Musings for a responsible society

Amidst the dark and grey shades increasingly engulfing, invading and piercing deeper and deeper, let me try to enjoy the little smiles, genuine greens, and the gentle breeze. Oh! Creator! If you don't exist, my vain!
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7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Leaders

     If someone asks me, what makes people succeed in life, I have only one answer. That is HABIT. I am sure that the habits decide one’s future. Habits shape a person’s personality. Attitudes of a person revolve around his habits. William James referred to habit as the fly-wheel of society. When the Duke of Wellington heard someone mentioning habit as the second nature, he said: ‘Wrong. It is ten times nature’. This shows how habits transform a person to a new being.

    How to know what is a good habit? Or what are bad habits?

    It has to be decided by each one of us. Habits that make us productive and creative and that take us to our goals of life are positive habits. Negative habits are those repeated behavior that are instrumental in disturbing the pace of our journey to achieve the goals. Now, examine yourself what habit of yours is productive for you? And what makes you unproductive?

    As leader or follower, certain habits make people ineffective. You might have read the famous book by Stephen R Covey about the seven habits of highly effective people and the book by John R Covey about the seven habits of ineffective people.

    Here, let us examine another seven habits that make people totally ineffective. We can see several ineffective individuals/leaders around us. One close scrutiny of their behavioural pattern would reveal that some of their habits are responsible for their ineffectiveness. In some cases, these habits might be rooted in their personality. Seven such habits are listed below.

Making others unapproachable

    They tend to keep a distance from their subordinates. Others fear them. They fail to understand the people around them. No one gives them honest feedback. They wear the garb of a ‘serious’ task master. There will be overall dissatisfaction in people who are destined to get associated with such people. These unapproachable types wish to put a fence around their aura of inflated ego.


     A person who indulges in incessant talk and that too about himself and his merits and accomplishments   wastes his time and the precious time of the listener. One can narrate his personal views and experiences to others if that are necessary to drive in an important point or to pave way for contributions from others for the common good. Jokes and occasional gossips may be necessary to make the interaction lively and interesting, but only to a limit. But one should avoid uncontrolled bragging during conversation and meetings.

     A person who boasts too much about his capabilities and past glory, tests the patience of the listener after a certain tolerable limit. Considerable time is wasted in important interactions because of the boastful narratives of the participants.


     There are people who are habituated with the art of unending talk. For them, there is no topic about which they can’t jabber. They may make the atmosphere bubbly, but end their day without much value creation. This is an asset as well as a liability. While they can make friends easily, some of their friends would vanish in no time if they find the chat too overbearing and worthless. Lot of valuable time is wasted through such unnecessary sharing of views and opinions about anyone and anything. I used to paste a small slip on the door of my hostel room where I wrote ‘I like chatting; But not now!’ That was my strategy to avoid some of my chatterbox friends. This is not to escape from chatting altogether. But one needs to prioritize the day and allocate appropriate time for everything.

    A person becomes ineffective, if he indulges in what some people call ‘verbal diarrhoea’. The tongue deserves more rest so that the mind and ears can be directed towards internalizing the ideas and actions of others.


     Tomorrow….tomorrow …and that never comes! One of the common habits that make people ineffective is procrastination. Postponing things to a later date without any valid reason, can only make the task more burdensome and uninteresting. The best time to perform a pending task is today and today only. Procrastination due to indecisive nature is damaging because it not only delays the tasks on hand but also blocks the options for alternatives.


      There are several chronic fault-finders in our midst. Finding fault on others or on their contributions is constructive. This will facilitate correction and improvement. But, if the fault finding is based on personal perceptions and attitudes, rather than on objective analysis of facts and general expectations, then that would be destructive and de-motivating. One needs to judge others and their actions based on what they are capable of under the given circumstances and resources.

    Many a time, the fault-finders expect others to think and act in the way they are without appreciating the fact that no two personalities are alike. This is intimidating. Such fault-finders are ineffective leaders if they lead any team. People would desist from interacting with such cynical know-all types.


     I used to have the following lines put on my desk while I was in the University. ‘Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm’ (Ralph Waldo Emerson). ‘Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip in your hand, the irresistible surge of will and the energy to execute your ideas’ (Henry Ford). No one can be in an upswing mood 24/7. But it does not mean that you should be in a state of mind that makes you static and passive to the happenings in society. One needs to be pro-active.

   There is this tendency of forming attitudes of ‘why should I care’ and ‘How does it matter for me’ among many people. ‘Work to Rule’ personalities might save their skin, but they are not necessarily effective individuals. They lack concern. They are impassive. They can be very pessimistic at times. It is very difficult for such persons to be creative in their work and action.

