Well during our mid-point training in the India Fellow, one thing caught my attention the most, the Adaptive Leadership session by Mr. Tejinder Bhogal. Leadership was an alien term to me. Personally, I never felt the need of the kind of leadership that is being projected in this real world. But that session gave me insight into a different kind of leadership that involved seeking power within ourselves and working in a team, conducting meetings in a more effective way and also showed how to dialogue and resolve conflicts that persist rather than avoiding them altogether that leads to work avoidance. So adaptive leadership involved change in the behavior and the values one hold .
Taking this as cue I wanted to see how this could be applied in my work place where team meeting and team work were basically nada . Creating an open platform for the team members to share anything and everything so that personal regrets could be overlooked and work can become more creative was my primary objective. My organization was becoming rigid because of the same reason with no members taking active participation in team meetings. So anyone in that work environment was waiting to get out and take a deep breath whenever possible. Also 4 people had recently quit in my project and my team mates were also looking for job elsewhere. So things were very volatile with my organization and hence I thought what perfect time to bring a little change.
Well the initial days of pursuit were as hard as waiting for the monsoons and with continuous absenteeism in my team, things were not happening like hoped it would. I was waiting. Waiting to open up and put forward my views, with a limited Hindi/Gujarati vocabulary of mine, that much more could be done with such a young team. But no. I was not able to because I was never a team player. So I was worried how people will see my sudden wanting of change in the way things were happening. I contemplated at my decision on talking to my teammates. Eventually I did have an open talk with one of my team mate telling her my views. It was a bonding moment of sorts. Nothing more.
Then I took an appointment with my director and wanted to know his views on ‘Why there is rigidity?’ , ‘Why people do not find a reason to work together?’ and ‘Is it necessary to teach people about where to look for motivation?’ etc. Well the interaction gave me a gloomy image. Our director seemed a bit tired of working with people who do not have the social perspective and drive to work in the sector. He was now working with a notion that he is just keeping people engaged and nothing more. He was happy as long as work was getting done. So at the end of the meeting, I was not sure about what I wanted to do anymore. Adaptive leadership seemed too fancy a term in the real world. The next day, in the Monday morning assembly at our Head Office, the director addressed about its rigidity and how a member felt that there was general lack of motivation. He was clearly offended and there was a wave of commotion on who was that person and how she/he could have said such a thing.
The meeting continued for 3 hours with a screening of documentary on P. Sainath’s work on the Vidarbha Farmers suicide and what kept him going. The director then touched upon on where to look for motivation. After the assembly, he spent the rest of the day with our team teaching us about effective training of Citizen Leaders as part of our project. The director, despite losing all his hope and having found no reason to engage with the people who were at any time willing to quit and move on, was working with the same people with all the energy he had at the age of 59. He was pushing them to think, to engage, to open up and to take responsibility. A bit of ease was found at the end of the day. I remember me being sorry for offending him.
What happened after that at our field office was something I found to be of ‘adaptive leadership’ sort . My team mate, who was applying job elsewhere, convened a team meeting (a first of its kind ). In that meeting I could see her transformed. She was addressing the team with openness and capacity building of each other as agenda. Then I took part in the meeting and shared my view on how we could try and be more creative, lose the rigidity at least among our team and be without hierarchy. It was a very good day. I wrote a note to my director about this. But I still am clueless about leadership and its role.