Do you dream often? Do you try to make that dream a reality?

The mark of a leader is characterised by the ability to set one’s own goal that would be the realisation of his or her dream. A leader is a dream chaser and goal achiever.

Leaders are of course stratified in relation to their roles that flow from the overall structure of the field that they are engaged in. In the context of an organisation the stratification relates to the hierarchical structure and the position a particular leader fits in.

There are those who are leaders of leaders. They are the ones who set up an organisation pursuant to a bigger dream or the big picture. Then there are those who are under him and are in charge of creating the pixels that would complete the pictures.

The leader who sets the big dream and rolls it out for realisation cannot be the one who would be called upon to deliver the daily chores as well. This, however, is not a necessary condition. Those who set out to achieve their dreams through micro or small entrepreneurial engagements may not have the resources initially to afford someone as daily chore supervisor. But, he won’t be able to add to his dream, if, going forward, he doesn’t get to unyoke himself from the mundane and devote his skill to adding to the dream and goal.

This doesn’t mean that a leader would distance himself from the happenings in the organisation. The argument here is that, if you are the dreamer and have rolled out an organisation to achieve your dream, you are occupying the driver’s seat and not that of a garage mechanic. But as the driver needs to be aware about the reliability and performance of the car to complete a journey, in relation to the organisation, so should you. A garage mechanic doesn’t decide the route a car should take, but a driver does. And in this case you are the owner-driver who sets the destination, selects the route and steer the car towards it.

Down the hierarchy, those who create the pixels are also goal setters albeit at a scaled down level. The creation of the picture and its acceptability is totally dependent on how these pixels are created. As the entrepreneur leader needs to strategise the path to realise the big picture or goal so do the leaders at the lower rung for their share of the picture.

The point here is that, a leader doesn’t chase but creates goals and drives the organisation to achieve them. While doing so he
• Delineates and defines tasks in sync with the goal.
• Monitors achievements
• Sets standards and creates ideals.
• Deems failures as learning and uses them to reach greater heights.

The leaders, in short, are achievers as they don’t follow but creates goals and lead others to achieve them.

For a very long period in the history of development planning, empowerment and how to do it remained a big question mark. The issues were all agreed upon. Poverty alleviation needed capital infusion in the hands of the poor. This would empower them to ride out of the poverty trap and climb into the prosperity cycle. The issue was how? Would it be the subsidy route or some other way?

Jeffrey Sachs in his celebrated book, The End of Poverty, traces the malaise of poverty to capital deprivation. His thesis, quoted by the Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee in his Poor Economics, emphasises the importance of empowering the poor with capital.

He argues that the curse of poverty worsens with time. The government of a poor country is poor because its people are poor. Without a remedial intervention, the state of poverty keeps getting worse. This is so because without an intervention mechanism per capita capital availability goes down across generations due to the rise in the population number. This is simple arithmetic with devastating consequence.

Now, will a huge infusion of capital by way of dole help? Apparently not, because a dole is never appreciated in a productive way and tends to be frittered away through the current consumption route. So, he urges the aid agencies to act more like venture capitalists in giving out aids.

However, at the operational level, the issue has serious ramifications. The basic premise of the argument draws its strength from the fact that if funding is purposive, whoever is getting funded must be made responsible both for the fund and the use of it for the purpose the fund is taken.

The issue of collateral for a country loan is different from that of an individual. If a loan is given there has to be a guarantee to cover the risk of failure. For someone with no asset to pledge, access to capital under the conventional structure is completely blocked. In fact, when it’s argued that capital deficiency is the root cause of poverty, this is the reality that it stems from.

So, the challenge was to create a structure wherein the poor can also be provided with access to fund or capital. Because the issue of poverty can only be fought in a sustainable manner through the creation of access to capital while ensuring that they can easily avail themselves of the route created for them.

What if a loan is given to a group of poor who will be jointly responsible for the loan to individual members? The revolutionary idea to tackle the issue was the creation of joint liability groups. The logic here is, if the fund is treated to have been given to the group for productive use and made responsible for it together, the group members would ensure that each uses the fund for productive use and the repayment contribution also keeps flowing. The idea of social collateral brought about this concept and is being implemented globally. The concept has revolutionised the fight against poverty and is fast spreading.

To do or not to do is a classic dilemma that characterizes an entrepreneur. Starting with the business proposition down to marketing and recruitment an entrepreneur has myriad dilemmas to sort out. While a decision taken right spells success, a decision gone wrong means another decision tree to work on.

There is, however, a difference between an entrepreneur with no issues with regard to capital flow and a small entrepreneur with limited access to funding to leverage on. Therefore, the consequences of risk for a person with substantive funds to test the feasibility of an idea are entirely different from those of a start-up. In the case of the former, tasting the market water may not be a make or break situation for his survival. In the case of the latter, however, should an idea fail, he may not have anything left to test another idea and grow.

With the country now focused on small businesses to drive growth, let us look into the issues of enterprise at the start-up level. For a start-up entrepreneur, the dilemma arises from the risk of losing a flow of steady income.