 Please all

     This is just the opposite of the habit of being ‘unapproachable’. These persons are extremely receptive to all and sundry and have difficulty in discouraging the ‘chatterbox’ and ‘bragger’. They wish to be popular and can never ‘call a spade a spade’. They don’t mind wasting their time listening to unproductive conversations. There is an eagerness to gather maximum from the eavesdroppers and they relish their gossips. They become indecisive because of their ‘please all’ habit. Such persons go to any extent to please their bosses. They eulogize the actions of their colleagues even when they clearly know that they have done blunders. They are ineffective leaders as they are scared to correct their subordinates.

Who is an ideal leader?

    People can have several excuses for their habitual behavior. No one is perfect. But a successful person is a person who strives to reduce his imperfections for achieving excellence.

   This is more important if you are a leader. One can say that everyone has one or more leadership roles to play in life.

   According to me, an ideal leader is one who is : NOT apathetic; NOT a chronic fault finder; NOT a procrastinator; NOT a chatterbox; NOT a bragger; Not unapproachable, and NOT a ‘please all’ fellow.

(Thanks to sajjive for effectively 'cartooning' on my ideas)
Related  Link: Please see my articles on Why Bosses won't smile?    and You are what your boss is!

( (c) Sibichen K Mathew)


Movies I recommend

Following are some of the good movies I watched recently. I strongly recommend these movies. Don’t miss them , if you get a chance to see.

PEEPLI [ Live]

Making a movie is not just for entertainment. Or for big money. This is one movie, for which, Producer Aamir Khan and Director Anusha Riszvi deserve great recognition for their joint efforts for a good cause. I remember the series of articles written by Journalist Sainath in The Hindu and Frontline on farmer’s suicide. This movie realistically depicts the conditions of the poorest of the poor in a very remote Indian village. Excellent photography and script. Most of the actors are from a prominent theatre troup and one can’t believe that many other actors in the movie are actually ‘adivasis’. I have not seen any other movie in the recent past where one felt that it was just a live telecast of an actual happening.

I do not know why the movie was given an ‘A Certificate by the Censor Board. I strongly feel that children should be encouraged to watch this movie.

Every one should watch this movie! (Especially the politicians, bureaucrats and the fourth estate)

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

This is an excellent movie worth watching. The film focuses on an eight year old boy in the holocaust ‘settings’. His father was an SS Officer in Nazi Germany and was transferred and placed as in charge of the concentration camp.

The director Mark Herman showcases the experiences in the concentration camp and narrates the tales of horror, terror, love, innocence and pain revolving around the Nazi camp. Watch this movie to understand the finer emotions of the people who were subjected to unimaginable torture. But the main theme of the movie is the innocent love between Bruno, the eight year old son of the Nazi officer and Shmuel ( of the same age), who is the son of a Jew, living in the Nazi camp. We have only heard of the horrifying life under Hitler. This movie will definitely take us through the life of innocent men, women and children who were victims of racial prejudice, greed and animosity.

The Japanese Wife

Another wonderful movie from Aparna Sen. Based on the story by Kunal Basu, the relation ship between a shy arithmetic teacher Snehamoy Chatterjee (Rahul Bose) from Bengal and his pen-pal Miyage (Chigasu Takaku) from Japan has been portrayed beautifully. Though dragging at times, one should appreciate the unique theme. Ensure that there is English sub title, since many dialogues are in Bengali.

Life is beautiful

This is an excellent movie, set in the backdrop of Nazi concentration camp. The movie centers around a happy Jewish-Italian family and their subsequent life in a concentration camp. First half of the movie, is like a romantic tale. Second half, clearly depicts the sufferings of people in the concentration camp. One cannot forget the sincere attempts of the father (played by Roberto Benigni) to make his son Joshua believe that whatever happening in the camp is nothing but a game. His efforts to protect the innocence of his son in the fascist environment is remarkable.

Two Malayalam movies

Sufi Paranja Katha (A story told by Sufi)

A brilliant contribution from the Director Priyanandanan. Based on a novel by K P Ramanunni, the movie tells the story of love and life of Karthiyani, the daughter of an upper class Hindu feudal family (played by Sharbani Mukherji) and a nomadic Muslim trader (played by Prakash Bare).

Several films are released in Malayalam, but only very few are worth watching. ‘Sufi Paranja Katha’ is one of the best films the Malayalam film industry ever produced. I strongly recommend this movie for anyone who is interested in watching a good Malayalam movie.

