Leadership is all about asking the ‘right’ questions…

Years back, my wife and I were facing one of the most challenging situations of our lives, to put it mildly.

We had just exited our businesses, with a huge loss. We had borrowed from our friends, relatives including parents, well wishers, financial institutions and money lenders, and were paying  high rates of interest on some of these loans. As long as the businesses were running, we were able to manage but once we got out, it was impossible to pay the monthly interest amounts leave alone returning the principal amounts. Things reached such a stage that all the valuable items were being sold to just to repay the interest amount. The pressure from the lenders to return their money was mounting, day in and day out.

Bindu and I decided to return to our jobs but found it difficult to convince the potential employers that we were serious about a career. Time was running out and we found that our lives have become a huge burden. We landed in Delhi in the year 1997 and both of us got work to do. The work that we got to do was nowhere  near our capabilities or expertise or potential but nevertheless we started getting money month after month. With my fifteen plus of years of experience (at that point of time) in FMCG and Healthcare I got consulting assignments that paid us decent money but the interest repayments every month were so huge that whatever both of us earned simply went off to pay the interest leaving little change for our household expenditure. This whole situation had put enormous pressure on us as well as our parents that we even forgot to think right.

One day, Bindu and I were discussing content from the books of Tony Robbins and Steven R Covey that could probably help us get out of the situation, with their insights. It was then the subject of paradigm shift came up. As we were discussing paradigm shift, it stuck us that our focus, our view, our thoughts, our lens was incorrect. Till then, our focus was only on ‘earning to pay our monthly interest commitments’. We decided to shift our focus to ‘earning to our fullest potential’ and view things differently.

With the right focus, I went to IIM Ahmedabad to do a five months plus full time residential program on General Management for senior professionals and Bindu got a job in a good private sector firm in an emerging sector. Post my IIM Ahmedabad program, I got an assignment with a strategic consulting firm headquartered in Washington and grew well in all dimensions. Within couple of years, we not only managed to repay every single penny we owed to our creditors (all included) but also invest in buying our apartment in Gurgaon. Since then we have grown from strength to strength, personally and professionally.

If we have to point out a single moment in our turnaround, we will pick up the shift in our focus from ‘earning to repay our interest commitments’ to ‘earning to our fullest potential’.

Years later, i read a quote about Leaders and Leadership. ‘A Leader may not have answers to all the questions but knows how to ask the right questions’.

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