Excellence is our choice

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Across the world, one of the major concerns of leadership is to keep political balances in place. Every decision must be politically correct, so it is said. That phrase sounds rather nice, or least harmful. But what it entails is rather worse than what Machiavelli could have dreamt of. Basically, in today’s world, it translates into:
1. Power must be retained at all costs;
2. Those loyal must continue to be rewarded;
3. Radical changes must be kept at bay;
4. Any contrary opinion must be challenged and suppressed;
5. Benchmarks must be established as per the potential of individuals promoted, not the best talent available;
6. Evaluations through statistics can always be fudged;
7. Team work is a good word and must be aired regularly, only that it should mean blind loyalty to political groups;
8. Any challenging situation may be referred to a committee that may never meet or submit a report;
9. Alliances should be based on convenience, conviction is meaningless;
10. Flexibility is a virtue, hence even values can be flexible;
11. There are only two sides to any issue: our side and the wrong side;
12. What has been done for years must continue to be done as that lies within the comfort zone;
13. Creativity can always be sacrificed for continuity;
14. Between what is legally correct and ethically required, we can always opt for the former;
15. Information can always be hoarded (ar atleast attempted despite wikileaks);
16. We can always have different standards or rules for different people, exceptions are definitely permissible.
The list could be endless. We have seen in all parts of the world that variations of the above principles are regularly put to use to continue to maintain equilibrium. Yet the very word “equilibrium” means a state where the net result of all forces applied is zero.
I am sure such a situation has not infected the world of lions, after all we are a voluntary service organization with purely democratic principles. But if we do not keep ourselves aware of what is happening around us, it shall not take much time before any virus seeps into our system. The worst result of all above is that mediocrity becomes acceptable. In fact, it comes to be established as a benchmark. It is then recognized and even eulogized as an example of great sacrifice. Have you not heard of officers being specially thanked because they did their official duties as per norms? But were they not expected to do that? In a country like India, government officers who report to work absolutely on time and stay the entire duration of their duty hours may be recognized for their great sacrifice.

We are taught to think outside the box, but that still means we are tied to the same box. We just don’t think of a new box. Why?
After all, things must change. We have been great as an organization, our contributions have been fabulous. Our place in the museums of human civilization is reserved. But as what? As a curator of the museum? Or as a museum piece on the shelves of history? The choice will be ours. We may need to realize that peacocks look great in all their wonderful colors, but we also have purely white peacocks (in Australia); dogs bark, but we also have dogs that are mute (in uppermost Africa); fish lives in water, but we have some kind of fish that can stay for even months underground (in Tunisia); rainbow appears on the sky, but I have seen it play at my feet and even lower in the valley at Victoria falls (in Zambia and Zimbabwe); penguins are found on snow, but there are domesticated penguins on sandy beaches of South Africa; night and day alternate, but ask our friends from Scandinavian countries and they have a separate story to tell.
In a world of such diversity, we wish to stay tuned to just what has suited us once. In a world where the likes of garage operators (where did Steve Jobs and company start?) have redefined business trends, and young students like Brin have altered our social behviour, we want to ridicule new ideas. Is it even thinkable? What is common today between a missile, jeans, apartment and steel. The answer is: all are sold on e Bay. Let us learn to look beyond. Anna Hazare has just shown all committees and rules are redundant when it comes to people’s power. This is a world of transparency, wikileaks is a clear example; yet we think and attempt secrecy in our unholy acts. Obama’s election shows the power of public opinion. And the reversal of his popularity ratings shows that performance is the final indicator. What happened in Tunis and the rest of Africa recently is not just an accident; it shows the power of connectivity, the power of transparency. We may take time to find cure for AIDS, but the cure for “politically correct” administration is round the corner.
One thing that really breathes life into organizations like ours is that even individuals like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet openly admit that wealth means nothing ultimately. It must be applied for real good purpose. That is the most important thing. Making life meaningful through service to those and where it is needed is the key. If that be it, we as lions are blessed; we are absolutely on the right track. Just in case any of the issues listed in the beginning of this blog appear to raise their heads on the horizons of your districts, you will best know how to take care of it. And mediocrity of course can never be our credo. Nothing short of excellence suits us.

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