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A Must Read by all men and women “Lean in : Women, Work, and The Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook

August 9, 2013 by Snigdha


It was one of those rare occasions when I felt very happy and relieved on being proved incorrect!

When I first got to know about this book by Sheryl Sandberg, the famous COO of Facebook, from reviews in some newspapers, my first kneejerk reaction, was to scoff at it. One more bragging from one more “Female Achiever”; I thought, who thinks that the others who do not eventually make it to the top are the lot “scared” of the top slots and/or those who do not have” what it takes”, or who just are not willing enough to take the plunge – happy n secure within their comfort zone!!  I thought, it is easy on the part of a woman executive, that too from a background of rather liberal & facilitative western culture, who has already seen so much of success, for reasons whatsoever, to say things like, “ Lean in”, “sit at the table” and exhort other women to dream big and reach for them without holding back themselves; as if it is the fault of the women only that they are not dreaming big or reaching for their goals.

But as I said, those were only my first reaction based on the reviews in some newspapers. At the same time, I was also getting sucked into another strong reaction-almost off-guard! And it was guilt!! I had thought in so many years after quitting my job that I really don’t regret or feel guilty that I quit my job. I have my reasons, so far I thought I am convinced of those reasons. But here comes a book, whose reviews focus on only one part: wherein a powerful woman proclaims: women are not in ‘power’, as they do not aspire to be there and hold themselves back even when opportunities come their way. The book shouts: Lean in to power! we need more  women in ‘power” to correct the centuries long discrimination and injustice against women. Need more women in power? Yes, I think so, too. But women do not aspire to power? No, I do not think that is the whole truth!

Suddenly, I start feeling guilty. Have I “pulled back” from “power”, instead of leaning in? And thereby, have I betrayed my forerunners of feminists as well as the coming generations of women?? Have I deprived my fellow women from the impact that I could have made towards bridging the gender gap  by hanging on to my corporate job and moving up in the corridors of power?

I was truly keen to read the book myself to know firsthand, in detail, what Sheryl has actually tried to argue and advocate.  Thank God, page after page, as I intently went through the book, my joy and relief knew no bounds.

Yes! I can not agree more with each and every aspect of the gender issues that Sheryl has candidly brought out ( happens quite rarely with me). And NO! it is not about exhorting each and every woman to necessarily join the rat race of power in the corporate sector/decision-making Government organizations.

The book is all about “ true freedom” and “ an equal world”  !

I found it way too courageous on part of Sheryle to have brought up to focus various real  issues – not only the big, but also the so-called small issues ( that actually build up to big issues when unattended to for ages)-  that “hold back”  talented women from breaking the traditional female stereotypes and /or to display their professional ambition or to reach their potential. As she correctly analyses, some of these factors are external, some institutional and some internal ( almost of a self-perpetuating nature due to which the victim- read woman- becomes the worst perpetrator of the victimization!).

Yes, feminism was about freedom of choice, and not to make us feel guilty, or constantly worry about “ did I get it wrong?”

Yes, leaning in is about giving your best and demanding /extracting the best as you deserve, without allowing to be scuttled due to your gender,  and being your best in whatever area you are passionate about – be it raising the next generation, or volunteering for society, or making laws and strategies sitting in the leadership positions of power that can impact the world at large ; OR  a mix of all these! However, it makes immense sense when the author says that the need for more women in power is  being felt more than ever before, given the degree of gender discrimination against women that has already got deeply entrenched in the social psyche world over !!

At times, all it takes to make you move to your next level is someone else’s opinion that resonates with your own. And after reading the book till the end, I felt very reassured.

Let me introduce myself. I am the 4th of the 5 siblings in order of age & the younger of the two sisters, born to parents from humble background, who taught us very early in our lives: “ Let us agree to disagree !” a mindset, which, I now fully understand, is actually the bedrock of true freedom. If you, as a child, are not free to disagree with your parents in the first place, or conversely, if you, as a parent, do not allow your children the freedom to disagree with you, you can never expect a society with individuals having a thinking mind in the first place, let alone a ‘free’ mind. Minus the emotions, disagreement is just a difference of opinion and so long as we are not entitled to our opinion, or do not learn to hold an opinion of our own (reasonableness or otherwise of that opinion is altogether a different issue which can only be established through a free debate), we can not call ourselves free!!