Elsamma Enna Aankutty

A movie, beautifully directed by Lal Jose. You can see a short review by me in the link my review in sulekha


Tomorrow is my birthday

Am I excited to have another special day in my life? Though I am slightly uncomfortable with the birthday wishes and any sort of celebration, it is indeed an exciting milestone in life.

Unlike my daughter, who plans and waits for 364 days for her next birthday, I tend to get into the birthday mood about seven days prior to my birthday (thanks to the seven day lent prior to the birthday of Mother Mary with whom I share my birth day).

Birthday is an occasion for me to take stock of my life and to evaluate the years I lived in this beautiful world.

Was my life worth?

Did I spend the years fruitfully?

How is the balance sheet of my life as on today? Am I carrying too many liabilities? What are my assets?

Am I the person I wished to be, when I was in my college days?

Dreams, aspirations and Vision. Nothing can be achieved alone. One needs the right ‘spirit’ within oneself to get the power to live a ‘complete’ life. We also need people and favourable circumstances to carry on with our mission. Choice is not always ours. Here comes the need to prepare ourselves to ‘put-up’ with others. We can’t forget the fact that others too have their own unique dreams and aspirations!

My assets are the instances I made others smile and occasions I experienced inner joy and peace in these years. My liabilities are nothing but the regrets I still have for losing the opportunities for excellence to become a world class citizen.

I found that the dreams would be just dreams, if they are not appropriately nurtured with concrete initiatives.

I remember the ‘lines’ I had pasted on the desk of my room during my university days.

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes,

the swing in your gait,

The grip in your hand,

the irresistible surge of will,

and the energy to execute your ideas’ (Henry Ford).

Could I achieve what I aspired for? Yes, to some extent.

I could develop the right attitude, right understanding, and the courage to distance myself from the undesirable, snobbish and materialistic part of the society. But I was equally worried and at times pained because of the difficulties and accusations when I tried to swim against the wave. Was I successful in putting forth my views openly wherever required? I am not quite sure.

I could have done better. Not in terms of career, status or authority. These are not material in the quest for ‘completeness’.

I realize now, that there are lots of things one has to do in this interesting but complex world.

On the one side we are having diverse avenues for entertainment, comfort and enjoyment. On the other side we have abundant opportunities to put in our best to equip ourselves to create lasting changes in the society around us. One road is short, smooth, luxurious, comfortable, thrilling and gratifying to the senses. The other road is long, tough, lonely and has frequent trials and tribulations. Many times I thought the roads have intersections at some points so that I could jump over for convenience. But, lately, I find that these roads are parallel to each other and never ever destined to intersect. That revelation makes me more nervous. How can one be in the world and not behave worldly?

I slowly realized that, the ‘worldly behaviour’ as understood and widely propagated by the majority of the people in the ‘modern’ world is quite different from what is expected of it. The idealistic definition would be the behavior that is empathetic, preserving, self-less, humble and truthful. I am certain that the second road, the road less travelled, can be unimaginably exciting, peaceful, joyous and rewarding in the long run. This conviction and the certainty scare me more. Because I cannot anymore plead excuse that I was ignorant.

I strongly feel that every day is a day for improvement. To prepare ourselves to fulfill our goals and aspirations. I need to correct my imperfections. I need to garner enough strength to tread the right road with enthusiasm, optimism and perseverance. I should shed my inhibitions, fear, and reservations in embracing the truth courageously. For this I need, more power, love and self discipline.

What activity would result in making me feel ‘worthy’? I should engage in such activity that would make me emotionally and socially rich. Activities those are creative rather than re-creative; constructive rather than destructive; enduring rather than evanescent.

But the time given to us – 24 hours in a day – cannot be stretched. This is like our high ways. Though number of vehicles produced has increased several times the road capacity, there is very limited scope for further widening of roads. We need to prioritize our time.

Thus, the most important decision to be taken now is the prioritization of tasks ahead. I need to give importance to tasks that can create more assets in the balance sheet of my life. I need to take care to avoid any further liabilities. That means, my thoughts and actions should be oriented towards achieving lasting happiness for me and for the society around. And less of regrets about the lost opportunities.

Let me try to be a world class citizen. By not being at the center stage of the world. But by being an ‘ordinary’ person with extraordinary convictions about the completeness of life. Let me understand that real success in life comes out of being a humble servant who is empathetic to the needy. I pray for the strength to tread on the road less travelled, the road that is long, tough, and narrow. May I have many enlightened friends, who can guide me and correct me in my journey. Let me be not lonely there. Let me not fear any more.

I am sure, I will be secure under the shadow of those powerful wings as I progress on the road with hope and supplication.


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