Tuesday, July 28, 2015

APJ Abdul Kalam - Leadership Template

It is not often that the world agrees with my choice of a hero. But the outpouring of condolences for the late APJ Abdul Kalam was indeed proof positive that the country and I were finally in sync about a common hero.

However, even in all this I did wonder why exactly APJ was so popular. I believe deconstructing his public persona would give us an indication of a Leadership Template that would go beyond the world of technocrats and presidents.

For one, his phenomenal popularity began from his tenure as the ‘Missile Man’ of India. I guess the India of the 90s was looking for some heroes, we had liberalized less than a decade before that and probably were short of a robust hero. And we got that in the persona of the very likeable and unconventional APJ.

So a muscular image, metaphorically speaking, combined with the sense of learning and accomplishment that he undoubtedly had led him to have a very good image at the beginning of the Presidency. Added to that was the sense of simplicity that he truly showed and we were awed. Especially since it was in stark contrast to the way of the politicians. And no whiff of corruption either before or after his role in DRDO and also during his presidency. Does anyone even know of Kalam’s family members? Not really. That was another thing, in an India increasingly irritated with scams etc he was squeaky clean financially.

That he did not vanish from public memory is probably because he has kept himself occupied. And occupied in saying all the right things. All the motivational things. He was the ultimate feel good guy.
And he spoke to the children and the educated youth. And he was erudite. There was no doubt about that. So this erudition taken along with his accomplishments and his simplicity and also his focus on Gen-Next along with his clean financial image paved the way to this gratifying spectacle of hosannas for the ex-prez. And ever smiling.

But there is also a speck of doubt in my mind, is he being toasted universally especially on social media, because he was totally apolitical?

In an alternative scenario where he expressed his views on Modi versus the congress for example would there have been only positive things said about him. Whatever he might have said would and definitely would have been used by the other side. I have no doubt that in my mind. So is the last point in the leadership template that one must not be political or express ones political thoughts especially in a polarized environment? Seems a safe template to hand over not just to Gen-Next but also to myself.

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