Yes, I have quit my service in the corporate sector after more than 25 years for some reasons important to me and my values, although I always put my best foot forward valuing excellence over other rewards  in doing things I am responsible for, or passionate about. It was equally to stand up against what I was convinced was injustice, as also to pursue other passions in life to give back something to the society by using my gifts/talents/insights from long and varied experience. Yes, I have not yet entered the elite club of the Super-achievers, perhaps I am not as worldly-wise to be there, or perhaps because the time is yet to come. But no regrets, as I have continued to hold my head high with a free mind and have continued to exercise my free will in making reasoned choices of my own in critical situations in life – both professional and personal. And this is precious enough to me to keep my batteries charged, come what may, and make a difference to at least a few other lives.

Can not thank Sheryl enough for what she has been doing through this book and other modes of communication to lead a movement, standing up for the cause of half the people on this planet!!   

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Living the QUESTIONS

August 8, 2013 by Snigdha

One of the most important things that shape us in life is the questions we ask ourselves continually. The ones we ask ourselves just about every day and the ones we ask specially when things turn out in ways not wanted or not anticipated by us – starting from simple upsets to grave, life-shattering adversities. It is interesting to observe what kind of questions we ask ourselves during these hard times and how we handle those questions. In fact, whether we emerge out of the adversity bitter-n- battered OR better hinges a lot on this aspect.
Yes, the answers do matter; but I think, the questions are as much important or even more crucial most of the time. If questions are wrong ab initio, none of the answers will help us make the right choices. Especially, the long list of whys that we ask when confronted with adversity that we consider as unjust and/or that jolts our self-esteem. Our professional lives usually make us confront such situations – and it happens to all sometime, at some level or other. It is naïve to think that a few fortunate ones have always had a cake walk. The issue at hand is not whether it happens to all or not; but how you personally take these calls – especially how do you handle when you are pushed out of your threshold limits for bearing what according to yourself is unfair treatment/injustice/ indignity.
The matter becomes worse and energy-sucking,when we do not find the answers – the true and cogent answers, I mean, to all our questions and that leaves us guessing.
And guesswork is nothing but creations and projections of our own perceptions and beliefs! Back to square one – we had started with ourselves ( why me? Why this to me? Do I deserve this ? etc.) and we end up with ourselves again with presumptions – not answers- framed through our own filters – coloured with our own perceptions and interpretations.
In such a scenario, what we ourselves believe shape our truth, like the pigmyllion effect. If we believe, we have been victimised, it becomes our truth: if we believe, there is a pointer inside for something beyond what meets our eyes… well, that is going to be the truth for us! That’s why, it becomes important not to chase the answers mindlessly with desperation – at least to the core questions that seek to explain acts of others or providencial justice.
So, during those times when we ask questions… ponder a lot… try to rationalise… try to emotionalise… try to fantasize….try doing everything to get an answer to our “why”; but the answer… the true answer… simply eludes us,  understand that this is the time to just live the question !!
Let us also understand that we can ask questions that make us feel more like a victim – questions that reinforce negativity and pessimism in our life. Or we can ask empowering questions; questions that open up the hitherto dormant and unexplored wells of positivity and opportunity in our world. Questions that enlighten us further … help us re-invent ourselves..  
Do not just keep on whining if you do not get answers to all your questions on action/behaviour of others – Instead ask yourself probing questions that draw out your own core beliefs, clarify your own core values.  Because the moment we start asking questions about what other person(s) did to us, we start dragging ourselves into a victim mould and become uncomfortable in our own skin! That amounts to virtually passing on control of our life to someone else. The moment you get an inkling of such feeling, do come back to yourself and regain control of your own life. 
At life’s critical bends, you just have to stop worrying, wondering and doubting. Have faith that things will work out eventually – may be not how you planned, but just how they are meant to be. It is said, in the end, everything is good; if it isn’t good, it is not yet the end!
Remember, smooth roads never make good drivers. A problem-free life never makes a strong person; so never ask life “Why Me”, instead challenge it and say “Try Me”.
And by the way, is anyone perfect in this world ?  I’m not, neither are you. It is a truism, which we somehow close our eyes to, in our crazy pursuit of being right always, at times chasing even worthless goals! Accept yourself fully—with your achievements, strengths, weaknesses, failures, flaws, follies and all. Once you do that with yourself, you will be surprised to find how easy it suddenly becomes to accept others in your life too … with all their flaws ( real as well as perceived by you)!  And once that happens, you will find yourself liberated, at least from the questions like ‘why he/she did this to me?’ . After all, ain’t others as human as you and might just have erred in judgement/decision? It is at this point that you realise the irrelevance of the answers to your victim-mode questions – you have truly lived your questions and with that, the questions expire in time. And strangely enough, answers to some of your core questions would still be revealed to you as you move on, in ways not anticipated by you. 
You don’t have to be perfect to realize your dreams, but you do need to be committed to personal evolution. You can only begin that journey when you accept yourself completely for who you are and believe in grace of God and worth of yourself.
Believe with all your heart and soul in the saying that the ultimate reward of your sincerity and perseverance is not what you get for it, but what you become because of it!! And perhaps this one belief contains the one and only answer that matters ultimately!  And sure enough, this one belief would see you through all your questions.
Above all, know that The Universe has heard your question and it will be handled!!

