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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The 'Hyper intelligent' Bosses!

Intelligence is a good attribute of an efficient boss. If the boss is exceptionally brilliant in conceptualization, planning and implementation, that would be a boon for the organization. But when the intelligence is coupled with obstinacy and rigidity, then it would turn counterproductive.

Hussain leads about 400 managers in his large company. He believes that his intellectual acuity is a lot more superior to every other person in the organisation at his level in organizational hierarchy and below. He believes only in top-down approach and never encourages any suggestions from below. He justifies his action stating that what he does is in the best interest of the organization.

If the sole aim of bosses like Hussain is to maximize benefits for the organization without any focus on the development and welfare of the team, there will be resentment from the team. The team members would regard him as too shrewd and manipulative.

It is written in Tao TeChing as follows:

‘It is hard to lead
When we try to be too clever.
Too much cleverness undermines group harmony.
Those who lead without such strategies
Bring blessing to all’

N R Narayana Murthy, Chief Mentor and one of the founders of Infosys wrote the following* in his letter to shareholders:

“Many intelligent people possess a high ego and low patience to deal with people less capable than themselves. Leaders have to manage this anomaly very carefully, counsel these errant people from time to time, and allow them to operate as long as they do not become dysfunctional and start harming the organization. If they do cross the threshold, it takes courage to inform the individuals that their time in the organization is over and that they have to leave.”

Andrew Campbell and two other scholars analysed the question ‘Why good leaders make bad decisions’. They argued that important decisions made by intelligent, responsible people with the best information and intentions are sometimes hopelessly flawed. They found that some leaders were affected by three factors/biases: a) the presence of inappropriate self-interest, b) the presence of distorting attachments, and c) the presence of misleading memories.

Hyper-intelligent leaders have the tendency to stick on to their own judgments even when they are presented with a different view. Some are uncompromising in their beliefs and positions and are guided solely by their own past experiences. They are adamant in their views and not willing to change. They are stubborn as mules. They tend to justify that they are right when the mistakes and negative fallouts are pointed out. Even when it was ultimately proved from the outcome that they were wrong, the hyper-intelligent persons would find a number of intelligent reasons to attribute the failure to other factors.

The reason for the above is the feeling of superiority based on an excessive estimation of one’s intelligence coupled with an underestimation of the intelligence of people around. Because of this, the hyper-intelligent bosses tend to ridicule, intimidate, and ignore others.

There are bosses who take credit irrespective of the outcome of a particular action. They attribute their involvement for the success. When the action resulted in a failure they would say ‘I had warned that it would be a failure’. Rosabeth Moss Kanter who is the author of the book ‘Confidence’ called such behaviour of leaders the timidity of mediocrity.

If the people below the boss feel that their boss won’t listen to them even if they try to convince, what about the colleagues, the advisers or the bosses of the boss? Will the boss listen to them? Scholars Kelly and others have found in a study that as power increases the tendency to take advice decreases; even when that advice could help them to perform better or make better decisions. This phenomenon of egocentric discounting of advice is also highlighted by Yaniv. Bill Gates said: ‘Fear should guide you. I consider failure on a regular basis’.

Omniscient bosses are not assets, but liabilities for organizations which aim at nurturing their young leaders for better prospects for themselves and the organizations.

 Prescription for you, the boss

      It is important to understand that intelligence has nothing to do with the position in the hierarchy. Many times inputs from persons whom you rate as ‘less intelligent’ can lead to better outputs. A truly intelligent leader identifies, appreciates and taps the perceptiveness and intuitiveness of people around him. 

Precaution for you

Don’t feel intimidated by a hyper-intelligent boss. None can claim that he is omniscient. You must not lose confidence with the indifference and rejection of overconfident bosses. You keep contributing your best irrespective of his recognition.       

Precept for the Organization

        Organizations should establish practices that promote creative ideas and suggestions from below. The collective wisdom is far superior to the wisdom of an obstinate individual. Hyper-intelligence coupled with massive ego and rigidity can destroy an organization.

