The District Governor in our Association is the Chief Executive Officer for the District. It is not a ceremonial office. In his role, he has to meet the expectations of the stake-holders, Lions Clubs International, members of the clubs in his district, elder lions, Past District Governors, his cabinet, donors and well-wishers. Further, the governor shall be assisted by other members of the district governor team that includes the two vice district governors.
To achieve this with a team consisting entirely of volunteers who belong to a variety of businesses and professions which are time-consuming, needs awesome interpersonal skills.
You have to be a tactful diplomat, striding purposefully through minefields of individual and political egos, skillfully balancing others’ expectations with your objectives, eking out results from inadequate resources including time.
Two major streams converge to create this mighty river – competence and integrity. Competence is ability – the “hard” skill of planning, organizing, executing, controlling, and the “soft” skill of communicating, bonding, motivating and counseling. Integrity is honesty to oneself, to the job, and to all the stakeholders. We all grow throughout our lives in these competencies. These two sets of skills are the essential tools of leadership in a Non-Government / Non-Profit Organization.
But in your case, the space of one year in command and afterwards in counsel, will test these competencies to the breaking point.
Integrity is being honest to your mission. “Leaders don’t do what they are asked to do. They rather do what they believe in”, says Arun Maira, Chairman of Boston Consulting Group: Transparent in intent, transparent in methods of working, transparent in commitment to your cause.
At Sangam near Allahabad, three great rivers meet – the visible Jamunand Ganga and the invisible Saraswati. The invisible third river converging on the competent District Governor is passion. Tom Peters, formerly of Mckinsey, says, “Leaders wear their passion on their sleeves. Leaders dream in techni-colour. They erupt, they flame, they have boundless enthusiasms”. Without passion, hardly anything may be possible in our association. This may apply largely to all organizations, but where we are concerned with a humanitarian service sert up, it assumes special importance. Have you tried to estimate what it means to plan and conceive programs for community development? How much time is consumed in garnering resources and seeking various approvals? And then the direct and indirect costs that have to be met must also be matched by appropriate fund raising and donations; that too is a mammoth task. How could all this be possible without the burning desire that alone be our guiding light as we walk the roads of our association? You will find that every district has individuals who have never become governors, nor do they have such an ambition. But they are at the fore front and may even be the primary person behind a program to which they are 100% committed. They serve in that capacity without a badge or a medal of recognition. In fact, it is the glory of such individuals that we reflect on our head tables and reap the dividend of their labour as the community recognizes us as people who care.
So, competence and integrity lead to trust. And when this engine is powered by very high-octane fuel of passion, you are truly unstoppable.
And it does not come automatically. Great athletes spend hours practicing for mindsets of peak performance. Executives, on the other hand, and District Governors included, don’t practice at all, but jump into fulltime performing. This is why, in our hierarchy, you would have held other leadership posts before becoming District Governor. The introduction of the office of 2nd Vice District Governor was meant to provide a platform and time to prepare for the year of governorship while continuing to assist the current year’s incumbent.
High achievement is never static. As things change, what seemed like Everest becomes merely a hill. In early computer days, kilobytes were impressive. Now we have crossed megabytes, giga bytes, and are talking of terra bytes. So, as you progress during the year and beyond, needs will change, environments will shift.
