Ela Bhatt – Soft, helpful, teacher, stern, focused, the words can keep rolling, but that is not what this post all about.

1980s School, College playing on one’s mind, undecided on what to do in life, travelled a fair bit, met/heard some well known people in Gujarat out of which Elaben was one. Time passed, focus changed, kept reading about thoughts and the good work she and Sewa had been achieving.

Some scribbles, some articles in some magazine/newspaper long forgotten came to the fore in my cleanup. Tweeted about some of them today morning, when Sairee and then Swarraj also suggested. So here goes, for whatever it is worth.

These are some thoughts of Sewa Sisterhood. Elaben had thought of them, initiated; but the structure may have come much later. I do not claim them to be perfect, but their thoughts & culture flows through.

Remember the vision: the betterment of society through empowerment of women. One of the first rules practiced by Sewa. When you look at the corporate world, there will be a vision, so long that one doesn’t remember, meaning is known mostly to HR & just stuck on white boards, because it is so long, and actions keep changing.

Understand the customer: Live amongst the people you are trying to serve. If a small movement could understand and practice this, one fails to understand why leaders, managers, entrepreneurs fail to understand this basic tenet of business.

Build the leadership pipeline: a leader’s primary job is to create more leaders. Nobody and nobody treats this as a priority, in India. It is in recent times that there is an element of focus on this, more so when there is a strong board; but majority of the owner driven organisations still do not believe in this.

Create collective leadership: Don’t allow for a culture of one supreme leader. A very important fact that our corporate houses, politics will do to learn, adopt and practice. The term indispensability should be done away with, whatever your business.

Stress the process: organise meetings, arrive at decisions through discussion and debate. I know, I know some people will say ‘this is not how corporate houses are run’ but they’re wrong. Good leaders understand and practice this.

Empower young people: Let people know you trust them to do a good job. It was true in the past, few did it. It is extremely critical today, given the % of Millennials and everyone has to do it.

Leadership over management: efficiency is good but not at the expense of the larger goal Leaders, managers, entrepreneurs seriously need to understand this and importantly practice. But given the push for short term goals, everyone turns into managing and leadership is kept aside 🙂

Keep tabs on a few important things, don’t micro manage. One of the bane of corporate world. Unless, this is ingrained into the culture – particularly difficult when owner managers abound – it is difficult to avoid and leads to multiple bosses, reporting and the associated ills with it.

Never compromise on values: money is useful, but it’s not everything. Seriously don’t know if this is possible on a large enough scale 🙁

Don’t stress salary: there are still people out there who are passionate about a cause. Very very true. There are a lot of people across age, caste, creed who believe in this and more importantly practise it without preaching.

The more the merrier: move in large groups – it creates impact. Quite a simple thought. You will see Agencies – advertising, PR – institutional sales amongst others practice this quite successfully.

Wear Khadi: Use the fabric to make a powerful statement wherever you go. Very relevant. In corporate parlance this means Uniform, some dictated by the organisations, whilst some self imposed – wearing a tie & jacket or a Gulzar kind of kurta pyjama all of them make a powerful statement.

What do you think of these thoughts? Have you practiced/are practicing some of them? How successfully? Please share your views.

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Written by AD
ex waiter, angadia, travel agent, dotcomer, dukaandaar, marketeer, people watcher. appreciates single malt, food, friends