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Three essential questions that leaders at workplace must ask themselves

August 8, 2013 by Snigdha

Even without an official title, and irrespective of your position in the organisational hierarchy , you can be a ‘leader’ in your own right through your action and attitude. True. But the story is vastly different  when you are a “leader” by title, i.e when you are ‘assigned’ a leadership position by your organization, and are expected to lead a group of people assigned to you to a certain goal. In this case, you are officially responsible for the outcome, not only of your own productivity, but more significantly for the outcome of your people’s productive behavior as well. You have to effectively convert a bunch of people to an effective and successful team, that owns a shared goal and achieves it together, following you as the leader.
Today’s workplace scenario – especially with knowledge workers and service sectors – clearly calls for a set of leadership skills,  that is more people-centric and less authority–centric. Positional authority no longer guarantees that you will be accepted as the leader by your people merely by virtue of your designation and will be able to ensure the deliverables through them by using command and control strategies. In fact, as gleaned from history, this had never really worked and people who delivered great sustainable results were inspiring leaders with some other key human traits that do not flow from one’s designation – a fact which is now being acknowledged more openly, as compared to in the past. With concepts like “Emotional Intelligence”, “People skills”, ‘social skills’ etc. gaining ground and almost becoming much-hackneyed terms, there is no need to elaborate on why positional authority alone cannot guarantee successful teams.
So, the next point is: how do you know whether you are the kind of leader that the modern workplace needs?  A leader today has to steer their people through ambiguities, uncertainties and challenges and make them want to give their best. Goes without saying, when people want to give their best,  that is evidence enough that they own the project and also that they are on auto-pilot to ensure the best results.
Ask yourself 3  key questions !
And honestly answer to those. You will be pretty clear on whether you already are a leader capable of leading your people to success, or whether you are currently lacking and where exactly you need to work on yourself.
Question 1 :   Do your people trust you?
Question 2 : Do you treat your team members as human beings, and not just as employees?
Question 3: Do you take active interest in the growth of your people?
Remember, you are being watched constantly by your co-workers/team mates/employees, even if you are not always told about it on your face.
Co-workers would trust you only when they see fairness and consistency in your action and intent through various situations. In addition, if they accept that you would always, and without hesitation, stand up for them whenever the situation warrants, they will trust you completely, and will be inspired by your integrity and credibility. Only this kind of complete trust in the leader brings out the best in each employee – courage to innovate, take risks and stretch out-of-box to reach the best results.   
Leaders, I mean true leaders, demonstrate a very high degree of credibility and that makes it easy for them to carry their people along without the need to “drag them along’ where they need 100% of their team to be on the new destination! So, be trust-worthy!!
No employee is your employee only-they are also human beings having highs and lows in their important personal spheres, at times may be just around the same time that the ‘employee’ in them is called to contribute. Do you, as the leader, see the worry on their face when they are going through a personal crisis; or just miss out on it , lost in tasking  your employees to meet  your official deadlines?
Showing empathy, sharing the personal joys and concerns of your employees, till recently, was not seen with favour in the context of tough, decisive leadership! But go through history and look around. You will be amazed to see just how many of the super- achiever leaders actually displayed this one quality, that made all the difference!! No wonder, with time and greater research into leadership, the concept of “ Emotional Intelligence” has come up since quite sometime now and this quality – i.e empathy for your people- has now been acknowledged as a key leadership quality- ranking on the top slot of the skills set!
Yes, when people know that their superior cares for them as human beings, they too reciprocate in terms of higher engagement and productivity in the job. So, the golden rule is: respect your employees as human beings first; most of the rest will fall in line.
The third crucial area that you, as the leader, have to take responsibility for is: growth of your people! It is easier to make people do things when you can make them see what is in it that is for them, not for you! In a workplace situation, no employee can stay engaged and charged without growth   in terms of growth in personal knowledge-skill-competence matrix, career progression, and both in combination. A superior  who keeps this in sight in respect of each of the team mates usually demonstrates genuine interest in the growth of all the employees, without favour or unjust discrimination, through a holistic approach of training-assigning responsibilities-mentoring-sponsoring for higher jobs. Such a superior not only properly assesses each employee to harness their potential, but also invests in growth of each, and makes it visible to the team asto what growth prospects are there for each of them when the shared goal is achieved! Undoubtedly,  such a superior would automatically inspire employees to give their best to whatever organizational goals they are pursuing, not only because they themselves stand to gain from it, but also for the fact that, their own superior becomes the face of the organization for them and they would walk any length of extra miles for such a leader!!
The above three are perhaps the most important human traits that tell a leader, whom people would gladly follow, from the rest.

