Arjun Raj Urs | Assured State Management Services

Leaderless but not rudderless

04 Jun, 2021

‘I have entered all the186 names and numbers of our WhatsApp group members in the Google doc…’

At 9.30 in the night, Sudhunva B V sends this message in the Volunteers Group. “What's the  big deal?”, you may ask.

Consider this. The ex-Bhorukans WhatsApp Group consisting of Directors and ex-employees of Bhoruka Steel Ltd,   which was casually started by Tapas Kumar Mitra, Jayaram B and Chandrashekar T has pulled in over 210 ( at the last count )  ex-Bhorukans like a magnet. Just imagine, people like you and me who had served in the company 25 to 30 years ago at different points in time are now together. Wouldn’t it be nicer if we all got to know each other a little better?

But how? Many people’s names don’t even show up in the WhatsApp Group. Various members posted requests asking others to send their details. But information was trickling in very slowly.
Instead of letting this process take its own time, Sudhanva B V, a member of the Volunteers Group, locked himself up in his room one day and took the pain of messaging members personally for their details.

In eight hours flat, Sudhunva B V completed the herculean  task of entering all the 186 names and mobile numbers, sending personal whatsApp messages to over 100 group members  seeking their past experience, current status in life, email id, etc

One can understand if one is paid to do so with a deadline hanging over one’s head like a sword. But Sudhunva B V was neither paid nor was there  any deadline hanging over his head. He did it purely as a volunteer.Likewise, the other  seven volunteers in the group Chandrashekar Gowda, Chandrashekar Sagiraju, Jayasimha B S, Mahaboob Basha, Kumar Ramachandran, Ramesh Gudisagar and Vijay Chitrakar  also ensured that things were done smoothly, swiftly and seamlessly. They did not do it for glory or recognition,  but purely for the joy of nostalgia that the group evokes. They did it so that people in the group could get to know more about their ex-colleagues  at  the click of a button and this would strengthen the bonding within this community.

What makes such people  to extend unconditional support ? What makes them to work selflessly? What makes the to put that dedication for something which has no tangible returns ?
As a leadership coach, I am always fascinated by such people because they  bring a different dimension of leadership  to light. 
Traditionally, there is a notion that people have to be led by a leader,an Alpha leader to be precise. Such a leader rallies his/her followers around a defined goal and surges ahead towards it. 
But today, there is a  growing number of people who are led by objectives and not by any leader.Take Wikipedia, for example. It’s the largest online encyclopedia. It has just 250 employees but main is driven by 2,50,000 volunteers. There are volunteers who put in 20 -30 hours of work every week with no money paid to them. There’s no one leader but nevertheless, a well-defined goal is very much present and people are motivated to do their part without being instructed to do so. They are leaderless but not rudderless. 
So which of the two approaches is better? Both have their own advantages.

Let’s turn to the animal kingdom for an answer.

Many animals have  an alpha in their group.  For instance, a queen bee in a beehive, a dominating wolf in a pack, a strong chimpanzee in a community of chimpanzees, so on and so forth. 

There could be an advantage that no outsider will dare attack a tribe led by an alpha. The group is well protected to a large extent because of the overarching presence of the alpha.

But when the alpha leader dies or is defeated, the whole tribe is in disarray and may need to unwillingly shift  its loyalty to a new alpha. In more or less similar way we are seeing in many successful organisations which are suffering becuase there is no replacement or successor found or developed for the leader at the helm.  

Now coming to the flock,Siberian cranes or geese travel thousands of miles in winter or  other countries or places to escape the severe cold and more conducive for procreation. During their long flight,  they use their in- built rudder to steer themselves to their new destination. They do not have an assigned leader as such. The lead bird keeps changing after every few kilometers. The one at the rear moves to the front to lead and the one in the lead moves to the side. They are not led by one designated leader, they are leaderless but not rudderless.

Now such an approach works wonders especially in today’s professional context with the millennium generation as they are smarter, more intelligent and independent and are fired by imagination. Purpose and passion taken precedence over loyalty or allegiance. 

In today’s scenario, the alpha led organisation may end up turning an organization into a bonsai tree whereas leaderless but not rudderless approach  can nurture the mighty oak in an acorn. 

To be a part of leaderless but not rudderless needs the maturity to know, understand and accept when to be led with grace and humility and when to lead with courage and daringly  when to lead and when to follow.

As you are relaxing with a cup of coffee or tea here is a video which gives more insights on leaderless but not rudderless. 

Publisher: Arjun Raj Urs | Assured State Management Services

Arjun Raj Urs
Leadership Results Coach
People Architect
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