Whose Governor are you?

The District Governor’s leadership, both for vision and for execution, is a very special blend most suitable for a voluntary Non-Government / Non-Profit Organization. The post of District Governor in the Lions context is, itself, very highly regarded and guarantees the respect of .all Lions, everywhere. One of the finest administrative measures in the organization is the protocol that has been established so strongly. Hence, when an individual becomes a district governor, that person automatically assumes the highest office in the district hierarchy and is given adequate respect. But there is a subtle, and rather important, difference between respect that is demanded and that is earned. The former may be a result of the badge that an individual wears for a period of one year; the latter is what comes from the hearts of the members who develop a rapport with their leader and wish to show respect for the sacrifices that the person may be making in leading the district. Even further, as they say, “The world is becoming flat.” The concept of rigid hierarchy is outdated and all modern associations have to be hyper-linked. There has to be direct connectivity between constituents of the organization  irrespective of the offices they occupy, and that has to be accompanied by transparency and informality. Information flow is the life line in the modern world in any set up like ours, and information can never ever be elite commodity as it was in the past. It will rather be interpretation of the available information that will distinguish the visionary and effective leaders from the common lot.

First of all, no one person can lead an entire district alone. The District Governor is definitely expected to have guidance and wise counsel of senior Lions – Past District Governors and core thinking groups. But the District Governor is in personal command, not only in practice but also has a highly visible style throughout the District. Any pronouncement or instruction, whether on policy, programme or practice, uttered by anyone, is assumed to have the explicit and prior consent of the Governor. He is the fountainhead, the focal point of every project, programme and function of the District. In other words, though you have many advisors, the responsibility is yours, and yours alone. Do not regard this even for a moment that any district governor has dictatorial powers. That can never be the truth. Rather, each DG is required to be able to build opinion behind ideas that are important to the success of the plans of the organization. In doing so, many formal and informal meetings may be required to be set up, and even various diametrically opposite views may have to be considered. The ability to keep one’s cool even when opposition surfaces to what one considers primarily crucial to the success of certain initiatives will be the hallmark of a good leader. It is in listening and being able to appreciate diverse views that the seeds of a sound decision are sown. The governor should never allow oneself to be disconnected with the ground realities, as that would amount to snapping of “leadership” lifeline. Yet, the announcements that are made need to be coming from the district governor, that is what is meant by being in command of the situation.

Leadership cannot be delegated. It is a lonely position, surrounded and deafened by advice, counsel and criticism. But the Governor is essentially alone, at the summit of the District. Everest is not only World’s highest mountain-peak. It is also the most weather-affected – whipped by high winds, blanketed by snowstorms, all because it is so high above the rest. The mental training of the governor to be able to deal with criticism is important. There will be some people who are compulsive critics based on political alliances, and may most often need to be ignored although at times they too may have relevant issues; then there is a regular quota of “trash” criticism which needs to be just dumped; but there is also a third variety that is genuine. It is this kind of criticism that promotes and prompts ideas and visions for the future; it is this criticism that is the mother of true introspection. And as for advice and counsel that is always available, the district governor needs to differentiate between what is sound advice and what is straight forward sycophancy that can be fatal for the leader and the organization.

Every district governor needs to be in touch with members who bear different opinions, and may even come from diverse backgrounds and age groups. Some of them may make suggestions that seem apparently ridiculous, or for that matter even so radically non-confirmative with the policies of the association. But these may include the seeds of creative changes and paths for the future. The price paid for disregarding them or shutting them up may be too heavy. But is always dependent upon the leader to be tackle such situations.

Why will people follow you?

As Commander, you have not just official or functional responsibilities. You need to have, and demonstrate, extraordinary personal qualities, which make your command members spontaneously accept you as undisputed leader. The position does not make the leader. The leader makes the position. If it is said that, when Dr. Radhakrishan accepted the position of President, world opinion was not that the position enhanced him, but that his eminence enhanced the post. So also, for Nelson Mandela. So in your attitudes and behaviour, you must earn the trust and confidence of both your officers, advisors and members.

“Leadership should be more participative than directive, more enabling than performing.”

You and you alone can interact with all, cabinet, advisors and senior Lions in order to enable them to execute. Remember, “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” But people follow provided they share the visions. Let not the plans and programs of the district be the plans and programs of the governor alone. If as a DG, you cannot make them buy into your ideas, and rather cause the emergence of roadmaps and compasses that are born out of joint discussions and deliberations, it will be difficult to retain the enthusiasm level of the cabinet officers through the year.

This implies that you see a vision for the District and then convince others of its viability, so that you provide the goal, the direction and energy. You remain open to include, delete and alter plans based on genuine discussions and points of view that may emerge. They achieve, since “the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not followers”.