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Discover the LEADER in yourself – Discovering the leader within | Leader Within | DEVELOPING THE LEADER WITHIN | YOU ARE A LEADER | AWAKEN THE LEADER WITHIN

August 8, 2013 by Snigdha

I wonder sometimes: why talks about “leaders” often invoke awe and mystique ?
May be, because when we talk of ‘leaders’, we think about “revolutionary” leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Lurther King, Nelson Mandela and the like; OR a few people who have achieved extra-ordinary visible success in their fields; OR those who adorn the positions of power by virtue of being in ‘leadership roles’.  Except the last category, there are very few people in the other two categories and more significantly, their accomplishments flow from their own super-ordinary personal qualities; hence, thought to be above the capabilities of an “ordinary” person. Hence, the high pedestal for them. As regards the third category, leadership roles come through some sort of organisational hierarchy – be it in Government or Corporate or any other formally assembled group; and therefore, it is not the cup of tea for anyone and everyone. Worse, the third category breeds huge confusion, as not everyone in a leadership role appeals to the heart as a true leader.
And this unnecessarily complicates our understanding and appreciation of some of rather simple and often-latent human traits associated with leaders,  making these out as complex and not-in-everyone type qualities!!
Semantically, to “lead” is to move someone or something somewhere. In other words, making a difference to the existing status – as simple as that! When we qualify that difference with elements of desirability in terms of improvement, expansion of horizon, human development and ethics, we get the term “lead” with a spirit.
Interestingly,while not everyone in a ‘leadership role’ comes across as a true leader,  the converse, i.e a leader is a person in a leadership role, is also not necessarily true. Yes !! A leader  need not always be in a leadership role. This world is what it is and still kicking despite all the negativities/constraints/challenges, because there are many “leaders”, without titles, at every level of society, who, in effect, lead themselves and others towards better and desired conditions, even without an official tag or being acknowledged or acclaimed in public.
What, then, is leadership, or at least the crux of leadership?
By far, leadership is perhaps one of the most researched and written about theme in social science, that has engaged and intrigued thinking minds since inception of human civilisation.. Yet, it becomes so difficult to define leadership in brief, unambiguous, straight-jacketed, fit-for-all terms, like any other scientific concept. Leadership is about human traits; and hence subject to interpretations. Further, even though almost all studies/reseach/interpretations of ‘leadership qualilities’, point to  at least a few key qualities like vision, courage, compassion, creativity, credibility etc. as the top-on-the-list traits, it is quite fascinating as well as intriguing to note that most of the so-called leaders ( i.e. people in leadership roles) actually lack all/most of these qualities and yet, have most of the times been riding on success waves. In time, they do crash on land, no doubt and the audience gets disenchanted; but by then, a lot of damage is done unfortunately. That’s why, instead of trying to list out traits that one has to possess to be a true leader, I find it makes more sense to me, when I look at leaders, I mean true leaders who make positive differences and say, leadership is what a leader does, and that includes getting done, in any situation.
So for me, the shortest-ever, position-neutral, situation-neutral definition of a “leader” is one who demonstrates what it takes to do what is needed to be done in any situation.
Here go some stories. Personally, I find these not just stories, but situations that illustrate what indeed leadership is and how an ordinary person can act like a true leader.
Story 1 : 
One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked,”What are you doing?” The boy replied,”Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they will die.”  Surprised, the man said,”Son, don’t you realise there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference !”
As the boy listened, he bent down again, picked up another starfish and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said politely… “ I made a difference to that one .”
I am sure, the message is loud and clear. It does not matter whether the difference you make is small or big. What matters is: if you are truly concerned about a situation, whether you take those tiny steps to make a difference – without bothering whether your action would totally change the situation or not. Does not matter if the boy could not save all the starfishes affected. It is important to note that by his positive action, he could save at least a few starfishes out of hundreds about to die, and it did make all the difference to those few, who were saved by the boy .
Leadership is all about making a positive difference to someone, to some situation in the environment, which, you think, should not remain the same, without getting cowed down by the enormity of the  problem.
Story 2
Three hundred years ago Christopher Wren, who designed St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, wrote about three men he spoke to who were building his creation.
He asked the first worker what his job was, to  which the worker wearily replied, “I’m laying bricks. Can’t you see that?” Wren moved along and asked a second worker the same question. “I’m just earning a living,” the second worker snapped back. He then asked a third worker the same question, who was engrossed in perfecting a statue that he had already completed and got a very different response.   “Ohh, I’m building a Cathedral”, he said proudly.
