We have all heard the story of how a rotten apple when placed in a basket of healthy apples, has the power and ability to ‘spoil’ the entire bunch. Biologically speaking, this occurs because the rotting apple gives off ethylene, which speeds up the ripening of the other apples. We do not know if this happens in the case of humans: it would be interesting to find out. What we do know however, is how an effete, ineffective and corrupt leader can cause his team and organisation to “rot” and malfunction over a period of time. This is evident if you analyse the saga of global business giants which fell by the wayside simply due to the failings of the top management – more particularly, the top manager.
It is intriguing to see how an inept leader not only colours his team, but also spreads the malaise a long way – so much so that entire economies collapse. Leaders who are enthusiastic, encouraging and motivated tend to build motivated and higher performing teams since everyone takes their energy, culture, attitude and pace from that leader. In turn, the leader receives from his team a feeling of satisfaction, an enjoyment in seeing the team contribute at higher levels and of course the excitement of being part of the team member’s personal and professional development. As French actor Sarah Bernhardt puts it: “Life begets life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich”.
This amazing phenomenon of one individual influencing the entire community is indeed a study in energy management. There is an important concept in operation here – the energy of the ‘karta’. The Karta (literal meaning, ‘One who does’) is a characteristic in the personality of a person, who heads the family in a business or organisational context, and who is able to influence the others through his conduct or behaviour. Even India’s legal system recognizes the concept of karta as the head of a Hindu joint family.
However, in energy terms, a karta is not merely a figurehead – he is the source of energy for his entire clan. The clan’s energy is a reflection of his energy – a notion that is beautifully encapsulated in the Hindi saying ‘Jaisa Raja Vaisi Praja’ (the quality of society depends on the quality of the king) In other words, if the karta’s energy pattern or frequency changes, it will in turn impact the energy pattern of the entire clan. The ability of a team to deliver the goods can be gauged from the ability of its karta, its leader.
Leaders are often people who must significantly shape a culture through the ways they communicate, interact with members of their communities, and help to form the ways in which their fellow citizens think about themselves. Historically, we have seen how for every inept business leader, there are many who are hailed as beacons of hope. Compared to large companies that bleed manpower, there are several small businesses that boast of near-zero attrition simply because of the positive influence of the top man over his colleagues and employees. Leadership skills – like the proverbial and metaphysical yin-yang – can work both ways. It’s all a matter of choice, really. A choice of which energy path to take.