the best and be prepared for the worst. It reflects neither gullibility nor pessimism, but reality
  9. Believe that there is no one right way, there can be many. This helps in generating diverse ideas for efficient problem solving
  10. Opportunities exist at all times for everyone; have an open eye, ear and mind to grab it. You can see only when your mind is open.
  11. Adaptability is not lack of direction; understand the fine distinction between focus and flexibility, they are not antonyms
  12. Believe you have lot to give and take from others; share, as none can steal what is yours. If you share, others will reciprocate
  13. Human beings are basically good; circumstances make them what they are. Try to understand what made them who they are, makes you more humane and help get the best out of the other person
  14. If you challenge someone, be prepared to get injured. There is no one way traffic
  15. Life can begin at any time if you want it that way, it is never too late. Do not blame your age or others for your lack of initiative


12. Essential Qualities for a Successful Leader


  1. Self confidence
  2. Honesty, Not Hippocratic; integrity ultimately pays
  3. Take failures (setbacks) as fact of life and don’t accept them lying down
  4. When someone laughs at you, laugh with them. You will completely redraw the contextual map and be in control of the situation
  5. Have the competitive spirit of a sportsman and resoluteness of a general
  6. Be able to see (vision) what is not visible. Not many can. Those who can, are a class apart
  7. You can’t and don’t have to correct everyone, correct yourself
  8. See the world in all its manifestations, gain confidence and courage to face it. Variety is not only fact of life but equally essential. The rich cannot have their good life, without the poor, to provide them the services essential to enjoy their good life
  9. Believe you are no less than anyone else and need to excel in what you take up; do not be content with sloganeering and hollow displays. Truth and competence will ultimately prevail
  10. If you have to challenge status quo do it here and now, as there is no tomorrow. Challenge is the driver of change. Majority need not be right always.
  11. No one needs sympathy, people need empathy and someone to share their mind with
  12. There is no level playing field in real world, if it was so, you would have to rewrite books on core competency, SWOT, competitive advantages of nations and so on. Clamour for level playing field is, in fact, seeking that differentiator by those who lobby for it.
  13. Enjoying good life that you have earned is no crime. One can enjoy in different ways, not necessarily through displayed consumerism
  14. Happiness is an inner state of the mind; not a display of grand life
  15. There is no real charity; even charity displayed comes with a hidden price or a deferred return. Hidden agenda is part of life
  16. Develop right attitudes, values and practices, nurture a quality culture
  17. Be bold to state facts, hold your ground even at a price
  18. Don’t look for short term gains, it doesn’t stay. Satisfy yourself before your try to satisfy others. Don’t wait for an inspector to right the wrong. The earlier you correct the less expensive it will be
  19. Set high standards in all that you are involved
  20. Believe you can and you will, you will
  21. There are no failures in life only transient setbacks, so never lose your composure when you don’t get what you are after
  22. Every dog has its day, wait for yours; and believe others too will have their day
  23. The day you find yourself comfortable on a job, it is time you start introspecting if something is wrong and you need to move on. The feeling of comfort is a slow poison, it is a stumbling block to progress as there is nothing you see challenging. You are underutilized and need to find a new space where you can exploit your potential