The signs of recovery

In an era of crowd sourcing, a leader who accepts and acknowledges views and creativity of the team will be respected for his social intelligence.

*For full references and to know more about the wrong bosses, read 'When the Boss is Wrong: Making and Unmaking of the Leader within you'

(c) Sibichen K Mathew    Views are personal        Comments welcome       
 sibi5555 (gmail)


Meet the IRS Toppers (Part-II): A few tips for the Civil Services aspirants.

This is the second part of the article. in case you have missed the first part, read Meet the IRS Toppers (Part-I) where Mr Satish Reddy interacted with Cyber Diary.

(As per the recent trends, about 10 lakh people apply to write for the Civil Services Examination conducted by the UPSC each year. Almost half of them fail to write the preliminary examination, after receiving the admit cards, mostly due to lack of preparation. Out of about 5 lakh people who write the examination, around 15000 persons clear the preliminary examination. After the main examinations, around 3000 people make it to the personality test cum interview. Only less than half of them get listed in the final rank sheet.  

There are many successful candidates who prefer to join the IRS (if they miss the IAS for a few marks or if they don't get the preferred state in IAS) ) instead of joining the IPS and other services. I could devote some time at the National Academy of Direct Taxes, Nagpur, India  a few days back. IRS officers undergo their training in this world class training center for the tax administrators. I was invited as a panelist for their annual literary festival to speak about my books to the trainees. I utilized my spare time to interact with the young officers.)
In this article, let me introduce you to two more successful officers: Mr Rakesh Chintagumpula and Ms  Pryati  Sharma

It was a pleasure to meet young and cheerful Mr Rakesh Chintagumpula. His parents came to Hyderabad from a village in Guntur in search of a livelihood. Schooling was tough as he faced many hurdles. He got selected for Engineering in Osmania University. Being a meritorious student, he was placed at Infosys immediately after the course. He aspired to be a Civil Services Officer. He resigned his job as a software engineer and joined the IAS Academy Hyderabad, both as a student and as a lecturer. Meanwhile he took his masters degree in Public Administration. He also got the job as Inspector of Income Tax. 

Rakesh wrote the Civil Services Examination and secured the Rank 122, and was allotted the Indian Revenue Service (IRS) in 2015.

Let us get a few practical tips from Rakesh for all young civil services aspirants.

What was the reason for your failure in the earlier attempt? 

My strategies were wrong. I took the wrong optional. Though I was not confident about the subject, I had taken psychology as my optional. I didn’t practice writing the answers. I didn’t focus on the essay paper. In the next attempt, I took Public Administration, in which I had a Masters degree. Another reason for the failure in my earlier attempt was my lack of focus. I collected so much study materials and started reading everything. Instead of that, I should have studied thoroughly what I read rather than referring multiple sources for the same topic. 

In the successful attempt, I topped in Public Administration. 

What are your tips to succeed?