There is an old proverb. “Those who don’t know, and don’t know that they don’t know, are stupid. Avoid them. Those who don’t know, and know that they don’t know, they are simple; teach them. Those who know, but don’t know that they know, they know they are asleep, wake them. And those who know, and know that they know; they are wise, follow them.” Making such choices may not be easy, that is the challenge of leadership. The years that an individual spends as the 1st and 2nd Vice District Governor should ideally be utilized for this ind of talent identification and human resource building. You may be amazed that we have tremendous talent available amongst our members but we may not be aware of them. We have often spoken of the power of networking in our association. It refers to establishing contacts with those who are located in other parts of the world and also includes building relationships who are existing in our own clubs but we are bliss out what they can do to foster our aims and objects. We were planning to hold a snooker tournament for fund raising but always felt the absence of a technical person to assist us in this regard. It was when the Asian Games were played that it came to our notice that the silver medal winner at these games happened to be a member of a club in Kolkata for past many years, but he had hardly been involved in the programs at club or district level. Not many in his club even knew that he possessed such talent. On yet another occasion when the board meeting of LCI was being held in New Delhi and the then president wanted a local civic leader to inaugurate the opening session, wefaced a tough challenge. This meeting was being put together in almost less than a month because it had been shifted to Delhi due to law and order disturbances elsewhere. While we were brain storming to find some leads, a most unassuming lion in a semi-urban club of eastern India happened to visit my office in connection withsome issues relating to his club’s hospital that was undergoing expansion. When he overheard some telephonic discussions, he chipped in with his possibility to help by asking the Speaker of the Parliament of India to join us for the occasion. I wondered if he could really help, and then he informed that Mr Chatterjee, the then Speaker and a brilliant parliamentarian for over 30 years, was a member of his club and a regular donor to his club’s hospital project as well. It took only a day to have the chief guest tied up, who came in with a background knowledge of our association and related wonderfully to our mission in his address.
Another version is of unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence and unconscious competence. What this means is that, through sheer practice, the great leader exercises these skills unconsciously.
It is sometimes said of Christopher Columbus, discoverer of America, that “he did not know where he was going, and did not know where he had arrived.”
“YOU can’t get what you want unless you know what you want.” And if your dreams are small, your accomplishments can never be big.”
And even a vision is hopeless if it is too early (Leonardo Da Vinci’s vision of Helicopters!), or too late. Shakespeare says it well: ”There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves, or lose our venture”. You have to strike when the iron is hot. Choose the occasions for announcements, celebration, etc.
Many Lion members play the role of commentators and critics. Some of them make lavish promises. As District Governor, you cannot be a commentator, you are a player. You cannot be a critic, you are a performer. And people want, not promises, but performance from you – the bottom line. As a member, you must have heard others who prefer to observe, comment and criticize. As the on-field captain, you have no time to comment, only to perform. Your team, and all the clubs and members want to know, need to know where we are going? How will we reach there? How will we know that we have arrived? Are there milestones in our journey? Are there roadblocks, diversions, rough tracks? Leaders take people where they ought to go, not just where they want to go.
As District Governor, whether you like it or not, you must provide your constituents with directions. This means you give them a road map to guide the routine issues, and a compass for them to focus on the critical change areas. In today’s fast changing scenario, it may have been easier if a leaders job was just to provide directions to follow a road map; rather the challenges are much more as they include tracing new paths based on the expertise of using the compass. Many of our destinations may be such as have never been planned earlier; they may be a new concept altogether. The compass here represents the validation on the scales of the association’s code of ethics and statement of purposes. Each time we are confronted with a situation that calls for choices between alternatives (and that is the purpose of leadership), let us remember that ultimately the quality of such decisions alone will determine the future of our association. How well is our research about our capacity to undertake the challenge that confronts us, what kind of involvement have we been able to generate in the team, how prepared are our colleagues to unlearn and learn as the situation may demand, what shall be the impact of any changes we wish to introduce, how are such changes viewed by the constituents, and so on, are some questions that must be answered before any radical and long term policy decision is made.
Are you a thermostat or a thermometer? One sets the temperature required. The other shows the temperature. The thermometer is passive. It merely states the temperature with no comment on whether it is too high or too low; nor will it advice on what can be done about the temperature. The thermostat sets the temperature limits, high or low, when something must happen. So, it is a more active participant. It is said that there are three types of people. There are those who make things happen. There are others who watch things happen and, finally, there are those who wonder what happened. To which category do you belong? Leaders make things happen.
Leaders are not mere tourists who admire the Taj. They are the conceivers and the builders who create, rather than observe; perform, rather than promise.