While for the first two workers, it was just a ‘job’, for the 3rd sculptor, it was something entirely different – he took his work as a part of the whole – the cathedral. He was passionate about the fact that he was contributing towards building of a cathedral. For him, everything he did needed to be perfect, so that the cathedral could be built perfectly as envisioned.
This is how true leaders view their role in a bigger act; they see the larger whole much beyond their specified roles and work towards being a part of it, unleashing their best potential pursuing excellence and perfection in doing their bit. Because, in essence, they own up what they are a part of!! They show up not as a mere cog in the wheel, but as a valuable part that moves the wheel!
Each of us in the society, each employee in an organisation irrespective of organisational hierarchy can be a leader in one’s own right – title or no title.
Does this interpretation bring back memories of people in various roles and strata – from top management functionaries to menial workers, who show this exemplary quality and how much love and genuine respect they earn from people coming in contact with them ? Well, personally I have seen quite a lot and that keeps alive the hope and faith in leadership in simple, so-called ordinary individuals.
Leadership is owning up the bigger whole and showing up at your best, as a part thereof.
Story 3
Once Sharu Ragnekar, a renowned Management Consultant, visited the Wagha Border near Amritsar. The unique thing about this border is that there are Indian soldiers and Pakistan soldiers on the two sides of the border. At sunset, both sides lower the flags and there is a drill. This is very interesting to see as the drills are identical on both sides of the border and looks like a mirror image.
Ragnekar saw on our side of the border a teacher with 20 students. She was telling them, “ When the flag moves in the evening, all of you sing Sare Jahan se achchha Hindostan hamara.. ” Curious, he asked her what she was doing. She replied, “ It is my practice to bring a batch of my students here on the first day of every month so that they can see the moving flag and sing. I do it every month – although this month, this was very difficult for me.” When asked why difficult that month, she explained how she bears the busfare of some children whose parents can not afford it and how that particular month being the month of transfers, she had also to pay(bribe), out of her humble salary, for staying in the same place.  
 “ When this is what is happening to you, why do you want the children to sing Sare Jahan se Achchha Hindostan hamara?”
She asked spiritedly,“Who is going to improve India? I have not been able to improve India; you have not been able to improve India. I have no influence over the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister, but I have some influence on these children and I am going to use it. These children believe in me – so I bring them here, let them look at the flag and let them sing Sare jahan se achchha Hindostan hamara. When they grow up, at least some of them will be proud of India and try to improve India.”
To me, this teacher is a true  leader. From the problems in her own circumstances, she has taken a decision that things must change for better  and she is committing herself through personal action to bring about that change – using her own resources – i.e. her own humble salary and her influence on her students, the future citizens. She is able to see a goal, much bigger than anyone in her position would see and is navigating through constraints – but towards the goal .
Above all, notwithstanding the fact that she herself is a victim of an undesirable situation(corrupt bureaucracy), she is spreading,  not cynicism, but HOPE that things will change for better !! She is making a difference, trying to instill patriotism in the future citizens of the country.
Leadership is spreading hope and enthusiasm, undaunted by personal conditions of despair.
Story 4 :  A short story that probably I had read in my childhood .
Once a boulder was lying in the middle of a  roadway, much to the inconvenience of the passers-by. Most of the people who came by saw the boulder in the middle, uttered angry words, cursed the “someone” who did that mischief, loudly blamed the Government for not keeping the roads clear and simply passed around it. None stopped to clear it off the road. After sometimes, a farmer came along carrying a load of vegetables. On seeing the boulder, he stopped and tried to move the boulder from the middle of the road to the road-side. After much pushing and straining, he could move the big stone some way to the side, but it was getting strenuous for a single man to do this job. Slowly some of the people coming along the road started joining him one by one and finally, the boulder could be moved off the road.
The farmer, like others, could have just walked around the stone. But he chose to think about the others’ inconvenience and took pain to move the stone. Is not he a leader in his own right? He did what was required to be done in that situation rising above one’s own limited interest alone. Moreover, by his personal action, he inspired others to join the cause – to follow him.
The doers are the leaders. It is easy to preach; it is easy to blame others. It may take a specific skill to shirk and shift responsibility to avoid taking action. But true leaders are those, who act as necessary, not just preach or blame others! And inspire!
Leadership is solving a problem if it exists, even though it directly does not affect you, and inspiring others to join in.
Story 5
In 2002, a high caste school teacher in Odisha’s Brahmagiri area, Baghambar Pattanaik, quit his job to fight against a sysyem of compulsory servitude under the bartan system, bonded labour by another name, which permits the upper caste people to force lower caste barbers and others to work for them, often at menial tasks, in exchange for 15 KGs of rice a year. The system was so rigid that if the lower castes refused, they faced a debilitating social boycott. For example,  a 65 yr old lower caste person faced the ire of the whole village when he bravely decided in 2002 to stop working for one upper caste master under the bartan system. As a punishment for his defiance, he was made to serve 200 upper class families in the village. Stories abound involving similar oppressive inequity, against which the lone school teacher started fighting persistently, later garnering support from Human Rights Commissions. After nine years of persistent fight, the state govt. finally issued a notification abolishing bartan.