  1. While preparing, there should be priority for the Essay paper, the optional and the interview. Marks in these are critical to get to the top. One has to focus more on these. 
  2. Both online and offline preparations are required. There are unlimited resources in the internet. At the same time, reading from text books, periodicals and reference books are vital. One should use the ‘notes’ applications in the smartphones. 
  3. NCERT books of Class 6 to Class 12 should be studied thoroughly.
  4. Past question papers of Preliminary examinations are available for the period from 1979. Download or buy all the question papers and prepare the answers. For the static general knowledge (not current affairs), they are very useful. Questions are repeated, including the choices.
  5. Question papers of other competitive examinations should also be collected and prepared. 
  6. You should form a group of sincere civil services aspirants. You should prepare and solve questions along with them. Friends will be a great consolation when you are depressed. I used to sit with my friends and solve the problems together. We never forget those answers. Collective energy is greater than individual energies. You will not get bored in group. (Only if all the group members are sincere.)
  7. Don’t read more number of books for each subject. Read less number of books, but more times.
  8. There should be many revisions. At the time of mains examination, we hardly get time to answer the questions. First few seconds will be consumed in reading the question. Next minute to understand the question and prepare the answers. You need to present the answer comprehensively with facts, figures, examples, references, suggestions etc in the remaining minutes. Unless you are thorough, you cannot present the answer within the allotted time. There is no time to think and write. 
  9. People join test series paying heavy fee. But only a few complete the tests using the time sincerely. If you join such courses, you should complete the course by attempting all tests. You should be used to sitting three long hours. Mind/memory needs to shift quickly from one topic to another as questions will be given at random on various topics. 
  10. Apart from reading the newspapers, listen to All India Radio news at 9 pm every day and the discussion of the experts after the news. I greatly benefitted from this. I never forgot the points discussed there.These discussions are also uploaded in the internet. 
  11. The candidates have to write mock tests sincerely and regularly. They are essential for completing maximum number of questions in the examination in the limited time given.
  12. Inculcate a habit of reading books right from the beginning.
  13. Write answer for one 10 marks question daily. This will go a long way in coping with the pressure in answering the questions in the Mains. Send your answers to experts or teachers or peers to evaluate. 
  14. Economic survey is a goldmine of information not only on economic issues, but also on social and ecological issues. one should not miss it. India Year Book and Manorama Year Book can be studied selectively.
  15. The second report of the Administrative Reforms Commission is a storehouse  of useful information. Read only the recommendations. No need to read the whole report. Concise version of the recommendations is also available for sale. 
  16. Answers of the Main examination should have a ‘’balance” which UPSC expects from an aspiring civil servant. So unless asked explicitly, don't take extreme positions. Present all perspectives of the answer and give innovative solutions.
  17. Always remember that the ending of a typical answer should be on a positive tone, solution oriented and futuristic. Such answers tend to get good marks.
  18. Answers need not be too technical. Remember to keep them as simple as possible and include different perspectives. 
  19. Don't miss to read NCERT books of Class 6 to Class 12 especially for a new aspirant before the start of his preparation. This will be the base for all future preparations, and will be a solid foundation indeed. 
  20. One hour of physical activity along with meditation will do wonders in the long run.
  21. Aspirants need to appear for other competitive examinations too. There should be a plan-B. Luck is also a factor!
  22. Don’t take Civil Services Examination casually. Give it a serious thought before you decide to go for it: Is it the right choice? Once you have decided, commit yourself fully for the examination. 

How fair and transparent is the conduct of this examination?

“There is no doubt about the sanctity of the conduct of the examination. However, I feel that there are chances of evaluators becoming casual in their job or likelihood of errors in data entry (I am not sure. This is my presumption) I have a personal example to narrate. I had to face a terrible situation like many hundreds of aspirants face each year regarding the abnormally low scores awarded by UPSC in optional and other papers which are beyond rational comprehension. The sad part is that although several cases have been files regularly against this discrimination, there has been nothing worthwhile coming out of it. I am a victim of such scoring which had caused several mental and psychological agony beyond loss of a year's time which is invaluable. I have scored 168/300 marks in paper 1 of psychology optional in UPSC Mains examination 2011, while in the second paper I scored only 39/300 marks, which was a big surprise for me. Despite an outstanding interview score and excellent General studies papers scores, I couldn't make it to the final list of recommended candidates that year because of the score in one psychology paper I am sure there was something wrong with the evaluation or in the data entry. I am of the view that there should be opportunity for revaluation in deserving cases.” 

Let us meet Ms Pryati Sharma, who secured 136th Rank in the Civil Services Examination and joined IRS.

Pryati who is a native of Jammu is the daughter of Mr Jitinder Pal Sharma, a Deputy Director in the Dept of Horticulture in the Jammu and Kashmir Government and Smt Neelam Khajuria, a teacher in a Government school. 

Pryati picked up the habit of reading and creative writing early in her life. If someone asked her what was the secret of her success, this was her only answer: Handwork with commitment. She nurtured her dream to become a civil services officer from the school days. All along her educational career, she keenly observed how government worked and what role and responsibility  senior officers played in the governance. She believed that to be a winner, one has to give up the comfort zone and take challenges. 

