Leaderless Groups – Myth or Reality?

Leaderless Groups - Myth or Reality?

As part of my job induction at Ahmedabad a few years ago, my wife and I were told to await the big event of Gujarat in October every year, and were told a little of what the Dandiya and Garba dance was all about… but almost all the locals agreed that the nine-day wonder was best experienced than explained.

A few weeks before the festival, we were advised to get the appropriate attire, after which lots of discussions ensued when I cautiously acquired a bright kurta and churidar along with a sash – which I tried by giving up my office formals and pale blues. With some persuasion from the women folk, Nazarene also agreed to try on the traditional dresses.

A Garba Dance at Ahmedabad

We waited for the day when festivities start, when my colleague Nishit and his wife Mona took us to the NID Garba. We were told that it would be a visual delight. When we finally reached the place, we saw a few people dancing in a circle – we followed Nishit and Mona and mimicked them. The steps were a bit complicated for us, uninitiated as we were, but dance we did, but with a few hiccups. We were drawn into the fun-charged atmosphere and we were having so much fun, that it seemed like we went through a couple of rounds, before we realised it was almost midnight.

Garba The circle kept expanding and took a bit longer to complete each round, but we didn’t really mind. In fact we beckoned others to join in. Those who were experienced joined in effortlessly, but there was space for the novices as well. In all it was fun and enjoyment. I believe just like us, the circle drew in people of different faiths and nationalities. Everyone seemed to enjoy and performed the right steps to keep the circle and the group moving.

 

Leaderless group and have performed to the best of our abilities as well. The cradle of our civilization and culture has imbued this idea for us. This is indeed a great opportunity to extend this idea beyond Dussehra, and take it to our workspaces and homes.

I have noticed this dance year after year at various venues and found a similar verve, harmony and rhythm. It set me thinking on the elements behind this activity which invokes such high participation. What I found are quite interesting – first and foremost, people are happy and come voluntarily, next they quickly understand what needs to be done. The ‘training’ by experienced dancers is passed on by being role models, furthermore feedback is quick given silently through actions and in empathy. No one really counts how many rounds each should do, I notice that people usually stretch and go beyond what they would usually do. At times, the momentum of the group increases depending upon the music beats. Few of them temporarily step aside to catch their breath and then rejoin the group. The circle remains steady and there is no inkling of start and end. Any of the group members can suggest a new dance step and in a few minutes, the entire group follows – perfectly synchronized.

There is harmony in everybody’s movement and each person’s action enhances the beauty of the dance. I was watching with interest, the endless joy and laughter  vibrant dresses add to the visual appeal and mood… when I suddenly realized that there was no leader. You don’t really find a leader in this dance.

All of us, in the last ten days, have again experienced being part of a Leaderless group and have performed to the best of our abilities as well. The cradle of our civilization and culture has imbued this idea for us. This is indeed a great opportunity to extend this idea beyond Dussehra, and take it to our workspaces and homes.

Can we take responsibility for aspects which affect each other, for example even a simple action of not throwing garbage, not wasting our resources, encouraging the children and the aged, or even appreciating good work? I believe each of these and many more can be the impact of leaderless groups. In fact only when we assume responsibility to enhance the harmony of our circles/groups, we truly become Leaders.

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Emmanuel David

An XLRI alumnus, Emmanuel David has been at the helm of leadership in multi-sector companies from Auto, Hospitality, Infrastructure, Financial Services to Oil & Gas. His experiences span businesses such as family-owned entities, JVs, and MNCs. Under his Leadership, TMTC has been awarded  for Excellence in Experiential Learning Programs by Business World. He has coached several Tata Leaders and others in their leadership journey. He has also addressed the IAS Cadre on Leadership. He is former Director Tata Management Training Centre.

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Emmanuel David

An XLRI alumnus, Emmanuel David has been at the helm of leadership in multi-sector companies from Auto, Hospitality, Infrastructure, Financial Services to Oil & Gas. His experiences span businesses such as family-owned entities, JVs, and MNCs. Under his Leadership, TMTC has been awarded  for Excellence in Experiential Learning Programs by Business World. He has coached several Tata Leaders and others in their leadership journey. He has also addressed the IAS Cadre on Leadership. He is former Director Tata Management Training Centre.

January 2023

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