During my training at the National Police Academy, there was one man everyone was terrified of – Mr. Anil Kumar Raturi (the future DGP of Uttarakhand). At that time, he was the boss of our outdoor training at the Academy.
Which means, all the physical torture we suffered in the parade and PT ground was done at his behest. And he was not alone. He ran a terror outfit of two dozen odd drill instructors, whom we used to call ‘ustaads’. It felt like a pyramid scheme of torturers.
At the bottom of the pyramid, the ustaad was a constable or a head constable. But don’t be fooled by their junior rank – commit the slightest laxity and their scream would make you regret ever joining the Indian Police Service.
The ustaad’s boss was an inspector, whose boss, in turn, was an Assistant Commandant, and at the top was Mr. Raturi. He had everything it took to be the most hated man on the campus.
But he had some special qualities. Every day morning, he would be on the parade ground at 5:30 am briefing his team – he was never even 5 seconds late. He could have easily left it to his subordinate to run the show, but no chance. Every single day, he would be impeccably turned out, in his starched uniform, with a stern look and a crisp mustache.
We never saw him smile. One look from him and you would probably forget how to salute.
Yet, instead of hating the man, we all developed a grudging respect for him.
He never gave any lectures on what a good leader is. Instead, he just showed up and did what he expected us to do. He sported the same haircut that he asked of us. He wore the dress the way he expected us to dress. He followed the same standards that he expected us to follow.
That is when I realized that to be respected, you don’t have to be soft and nice – you have to be authentic.
In fact, something even funnier happened. We, trainees, were divided into 8 squads, each run by a different set of drill instructors. Some were really, really harsh. And yet, by the end of the training, I suspect that the harsher ones were more popular among the trainees.
So what does all this tell us about leadership? It is very simple:
You don’t earn respect by being harsh or soft. You earn it by following the standards you expect others to follow, especially when it is hard to do so.
When you put your team through hardship, be willing to face it yourself first.
Being liked is not the same as being respected. With time, people will see the real you.
You don’t have to be charismatic or charming to be a leader (though it doesn’t hurt). You have to be authentic.
People don’t get pissed off by being asked to do difficult things. They get pissed off by unfairness.
Whether you are a team leader or the junior-most member, the lesson is the same – be authentic, take responsibility, and do yourself what you expect others to do.
If you set a personal example, you are a leader, no matter your rank or age.