13.Reality Check for MBA Freshers


  1. MBAs need to prove themselves as expectations are high. For the initial  benefit of doubt to turn positive and enjoy the privilege / edge over others, you need to exceed expectations
  2. You need to mentally model the real organization and its problems on certain frameworks, to apply your knowledge judiciously
  3. Real organizations operate in a dynamic real, and are not carved out for application of theory. Analyze and understand the real organization to intelligently deploy the tools, techniques and knowledge unobtrusively
  4. Capability is not what is rewarded but its demonstration in holistic problem solving and effectively contribute, is
  5. Organisations work in teams, learn to enjoy team work, respect others and be able to command respect of others, by your conduct and contribution. Earn respect, not demand it, it doesn’t come free
  6. In real world, no data is given / come to you, you have to get it. Data may not be complete/relevant/ accurate/perfect to meet your requirements. Getting relevant data is a challenge. Learn to work with it.  Difficult job is deciding the what and how to do, doing it, making things happen. Most organizations spend enormous senior executive time / resources to gain access to needed data.  Most of the time, you have to work with incomplete, inaccurate or imperfect data. 
  7. Data is not necessarily numbers in tables / excel form ready for analysis.  Data includes informal inputs gathered in informal situations, from incisive observations, obtained through third party sources, surrogates, perceptions, even intrigue and judgment.  You still have to work with it and deliver.
  8. Management is not mathematics or deterministic. Management decisions, inferences, strategies and actions are just the most probable outcomes expected, based on possible analysis of available information and best judgment; as people are involved and the operating environment is an open system and dynamic, subject to external influences; not designed for mechanical application of theories.
  9. Theoretical applications and analysis help see a situation within a framework and understanding, but don’t help arriving at solutions directly. Tools and techniques help analysis, guide in decision making, they don’t and should not translate directly into decisions
  10. Successful managers are not necessarily MBAs as evident from many successful start-up CEOs; introspect what made these people managers, entrepreneurs and leaders
  11. People don’t behave on the expected theoretical lines of behavioural sciences, as assumptions of other things remaining constant are never realistic. Other things are never constant.
  12. Knowledge doesn’t guarantee result, but appropriate conscientious actions in the context, do. Knowledge, Attitudes, Practices (KAPs) lead to results. More than knowledge emotional maturity, judgment, attitudes, determination and focus, lead to results and success
  13. It is easier to acquire knowledge and resources; not people with the right bend of mind to generate outcomes. You need people with passion, grit, confidence, killer instinct, persistence, risk taking ability to succeed; knowledge comes lower in the hierarchy. Some of these attributes have to be acquired and practiced
  14. Success once does not guarantee success next time; it has to be worked towards every time. In real life there are no pass marks, it has to be 100% all times. Clients / customers don’t accept nor can you sell anything less than the best, as you are charging them for 100% and best in class all the time. It is like  jumping a well, you either do it 100% or don’t
  15. There is no real level playing field (as clamored for by industry associations). Every field is uneven, you need to take advantage of the uneven terrain and compete. Create your own USP (12,13). Competitive advantages are many times contextual and unique to individuals and organizations.
  16. Some orchestrate competitive advantages for themselves by strategizing for long term. You will never know the true intent; it is always a hidden agenda. What appears innocuous would have been the result of deep rooted thinking, analysis, strategies and plans. They completely change the established rules of the game, particularly in politics, as politics is the game of possibilities.
  17. External environmental (fuzzy, dynamic and uncontrollable) management is equally or more important than intra-organisational management, over which you have control.
  18. At lower levels technical skills are important, at middle levels technical and people skills; and at top levels strategy and environmental management capabilities are most important. People in boundary management are most powerful as they can decide the destiny of the organization in the larger world outside.
  19. Differentiate among short term gains and long term success and sustainability. Matured organizations look for qualities in their employees who work for long term and not short term.
  20. Don’t be afraid to be different, if you have a logic based on application of mind.  Give unsolicited inputs if you are convinced of its value. Know your organization and the industry, objectives, priorities, who is what, the environment, partners and competitors.
  21. Lose a battle to win a war. You will always have detractors; don’t get distracted
  22. Sense of humor and human relations very important in organisations.  You cannot work in isolation and isolate others from you by your behavior; the very reason for an organization.
  23. Managers are designated, but leaders emerge. Leadership is beyond management; leaders stand up to their conviction, beliefs and carry others; managers manage others. A manager maintains while a leader creates.  Organisations look for leaders (7,8,9,10,11).
  24. Silence is also a response as much as a verbal one. Different people pick different messages from another’s silence. Know your audience before you choose to be obtrusively aggressive or intelligently silent
  25. Wisdom is good learning from bad experience; inexplicable; may appear illogical, defensive, and not youthful; but are time-tested and yield long term value. Intuition and instinct are wisdom in action
  26. Children are most innovative, since they are not conditioned by the past (experience). Experience can be a barrier for innovation and discovery. Innocent green-field approach may yield great rewards, as evidenced in recent times in the technology space. One has to continuously question status quo, to progress over a different paradigm.
  27. There is light in every dark room. It is our inability to see it that makes one give up.
  28. By following a crowd that may appear popular and right; for want of right advice, one may lose great opportunity to realise one’s potential. It is tough to pursue your own path; that is the price you pay for your rewards.
  29. Fear of the unknown is less for the ignorant. Information overload can be a barrier; we tend to imagine non-existent problems / risks.
  30. Don’t have to win every-where, you may have to develop your competitors too to expand the industry and prove your comparative worth! Competitors are not your enemies; they help you strive to do better, by challenging your position. Monitoring the progress of your competitor is as important as that of your own organization.