And how will you convince people of your great vision? “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and help them to become what they are capable of being.” But the success or failure will still be of the leader. “An army of sheep led by a lion would defeat an army of lions led by a sheep.” First believe in yourself and in the principles that guide you; put them to test to check on their contemporary validity; believe in the power of the organization; believe in the strengths of your team; and only then lead them into believing and realizing their individual strengths to the maximum.

Let’s look at your immediate team. Your team has to deliver. Essentially, your team consists of your handpicked Lions as the District Cabinet. You have to assess each person against the task profile. The most pertinent question that arises here is: Do you have a work profile for every appointment you make, or are you including people just to make them feel good. Remember, there is a vital difference between being good and feeling good. Nowadays, we are often guided by the feel good factor, and that is illusory. Being good is permanent and that comes only with being able to provide life enrichment experiences and opportunities to make a difference.

Occasionally, a person is foisted on the District Governor for political compulsions; in that case even communication with the appointees may be indirect. This is an organizational reality. Along the long and twisting road to Governorship, you had to enter into alliances, take help from people and perhaps, promise them high office. This can never be justified, but at times it may be a reality. These, then, may be “passengers” who see their positions not as an opportunity for service, but as a reward for service rendered earlier. With this group, you must probe their motivation to find that trigger which can, and will, make them productive members. If you don’t, they will be on your liabilities list, and your Governorship will suffer. The ideal interaction is 1:1 to ensure absolute loyalty and smooth flow of communication.

To ensure common purpose and commitment in your team is an important initial and on-going task. If it is there, then the horsepower of the co-leaders will be focused; otherwise, it will get dissipated and lost. Obviously, the very first requirement is in very clear, progressive and challenging plans, programmes, policies and the road map for your year of governorship and beyond. Individuals who are nominated to the cabinets and do not appreciate any role they could play will most probably not even be found in the cabinet meetings through the year. They may well become a demotivating force for those who are there for a larger and constructive purpose.

Of course, as intelligent people, your team will have disagreements, diverse points of view and, occasionally, criticism. It is a sign of great leadership to ensure diversity of viewpoints during discussions and plans, moving towards needle-point focus in execution and follow-up.

Above all, be politically realistic, leading a coalition, if not a massive mandate. You may have to accommodate people not committed to your cause, but politically important.

Sometimes, fatigue and pre-occupation makes availability less. 3,000 horsemen of the Moghul Army lay exhausted on the banks of Sabarmati. The soldiers had traversed 960 Km of difficult terrain in 9 days. The rebels lay beyond the swollen river. Suddenly, a warrior charged into the torrent – it was the emperor Jalal-ud-din Akbar – with a roar! The sol­diers followed him and, within 2 days, suppressed the rebellion. (Extracted from “Inspiring people: Fifty who made a difference~ A Reader’s Digest Selection).

How will you lead? Emotional Intelligence is a fairly new discovery. Until recently, we only knew I.Q. (Intelligence Quotient). Now we talk of E.I. (Emotional Intelligence), which consists of knowing why you feel or react in particular ways; learning to manage those reactions; understanding how and why other people feel certain things; and managing relationships. It is a challenge of thinking with the head and also feeling with the heart. The reliance on your “intuitions” or inner voice. It is the ability to break out of the negatives cage into the positive sky by using your sub-conscious powers.

We also refer to problem-solving as using both sides of the brain: the left which analyses and is logical and linear, and the right which has emotion, intuition and insight. You will need both sides of the brain to be a leader who inspires.

To summarize this chapter ‘Whose Governor Are You?”, you must clearly understand that the Lions movement has conferred on you the great honour and the great obligation of Governorship.

Your first and major constituency is Lionism. Next, you have the District and all the clubs and members. They expect leadership – to help weak clubs, to encourage strong clubs, to reduce and stop “drop-outs”.

Other constituencies are government and its administrators, to whom you are a major Non-Government I Non-Profit Organization leader. Donors for our projects also see you as an activist leader.

Then, there are your advisors, Past District Governors, Past International Directors, Senior Lions. Finally, you have your core team and cabinet.

Not all the members are your avid supporters. In fact, there may even be dissidents.

Your task is to enlist your immediate team and also the individual clubs, members and even external resources to achieve your goals.

So whose governor are you? You are the chosen head of the Lion’s district. But the difference between the chosen head and the effective head can be large.

In the ensuing chapters, we will see how you can bridge this divide. For the moment, what you need to ponder is:

(a) How will I increase my circle of influence to cover my entire circle of concern?

(b) How will I, not just enlist, but empower all the resources ­human, financial, creative, towards my goals? Here your interpersonal skills of Emotional Intelligence will give you results.

(c) How will I raise our concerns from the mundane, the routine, the egoistic, and the ceremonial, to the effective, long-lasting?

(d) And the skills you will need will flow from both left and right sides of the brain.

This chapter has addressed the constituencies you must satisfy, the resources that you must deploy and, finally, the skills you will need. So, now you know whose governor you are.