Leadership is displaying extra-ordinary courage of conviction in standing up for a cause even against a mighty opponent with determination to change the situation for better for the exploited !
Story 6
A few months back, a horrific act of terrorism occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School ( Connecticut, USA), that claimed 27 lives, 20 of them childen. Victoria Soto, 27, a class teacher, managed to hide her pupils in cupboards and closets, as the gunman was on a killing spree. She was then confronted by the gunman, who asked where the kids were and she convinced him that her pupils were elsewhere- in the gym. The gunman then shot her dead and went away. But her action of hiding the kids and lying to the gunman led to the survival of those kids. Faced with the most horrifying experience of her life, she chose the heroic path of love and responsibility for those entrusted to her care, rising above her personal safety.
In crises, leadership is also about heroism – supreme sacrifice and courage emanating out of love, compassion and a complete sense of responsibility !!
Story 7
Most of the greatest innovations begin with a simple idea. Paint lines in the highways is one of such great ideas, which was a safety innovation conceived in the year 1917 by Dr. June McCarroll, after having a narrow escape from an accident on a highway. Without lines on the road, there was no clearly delineated lane separation to help regulate the flow of traffic and avert side-swiping and collisions. McCarroll came up with the idea to paint lines on the road, separating lanes with a centre line. When she first told her idea to the local authorities concerned, no one listened, as is typical with a bureaucracy. Finally, she took upon herself to hand-paint a white stripe down the middle of the road.This later helped the drivers easily see the actual width of the lane and keep accidents due to sideswipes from happening.She took her idea to the local Women’s Club and with their help as well as campaigning by many similar groups for long 7 years, finally in Nov, 1924, the idea was adopted by California Highway Commission and highways got painted with middle lines. It was not long before the concept was accepted world wide – known as McCarroll lines.
So, leadership in many cases is also about innovation and persistence. A leader not only thinks out-of-box, but also displays persistence and perseverance to act/get others to act on the idea.
In our daily lives-both personal and professional, there are many instances in which we, the common people, solve problems innovatively. But once the implementation of our new or innovative ideas requires involvement of/owning up by others, it loses steam as many of us lack the needed persistence to go the whole hog. And there lies the difference.
The foregoing 7 stories are among innumerable such stories about true leadership. If you are conducting yourself this way, you too are a leader, whether you are acclaimed in public or not.
Yes, the life stories of great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and the like exemplify some of the rare leadership qualities like time-defying vision, time-less values, mass following and ability to bring about iconoclastic changes, which we all know as they are always talked about and find place in literature. But such revolutionary leadership does not belittle the small differences that each of us can make in the lives of all we touch directly or indirectly. So, let us also ‘read’ our own book of life stories – our own life experiences as well as that of the people we know. We will understand that “leadership” is actually not something for a privileged few. We all have it in ourselves.
Many a renowned persons have said, to be a leader, you must have followers. Very correct. But do the “followers” have to be a visible gang? How about people, who lead their own self to higher levels of evolution and thereby ‘inspire’ many a souls whose life they touch-directly or indirectly? How about the ripple effect that an innately good & simple individual creates in the society through his personal actions ! Are they not “leaders” in their own right? Yes, they are. They may not be having their followers in a herd – but I am sure, here and there, without they themselves knowing about it, they are creating their followers in some way or other – through personal example, inspiration and sharing of ideas/ insights!!
I come back to where I started. There could be a million ways in which you ‘lead’ if you do whatever is needed to be done in any situation – in regard to your own self, others, the surroundings – any one or some or all of them. The more we try to comprehend the term ‘leadership” in simple ways without unwarranted awe and mystique, the more visible it will be in people.  The more visible leadership becomes, the easier it will be to harness and groom it for overall, all-inclusive development. And harnessing leadership is another big leadership quality. As is said, good leaders create great followers; but great leaders create greater leaders.
At the end of it, leaders inspire and leaders make a difference!
Mahatma Gandhi (one of the best examples of leaders without a title ) once said, “We must become the change we seek in this world .” Very true. Titles may support your efforts – but not necessary for leading in a true sense .
What about us? Are we simply giving up whining ‘I am not in a position to do this’, ‘How can I alone change this’ etc.  or taking committed action saying, ‘ Let me do whatever little I can’ and making the small & big differences to our world that we are capable of ?
Yes ! There is a leader in each of us; we just need to discover and act.


