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A not-so-fictional story of Leadership and Learnings

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

The session for the week started with the pitch presentations from Aaliya Akhtar, Arish and Shamnah, on topics of self-love, the chance to be working on a job that is driven by our passions, and end-of-life care, respectively. We then moved on to an activity called the ‘coat of arms’ wherein the fellows reflected upon their strengths, areas that required improvement, ‘ask’ or areas where we sought help, and what we had to offer to the cohort from our own skill base. The ‘coat of arms’ activity took place in groups of four, and each fellow also came up with a motto that motivates or describes them.

After a short break, the session reconvened with author Bruce Craven and a highly engaging discussion on leadership through fiction, based on his book ‘Win or Die: Leadership Secrets from Game of Thrones’. The discussion began by bringing in the quality of courage, and its role in achieving goals and success. Using Joseph Campbell’s ‘The Hero’s Journey’, Bruce emphasized the potential we hold to face risks in order to succeed; to move out of our comfort zones in order to grow, and to choose to pursue what we believe in despite the odds. One can say that the LedBy experience in itself fits into this framework, as an arena of growth and newness.

As part of our engagement with values of optimism and self-management, we touched upon characters and their traits from Game of Thrones, and what we can learn from them. Bruce noted Samwell Tarley’s transformation from a pessimistic mindset to an optimistic one, and what created this shift. He pointed out the impact that positive experiences have on the way we perceive our abilities and challenges, the motivation that comes from wanting to help others, and facing our fears over and over again. As Tarley was able to find strength in his capacities and begin to view circumstances positively, the fellows also discussed their own personal experiences and the negative consequences that came out of them. We practiced the ‘ABC Record’ exercise, through which we noted adversity that we have faced or are facing currently the beliefs that arose from the (negative) situation and the consequences of those beliefs. This exercise was based on the understanding that beliefs are the direct cause of what we feel and how we act. Therefore, one can inculcate the habit of disputing negative beliefs, in a way that rationally balances optimism and pessimism. Bruce discussed with the fellows the ways in which negative thoughts about the way we perceive situations can be dissipated so that it does not affect our motives to keep trying.

Apart from talking about Cersei Lannister and Brienne of Tarth, the character of Daenerys and her leadership skills were of particular importance to our discussion. Daenerys Targaryen and her journey of becoming a leader through gaining the trust and followership of the people defined her purpose of liberation and protection, and her truths and actions. Based upon this, the fellows also reflected upon their own purposes, the connection of these purposes with objective reality, and the actions we undertook or needed to take to fulfill the goal. The discussion ranged from goals such as contributing to the eradication of hunger among children, facilitating the accessibility of children to schools, putting an end to the practice of holding individuals as undertrials, ending patriarchy, to wanting to be happy and living with no regrets. Bruce stated how these ideas add possibilities of fulfillment in our lives and are also important for us to become leaders with a guiding vision, passion, and integrity, much like Daenerys.

The last part of the session was focused on emotional intelligence which, simply put, can be described as the ability to manage ourselves, and consists of four factors: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. These values shape our intra and interpersonal relations and thus, our ability to form associations, connections, and to lead. As we see in Daenerys’ journey, she has had to keep leading herself through hard times. The character, thus, gives us two analogies that we can learn from: not losing hope in adverse times; and not losing control of ourselves during key moments.

The session with Bruce Craven, brought a refreshing outlook to comprehending leadership, and our personal outlooks that affect those skills. It was truly reflective, in the sense, that it created a space to look inward and to understand how that manifested on the outward. Creating cognizance of the gaps that can be filled to elevate our personalities, the session was an enriching tool of seeing ourselves as leaders and changemakers.

Sadaf Nausheen is a LedBy Fellow and has completed her Masters' in Women Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences

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