Pryati took Zoology as her optional for the Civil Services Examination. Studying the NCERT books has helped her a lot in the General Studies papers. She also attended an coaching center at Delhi. 

Her advice to the young aspirants is as follows: “Read as much as you can from selected sources and prepare your own view points about the subject matter. It is important to be original in your answers than copying from the guides”

About her training she said: “ Both the the Civil Services foundational training and the IRS training are very comprehensive and of very high standard. We also undertake ‘On the Job Training’ by visiting the field offices.”

Following are a few photos of IRS Probationers and the activities at the campus

IRS Trainees with the Vice President of India

Cultural programs by IRS Trainees

Sports Day

Did you read Part-I of this? Click Meet the IRS Toppers - Part-I

(c) Sibichen K Mathew  Views are personal  

Related articles from Cyber Diary

To  read all articles click CYBER DIARY

Meet the IRS Toppers (Part-I) : A few tips for the Civil Services aspirants.

As per the recent trends, about 10 lakh people apply to write for the Civil Services Examination conducted by the UPSC each year. Almost half of them fail to write the preliminary examination, after receiving the admit cards, mostly due to lack of preparation. Out of about 5 lakh people who write the examination, around 15000 persons clear the preliminary examination. After the main examinations, around 3000 people make it to the personality test cum interview. Only less than half of them get listed in the final rank sheet.  

There are many successful candidates who prefer to join the IRS (if they miss the IAS for a few marks or if they don't get the preferred state in IAS) ) instead of joining the IPS and other services. I could devote some time at the National Academy of Direct Taxes, Nagpur, India  a few days back. IRS officers undergo their training in this world class training center for the tax administrators. I was invited as a panelist for their annual literary festival to speak about my books to the trainees. I utilized my spare time to interact with the young officers. 

IRS Trainees with the President of India

Let me introduce to you three successful persons from the recent batch and who are undergoing training: Mr Satish Reddy, Mr Rakesh Chintagumpula and  Ms Pryati  Sharma. 

In this blogpost, let us hear from  Mr Satish Reddy, who secured 97th Rank in the Civil Services examination. In the next blog post (Part-II), we will know about Mr Rakesh and Ms Pryati. 

Conversation with Satish Reddy IRS

Satish Reddy wanted to go to the United States after his engineering from NIT, Warangal. All his cousins worked there and led a vey comfortable life. He also dreamt a cosy life in that land of opportunities. But a few weeks of stay in the remote villages in India as a volunteer of National Innovation Foundation changed his perspective and vision about career and life. He walked through the villages in the weekends. When he taught students in the night at a school with the help of kerosine lamp in a naxal affected area, he realized the need to lift the new generation who have aspirations to excel. 

He decided: Either get into politics or be in the civil services. He pondered over his goals to select the right career path. He discussed his interest to work in India and for India with his lawyer father and the mother who is a home maker. They blessed him as he told that by being a civil servant, he can do much more for the country than being an employee in a multinational company. Politics can be an option at a later stage, he thought. 

He prepared hard for the Civil Services Examination. In the second chance, he got 97th rank and chose IRS. (He lost IAS by one rank!). 

I invited Satish to the room allotted to me in the Academy for a chat (The facilities in the guest room are much better than a top rated hotel! Additional facility is a latest model PC). 

Me: How can you pursue your mission, by being in IRS?

How much ever you talk about development or poverty alleviation, nothing can work, without resources. So, the first step and the most important step is to gather resources effectively and efficiently. The second step is the efficient application of the resources. The most difficult task is to generate resources from the right sources intelligently, fairly and transparently. One of the largest sources of revenue is from direct taxation. In a country where only microscopic minority pay taxes, we need intelligent tax administrators who can formulate new rules, simplify procedures, successfully investigate and lead a large team. IRS, thus offers a very challenging career in the civil services, that can radically transform the nation. I find that IRS officers excel in all their roles within the department and outside viz. senior election functionaries, Special secretaries and Joint secretaries in various departments, chief vigilance officers, director generals and advisors in statutory authorities, and senior officers in the ministries and in various regulatory organizations in India and abroad. 

How did you prepare for your Civil Services Examination? 