  31. Customer complaints (feedback) are the best source of information to improve your product / service. Don’t discourage / put-off a customer who comes to you with a complaint on your service / product. Organisations pay to get customers’ negative feedback.  Keep your eyes, ears and mind open, and be tuned to receive inputs from the environment. Exhort customers to tell you if they are not satisfied and tell others if they are satisfied; not the other way
  32. Formal reports not necessarily the best source of useful information. Even the junior most employee has something to contribute; don’t create a scary situation around you, drive away people and silence them.
  33. Respect others as much as you want others to respect you and your time. Cultural sensitivity is very important in a multicultural and connected world, as you always deal with people from diverse background, mores and expectations. What is right and admired in one context may be a taboo and even crime in another: dress-code, greeting practices, table manners, communication, social etiquette. Right and wrong are contextual; and reflect one’s ability to orchestrate public opinion. A massacre is right, while a murder is wrong?
  34. Be sensitive to and comply with organizational policies on smoking, use of resources such as transport, stationery, IT infrastructure, tour expenses, travel guidelines. It enhances others’ perception of you as responsible. Small adventures may come with a heavy price.
  35. Qualities desired: Reliability, punctuality, honesty, team work, collaboration, flexibility, learning, social skills, acceptable behavior, stress management, communication, efficiency, internal and external marketing, accountability, enterprising, working towards results, guiding and motivating others, carrying the team, lead from the front, delegating, trusting others but with verification, responsible conduct
  36. Some of the organizational expectations are social, business, telephone and email etiquettes, negotiating, learning and result orientation, dress sense, handling criticism, failures and stress
  37. Give credit to those to whom it is due, practice diligent application of mind and not a mechanical behavior, working around obstacles, co-operative mentality
  38. Respect authority, but also be alert to limits and trigger points when to question. You can’t be a blind spectator to undesirable happenings. You have a societal responsibility and can resort to questioning and whistle blowing. Practice the art of conveying a “NO” when situations warrant.
  39. Difficult to give mechanical / logical instructions to handle all situations. Individual judgment, thinking on the feet and mustering courage to handle a situation is expected at all levels in management
  40. How do you react to situations: Fate, flight or fight? If you think you can, you will. Have a hunger and thirst for success / results – push from within, mission orientation, winning streak, courage to explore and change rules of the game
  41. Handling criticism: You may criticise an idea. You need not criticise the person behind the idea. Do not mix up the idea and the person. People do not take personal criticisms kindly, but may accept criticism of their views / ideas / work gracefully.
  42. Bottom line is, you will be rewarded for what you deliver; all your other shortcomings will be condoned. No one is perfect. Focus on creating value and deliver. Any organisation needs lateral (mavericks) thinkers, not just those who follow the crowd. If you have to create an USP, you have to be different!
  43. All decisions have an element of subjectivity, if not so, machines could have replaced the individual in decision making. Decisions are not an extension of a Decision Support Systems (DSS); objectivity itself is subjective!
  44. If you enjoy what you do, you will enlighten the space, and bring positive energy into others. This will also aid in you performing your job much better and being noticed for your contribution. Avoid succumbing to reluctantly accepting a responsibility, as ultimately it may not be in your interest. Every human being will converge to his/her natural interest / passion
  45. Humour can break a deadlock. Do not restrain yourself from using humour and being yourself, though sometimes it may backlash for its perceived poor timing.
  46. All happenings in life cannot be logically explained! You will find instances where outcomes defy logic. Have an element of instinct and intuition. Life is not mathematical, as the logic of logic differs from one individual to another.
  47. Success is not defined on one yardstick, there are many and there can be many measures of success, achievement and happiness. It depends a lot on the individual seeking the goal.
  48. All organisations and leaders have committed blunders. Most failures / blunders do not surface and draw adverse attention; only because successes have over a period of time overshadowed failures or failures have been managed from surfacing. You will also reach a stage when your pluses will be more than minuses. Ultimately it is a balance sheet. Sometimes successes are managed by masking failures!
  49. You can be an achiever if you follow practices of the celebrated winners; may be you have for good reason chosen not to follow that path. Many celebrities are what they are seen to be in their closed group; take them out and you get to see their real self! You choose what you want to be!
  50. Happiness is a state of the mind and cannot be measured on a scale. In retrospect, you may ridicule your own celebrated wins! That is maturity
  51. Share your teams’ failures (even own it up fully); give them credit for successes. It pays more in the long run than otherwise. Despite your blowing the trumpets, everyone knows whose win or lose it has been.
  52. Silence is a great message. Silence is not no response. Many times no message is the right message. To be a good speaker / effective you don’t have to speak more; it is like Golf - a thinking man's game. You can have all the shots in the bag, but if you don't know what to do with them, you've got troubles (14). It is like mental golf (15); more thinking before action, you need to know your end objective and plan to reach that, ignoring the intermediate setbacks.
  53. Collectivism and individualism: While western societies are generally individualistic, eastern societies are collectivist in their orientation, mores and social norms. Collectivist societies tend to force individuals to fall in line with the supposed collective decisions. Individual opinions and views, being different, thinking out-of-the-box or obtrusive expressions are not appreciated; and may result in admonishment or rejection by the group. In such societies, individuals may have to adopt strategies that tantamount to hypocrisy. For instance, it may be (politically) wise to appear to be dumber than what you really are. In a collectivist society, one therefore need to be socially intelligent to pursue your goals through unobtrusive means, in contrast with the western world; where loud expression is appreciated, expected and considered as reflecting a person’s capability and confidence. Such behaviour though illogical, is the norm in these societies. One needs to manoeuvre one’s trajectory through means that may amount to obfuscation, portrayals, deceit, masking and so on. One should be able to withstand social pressures in pursuit of achieving long term goal.