He has to weigh the option of sacrificing a source of steady income against embracing an uncertain income flow. By getting into the business he would be exposing his family to the uncertainty as well. Will his family be up to it? Will they be ready to cut down on the lifestyle? A grave decision fork that faces an aspiring entrepreneur right at the beginning!

Once he sorts this out and trudges on, the next one is whether to do it alone or do it with a partner? In most cases, businesses fold not so much because of lack of opportunities but due to differences between partners. Business by itself tends to keep one on the edges. If at the top of that the partners are at loggerheads, the business as an entity starts suffering.

And then of course comes the staffing and infrastructure issue. And it keeps rolling. Once the business is on the go, the decisions become much more complicated. Because if the break-even gets delayed, the initial risk of planning for a beating in income gets compromised. There is then the risk of failure and embracing an alternative.

In short, the decisions, though, may appear disjointed, are not. Every single decision has feedback on the past. And all past ones have an impact on the future. Enterprise is exciting precisely because of challenges and the risks involved in them. It’s a field that needs creative thinking and out of the box decisions. The rewards, therefore, are commensurately higher.

What do you recruit? This is a question that tends to crop up time and again at various interactions. The question actually tends to verify my recruiting attitude. Do I recruit attitude or skill? I must confess that this question had set me thinking and I found that I had indeed struggled with this question for a long time as I presume do many others.

When a vacancy happens and the ad to fill that space goes out, our mailbox fills up with CVs written with various degrees of appropriate pitch about the respective candidates’ skill sets. Everybody goes all out proving why she or he is the most suitable candidate for the job. Invariably, the applications are all about their competence.

For a recruiter, however, the challenge is to lay out, from his of her point of view, the constituting elements of competence. In order to do that most of us scale the CVs on skill and experience. Suitability boils down to choosing the one who ranks the highest on that scale.

In doing so, do we open ourselves to a very high degree of disappointment later? If we look back and see how many times we have been disappointed with our recruitment choices, we would realise the faults in such a process. Despite our reluctance to accept our own gaps in the attitude toward recruitment, we must admit that a disproportionately higher weight is placed on skill over attitude.

What does it lead to? When skill is the only criterion in any process of recruitment, it tends to relegate the team to the backburner and creates the possibility of killing the team itself. Let us ponder about it a bit.

When someone joins a team, he is not only assumed to have the requisite skillsets to take up the job – that’s what we have already checked through an elaborate process of recruitment tests. But on joining if it’s found that while he is a greatly skilled one, yet finds it extremely difficult to gel with the team, what do you think will happen to productivity? It doesn’t require a great deal of understanding to guess that the teamwork would suffer.

Furthermore, in the fast changing nature of today’s business, skills need constant upgradation or can be trained. Training attitude to a candidate who is lacking seems a more uphill task.

So if asked the question, what is it that I recruit, my clear answer is, “why attitude of course. That’s the top most criterion.”

What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow. This confidence in the intellectual and enterprising abilities of the citizens of the then Bengal was reposed by Gopal Krishna Gokhale. Subsequently, this became the tagline for everything that is Bengali.

He couldn’t have been far off the mark. Think about all the achievements in science, mathematics, literature and enterprise. Accepting challenges and leading from the front was the hall mark of the Bengali ethos. This was the part of the nation that challenged ‘sati’, rose against the British, sacrificed lives to win freedom for the country.

This was also the land and language that won the first Nobel prize for Asia. And there were later. In science, the contributions of Satyendra Nath Bose, the great theoretical physicist, are still paying rich dividends in frontier technologies. Meghnad Saha, an astrophysicist known for saha ionisation equation, and a polymath of the stature of Jagadish Chandra Bose reflected the adventurous spirit of Bengalis.

The hallmark of the entire spirit was to accept challenge and continuously keep raising the bar. That is how enterprise is defined. The same spirit found reflections in industry and also in technologies. In pharmaceuticals, steel, shipping – you name it, Bengalis were there ahead or in tandem with others.

Things apparently started changing from the seventies. From an eager embracer of change, Bengal went into a cocoon and refused to stay in step with time. Case in point is computerisation. A Bengal that took pride in being a pioneer in technical education and change pushed back a frontier technology with the result that new enterprises that would one day spawn millions of jobs and wealth got seeded in other states. We refused to accept pioneering work in invitro fertilisation forcing the innovator – Subhash Mukhopadhyay — to commit suicide. And the accolades were won by Robert G Edwards. Much later the world community accepted Subhash Mukhopadhyay’s pioneering contribution in the field. But he wasn’t around to bask in it.

The same thing happened with industry. Calcutta was the headquarters for almost all the blue chip companies in the country. They were here mainly because of the local educated skill. West Bengal was the state that attracted talent and was the breeding ground for all round enterprise. But the same state that found pride in meritocracy slid into mediocracy from the seventies. The corporates shifted as did talents leaving West Bengal to bask in the glory of what it was and not in what it would be.

We therefore need restoration of the same spirit of adventure that marked our glory days. Enterprising spirit needs a collective confidence that we can. We need to accept merit and its supremacy. Without that there can be no achievement, be that in intellectual pursuits or in commercial ventures of substance. We need to change and raise our bars.

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