Green Acts: Am I doing my bit?

May 2, 2013 by Snigdha

Pl visit my thoughts on what each of us can do individually in the context of global warming and tackling the issue of dangerously depleting natural resources at my blogspot site.

Thanks for visiting. But I would be truly grateful, if the small, small things that I have suggested are really implemented and the readers add to the list more such small workable ideas by way of comments for sharing with all.

After all, small drops of water together add up to an ocean!

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Dealing with Rape & other sexual crimes against women: A quick compilation of suggestions emailed to Justice Verma Committee

January 3, 2013 by Snigdha

Dealing with Rape & other sexual crimes against women

A quick compilation of suggestions emailed to Justice Verma Committee

The following is what I have emailed to the Verma Committee in response to their call to citizens to give suggestions regarding amendments to existing laws on rape and other sexual crimes against women.

Please add your suggestions and/or reiterate the ones with which you agree, and send by email to or through fax at 011-23092675 by 5th Jan, 2013. We simply can not afford to keep quiet at this juncture. It is necessary that the committee gets a sizeable cross-section of public opinion on various dimensions of this complex issue of crime against women.

Any crime has to be dealt with broadly at 3 levels – Prevention, Deterrence & Justice. Prevention requires Reforms to change attitude & systems on all related fields and implementation of systems. Deterrence comes from fear of consequences of committing a crime, which, in turn, flows from visibility of quick & certain apprehension of the culprit, conviction  and severity of punishment. Justice comes from reasonable correspondence of punishment to crime committed including reform & rehabilitation of the convict in eminently deserving cases – very discerningly & judiciously based on all critical dimensions like motivation, provocations, triggers, age & maturity, residual life out of jail after serving the sentence requiring the need to bring back the person to the social mainstream etc.

While Police and Administration has the first responsibility to ensure safety of citizens & quick apprehension of offenders, investigation & producing them with evidence before the Court of Law, the Legal system has the onerous responsibility to ensure carriage of justice as well as a major portion of deterrence in terms of  fast-track trial/conviction and exemplary punishment that instils fear of consequences.

Keeping in view the above and my understanding that the assigned scope of suggestions to be made by the esteemed Verma committee is to suggest amendments to existing Laws relating to crimes against women/ sexual offences, I, as a lay-person, offer the following suggestions. Legal nuances & modalities can always be worked out by the experts and experienced in the legal field.

 1.  The first cardinal principle on which  Laws relating to RAPE must be based on should be : “ Even a prostitute/sex worker has a right not to be raped.”

2. Rape to be made a non-bailable offense.

 3. Fast track courts at least for crimes against women of serious nature like rape, acid attacks and other serious sexual assaults ( to be clearly defined). The ideal position would be to have separate fast track courts for all crimes against women – from eve-teasing, stalking, molestation, other sorts of sexual harassment to acid attacks, rape, and dowry deaths.

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Rape Vrs R-A-P-E

December 26, 2012 by Snigdha

Rape Vrs R-A-P-E                        

Following the recent incident of savage gangrape of a paramedico student in Delhi public bus, there has been a huge countrywide outrage as well as a massive brainstorming on how to ensure safety of women and curb crimes against women. Lots of articles containing valuable opinion and suggestions from esteemed members of society have also been published in media.