One has to strike a fine dynamic balance between being inside the collective group and secretly preserving one’s individualism, in pursuit of long term goals. Even in collectivist societies, a minority deftly take leadership positions and are highly individualistic, portraying an image of brotherhood in the collective society. Maintaining such split personality is an art. Leadership demands goal orientation and someone piloting it.


In such societies one cannot afford to be obtrusively individualistic, as such a conduct may invite hostility and impediments in one’s progress. One has to play a double game with a clear goal of mutation and following one’s own path in a short time. Till such separation, one has to play the Doctor Jeckle and Mr. Hyde game. All is well that ends well. All is fair in war, love and pursuit of success.


14.References and Suggested Readings


1.Dr. Rollin McCraty PhD - The relationship between heart-brain dynamics, positive emotions, coherence, optimal health and cognitive function in



5.[zimbardo] Psychology: Core Concepts, by Phillip G. Zimbardo, Ann L. Weber, Robert L. Johnson


7.Leithwood, K. And Jantzi, D. (1999), “Transformational Leadership Effects: A Replication”, School Effectiveness And School Improvement, Vol. 4 No. 10, Pp. 451-79.

8.Hallinger, P. And Heck, R.H. (1998), “Exploring The Principal’s Contribution To School Effectiveness: 1980-1995”, School Effectiveness And School Improvement, Vol. 9 No. 2, Pp. 157-91

9.Murphy, J., Elliott, S., Goldring, E. And Porter, A. (2006), Learning-Centered Leadership: A Conceptual Foundation, Learning Sciences Institute, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tn

10.Peters, T. And Austin, N. (1985), A Passion For Excellence: The Leadership Difference, Collins, London.

11.Reeves, 1998, Leadership & Organization Development Journal 19/2 [1998] 97–105 © Mcb University Press [Issn 0143-7739], Leadership For Socially Responsible Organizations, Richard H. Reeves-Ellington School Of Management, Binghamton University, Binghamton, Ny, Usa

12.The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, C. K. Prahalad, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006 - Business & Economics

13.Competitive Advantage of Nations, Michael E. Porter, Free Press, 1990 - Business & Economics




Kooveli Madom

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