I was fortunate to attend a webinar hosted by Grassroots Research and Advocacy Movement (GRAAM). The webinar was anchored by Ramesh Venkataraman and the main speaker was Dr R Balasubramaniam, (fondly called as RB sir or Dr Balu), Founder of Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM) and GRAAM.
Dr Balu opened his talk with a few points:
- This is the mother of all crisis as it is a global pandemic (and not restricted to a region, state, country or a group of countries)
- This crisis has shown the fragilities of a global economy
- This crisis has shown the interconnectedness of all of us
Dr Balu shared a few points to ponder:
- How can we as humankind cope and endure this crisis?
- How leadership has succeeded and failed in various countries?
Dr Balu shared his understanding on leadership:
- While classic definition of leadership could be ‘having/exercising authority’ or ‘setting a vision’ and so on, in the current context, leadership could be defined as an activity to mobilize a group of people to solve a crisis
- Leadership is also the ability to define/construct reality as close to reality as possible and taking actions based on it
Dr Balu in his own style narrated the following points:
- The only certainty we have is the certainty of our own experience, expertise and knowledge
- Deciding what to do, but also deciding what NOT to do in a crisis is important
- We need to be dispassionate and detach ourselves from the fruits of our action
- Put people first (nationwide lockdown announcement), deal with the consequences later (scarcity of food, economic disruption)
Dr Balu further elaborated on how a leader should respond or act:
- Communicate the problem, personalize the communication, demonstrate love and compassion, show your intent and make your presence felt
- Learn to adapt / Be ready to change your beliefs
- Experience should inform you and not influence you, otherwise, you will face rigidity
- Work with allies and build a coalition. You can’t do it alone
- Coming to terms or accepting your vulnerabilities and insecurities. Acceptance gives you that freedom to seek support and ask for help
- Exhibit the inner strength
- Leadership is about creating 1000s of leaders.
- Crisis leadership is the courage to experiment. It is learning to say ‘I don’t know. Please help me’
I learnt the difference between Collaboration and Cooperation. We use this so loosely in the corporate world:
- Collaboration: supporting each other to reach a common goal
- Cooperation: supporting each other to reach their respective individual goal
To a question about how NGOs need to adapt, Dr Balu responded that today CSR is responding to the current need of supporting communities to battle the COVID pandemic. NGOs will need to hybridize in the future to the DNA of the public sector and for-profit mindset of private sector
To a question about how NGOs should respond to a situation where they have to scale down their operations, Dr Balu responded that when NGOs might lose some funding in the future, they should share that information with the community, be transparent and open. Don’t see community as beneficiary, but partners in progress. Together, they explore a solution with the communities, which will happen when we see them as partners and not beneficiary or receiver
Some more answers from Dr Balu for other questions :
- All narratives (GDP, Ease of doing business) are based on ‘wealth creation. ‘Soulful economies’ should be the new narrative
- We know of the triple bottom line 3Ps – People, Planet and Profit. In future, we should have the Quadruple P – People, Planet, Profit and Peace. We need to push for ‘peaceful coexistence’
Thanks Dr Balu for the amazing insights as always. Delighted!