But one article “ Crime and Punishment” ostensibly championing the cause of women, got me really thinking about the duality of beliefs and consequent lack of genuine empathy for women in society .

(visit link

The reasons and concerns observed by the author asto why “award  of death penalty will not stop rape, but swift and harsh punishment will certainly deter would-be rapists” are well taken (although,personally,I would advocate stringent punishment for rape with capital punishment as the maximum, depending upon the rarity and severity of brutality of the crime.). But I felt deeply distressed to find two observations by the esteemed author at the same breath, which perhaps reveals a disturbing phenomenon of many in the society, both men and women, who think they believe in gender neutrality/equality, but deep down in their subconscious, they still harbour and accept the centuries-old prejudices against women. To quote, at one place the author says, “ Rape is horrible because it violates the body,the mind,the honour and the dignity of the victim and thereby is a direct attack on all womanhood.”  and yet, at another place, he goes on to say,“ Murder, that is, permanently depriving a person of life, will always be a more serious offence than rape, regardless of what women activists might say. Despite this, generally speaking, in murder cases life imprisonment is the norm and death penalty is the exception. Is rape so much more serious than murder that we should insist on a mandatory death penalty in rape cases?”

A Freudian slip by the esteemed author??

Rape, (that too the unimaginably violent ones being perpetrated by sick and pervert men with frequent regularity of late) is a violation of body that results in inhuman physical torture- in many cases leading to death or severe conditions leaving the victim as a living corpse, and leads to an  annihilation of  the soul of the victim and worse still, it systematically crushes down entire generations of women through an atmosphere of intense fear of dire consequences for women who dare establish an identity of their own beyond being an appendage to some male!  Pray, how is this any less serious than murder? How I wish I had a magic wand to convert a few men to girl foetuses and make them grow through the entire labyrinth of gender discrimination from mother’s womb to grave, from subtle to pronounced to violent – just to make them understand what it means to be a woman even in today’s so called much-progressed world!!

By the way, the word RAPE itself contains its own solution: Reform, Act, Punish , Exemplify ! Ironically, R-A-P-E can serve as a Master Approach to address any type of deep-seated sickness pertaining to mindset and system. High time, this word is purged of the stigma attached to it so that all can utter it – like all other words referring  to a ‘crime’ so that the shame is on the criminal and not on the victim and secondly, convert it to a positive term to mean a multipronged approach to deal with complex socio-systemic problems.

Any crime has to be dealt with at 3 levels – Prevention, Deterrence & Justice. Prevention requires Reforms to change attitude & systems on all related fields; Deterrence flows from quickness&certainty of being caught & convicted and severity of punishment; Justice comes from reasonable correspondence of punishment to crime committed including reform& rehabilitation of the criminal in deserving cases.

Within this broad framework of action, commendable doable suggestions have come out of all the brainstormings vide sloganeering, debates, discussions, articles etc – which need to be collated and acted upon. Not that we did not know about these earlier – but definitely the silver lining for the society in this darkest cloud for the rape victim is that it has brought the focus back on the issue of women’s safety ! As in every other difficult situation, here too the crying need of the hour is action – the willingness to act !  Some of the suggestions specific to safety of women out of house, like FIR on  CCTV, CCTV coverage in public transports, near malls, cinema halls, more PCR vans, badges for drivers of all public transports ( both govt. and private owned vehicles ) with their name, driving licence and photo  etc. can be implemented forthwith without any difficulty.

Assuming a girl is allowed to be born and treated equally in getting an opportunity for going to a school, Co-education from day one is perhaps one of the most effective measures to facilitate inculcating respect for women in menfolk and self-esteem in women. When boys see a girls matching upto them or doing better in academics and extra-curricular activities in schools/colleges, they automatically see the latter with respect – nobody has to keep preaching “respect the women”. These boys and girls, when they grow up and take important positions in society and organisations, are most likely to be merit-oriented without much gender bias, unless they have picked up that gender bias from other stronger social fabrics and wrong role models.  I can say this with conviction from my own experience and examples of many other women that I know of. So, I reiterate, co-ed is not a sufficient measure to deal with gender issues, but surely one of the most effective ones.

A lot more to be done – to reform society, to reform police, to reform provisions of law, to reform all involved in law enforcement and justice delivery! Herculean task . But we must start dealing with it with genuine seriousness. Let a man not rape a human being; let all of us R-A-P-E the issue of crime – not only against women, but against crimes of all types!




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