First I will tell you, how I prepared for my first attempt and NOT cleared.

-I studied for about 14 hours a day
-Read 3 Newspapers
-No other activity other than studies. No games. No exercise
-I gathered too many study materials from all available sources and studied 
-I thought the focus is on current affairs in the examinations and spent more time for that.
-Didn’t practice writing the answers
-Prepared by staying at Delhi in a very tense environment where thousands studied hard
-I got good marks in current affairs. But less marks for other areas.

Now, I will tell you, how I prepared and got selected. 

These are my tips for the Civil Services aspirants:

1. Read, Write, Revise and Write

Instead of gathering and reading too many study materials on the same topic, I focussed on topics as per the syllabus and the old question papers. I made my own short notes for all topics in the syllabus and for all the questions in the past papers. I read them again and again, wrote them, revised the notes by adding new points and practiced writing again. So, when similar questions came in the examination, the answers were flowing to the paper without any delay. 

2. Coaching

I decided not to go to Delhi this time. Every resource is available across india through online sources. Why to waste money by being in Delhi in a highly competitive, tense environment? one has to relax to  grasp the subject and to learn quickly. For that, one needs to be in an environment where one is most comfortable. 

www.insightsonindia. com helped me a lot in my preparation. They run offline tests in cities like Bangalore. I stayed in Vijayanagar in Bangalore for five months attempting the tests. Every three days I did one test along with a group of aspirants. 

3. Be relaxed, when you learn

I did my mediation every morning. Played badminton everyday. Chatted with sincere and committed aspirants. All these helped me in my preparation. 

4. The tricks and strategies one should know

Be positive in your answers. Don’t go on a critical mode to lash out at the the system and the government. Your criticism should be constructive. When you write about an issue or problem, give both positive and negative dimensions. Then give your creative suggestion. 

Substantiate your arguments with facts, figures and references to articles. Give illustrations of what happened recently. All these require regular reading of newspapers and periodicals. Even when you write answers to purely theoretical questions, make it a point to give real life examples. 

Come to the point directly rather than bluffing with a long introduction. This is very much  necessary in the interview. 

Various subjects

All subjects are actually interconnected. Paper-I is about past India. Paper-II  touches present India. Paper-III is mostly about future India. Paper-IV is on ethics of past and present action. There are other papers as well.


  • Interview is not to measure your knowledge; but your comprehension, attitude and response
  • Confidence level should not go down after you answered a few questions wrongly. This will be rated adversely. 
  • Give decisive, clear answers. Don’t sit on the fence.
  • Take just three-four seconds to understand the question before answering. 
  • First give the answer and then give reasoning. If you start giving the background first, there is a chance that they will quickly move to another question before you give the answer. 
  • Be frank and honest. Please speak from the heart. Don't ever be artificial. They will catch you. 
  • Don’t try to get into complexities. Don't be theoretical. Don't use jargons. Don’t argue.
  • You should be thorough about your background and what you wrote in your CV. 
  • There will be questions on International relations and recent social issues, irrespective of your optional. Members are specialists in various subjects. 

Advice to school students 

Those school students who aspire for a career in civil services should make it a habit to read newspapers everyday. They should participate in debates and quiz programs. They should also visit government offices and understand the functioning. This can help them to make a better career choice. 

What are your views on the corruption in the civil services?

As a young professional I feel that the civil servants should be adequately compensated, much more than the pay package in the private sector. The civil servants take very crucial decisions. When they are compensated well for the challenging decisions they take, they will not get corrupted and they will not bother much about a career threat because of bold decisions. Many times, bureaucrats are worried about the future and they become reluctant to disobey the bosses who want them to deviate from rules. Corrupt officials should be severely punished. 

IRS Trainees with Prime Minister of India

P T Usha giving medals on Sports Day

In the current batch of IRS trainees, around 62% are engineers. The batch also includes 25 doctors. 30% of trainees are post graduates.  

Read Part-II of the article: Click here: Meet the IRS Toppers (Part-II) 

(c) Sibichen K Mathew     Views are personal


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