Leadership Series – Mr. Sharad Sagar

Hyderabad, January 10th 2018: IMT Hyderabad had an amazing flag off for its Leadership series by one of the most talented young entrepreneurs of today, Mr. Sharad Sagar. Popularly known as the “Vivekananda of the 21st century” by India’s leading media house Divya Bhaskar, the aspiring entrepreneurs of tomorrow were enthralled by his motivation, vision and his speech.

Mr. Sharad Sagar was born in a village in Bihar and homeschooled till the age of 12. After that his family shifted to Patna from where he completed his schooling. After his schooling he went to the USA to complete his graduation from the Tufts University on a full scholarship by the American Government. He was then selected for the Harvard University to do his Master’s degree, which he did not take. Instead he decided to come back to India and work in the villages of Bihar and give back to the society. He is a globally renowned entrepreneur and a 21st century leader whose words and work in the field of education and public service are inspiring a generation. He started Dexterity Global when he was in his 8th grade, which is now a globally recognized organization and have reached 18 million people till date. President Barack Obama invited him to the White House, Forbes listed him on the global Forbes 30 under 30 List, the only Indian to make to this list, the Rockefeller Foundation inducted him in the list of 100 Next Century Innovators, the Nobel Peace Center invited him to the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony and recently he was named as one of the 24 Queen Young Leaders for 2018, to be awarded by the Royal family of UK.

The theme of his speech was the things we can do in today’s world as leaders that matter. He expressed the fact that as we all go through the cycle of education through enrolments in schools, graduation, followed by an upgradation of skillsets at the master’s program, we realise that certain things were not learnt during the earlier years of our education and it finally converges into leadership in different fields of life. This gets fulfilled in the Master’s program. “It is easier to see where a river originates from at the point of convergence rather than trace the origin at times”. Using this simile, he stressed on the importance of all things in life converging into leadership at the right time and right place. Leaders are needed not when the sun rises but when it sets and when things go skewed.

He shed light on the biggest challenge in life which was to change the ‘narrative’. It is easier to accept a negative narrative as our minds wish to see it accomplished in that pattern, this narrative leads to enemy formation which in turns makes the situation complex.

We often use simple narratives for complex challenges to wave off the situation outcome that could probably be corrected to make way for predefined solutions. However, this isn’t true in life as the narrative is simple, but the challenges are complex. “When you do this as kid, it is cute, when you do it when you are a teenager it’s a mistake but if you do it as a leader, that’s when the problem arises”. It is at this time, that a simple narrative takes the podium and causes leadership to take a back seat. The optic engagement where one wants to make sure his image has not been tarnished gets heightened and hence resolves to biased thinking. At this time Mr. Sagar emphasised on the students that now is a time to take a stand against this narrative and offer serious solutions.

Interacting with the audience, he harped on the fact that making money is good if it provides productivity to the society and systems. A good leader knows when he can erase this narrative and offer the product or service for an amount of money. He used his mantra of ‘making money is a good way to keep score of your seva (service)’ adapted from the famous quote made by Warren Buffet.

Business is good because good business gives solutions to the world and stresses on lesser narrative as they push through the barriers of complexities to find simpler solutions for people and society.

The world needs good leaders, and this will only be possible if we identify the need and address the needs with a good plan and less complexities. Mr. Sagar shared the example of Steve Jobs working at Atari as a young teenager. All the expertise in his brainchild company came somewhere through this experience. This experience can be followed by engaging with people. A good business leader must understand people to take the next step forward. Contradictory statements, information and knowledge exchange is vital for engagement experience as it will help build diversity in the organization. The ‘invisible backpack’ carried by each individual, is a source of knowledge exchange and this would help a leader grow his emotional quotient which in turn would elevate his intelligence quotient.

He ended his speech with the note that all the members of the audience were not here by accident but destiny. It was not the false narratives that got them here but solutions and challenged narratives that brought them to this place for a higher purpose. When we think about token challenges, we must remember as leaders that there are people who can’t speak for themselves and we need to be their voice. These voices need to come from leadership decisions and not stage performances. The optics should take a back seat and the solutions should take a stand.

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