Mindset of Great Leaders

Mindset of Great Leaders

“Here she goes again. Sujata Deshmukh wants me to answer another question about leaders. She is an expert on this subject of Leadership but wants me to answer!” I complained to Lulu, my parrot.

“Trust Sujata to explore the subject; what’s the question?”

What are common mindsets you have found in good leaders?


“Draw on your experience. That’s what she wants you to do. This is a deep question. A deep question explores – it explores your mind.” Parrots, you will see, are great thinkers, not just great speakers.

“Hmmm…… let me think. If we wish to discuss leaders, the starting point should be followers.”

“That makes sense. After all, why followers follow leaders is a question which needs to be understood. It will tell us something about their leadership.”

“Why do you think people follow their leader?”

“Because in some way, directly or otherwise, the leader answers their question ‘What is in it for me?’”


“It is unsaid personal agenda. For example, they wish some changes to happen that makes their life comfortable, or they wish to be part of a successful team. Or even as a citizen of a country respected in the world.”

“How would a leader know the agenda of the followers?”

“Sometimes followers spot such an opportunity. But in an organisation, the first thing leader does is to listen to people. When he understands their concerns or their desires, he weaves these in his work. Therefore, empathy stands the first important characteristic of a leader.”

“Yes, I think I saw it in ‘Lagan’. The people rally around the hero, Bhuvan, because they are unable to pay high taxes and he takes up cudgels against it. I guess sometimes such communication between them happens without words. Should I call it ‘communion’?”

“Ha, ha! But remember those with high empathy are liked by people because they can dump their problems on his or her shoulders. A leader with empathy alone will not succeed. It must be supported with being rational.”

“You got a point there. Whenever I watched Amitabh Bachchan in KBC, I thought he beautifully combined empathy and rationality.”

“If the leader is all rational, he will make people feel that he does not understand them. He comes across as intelligent but but unsympathetic person. A leader needs both – understanding emotions and rationality.”

Rationality is important because you can persuade people, influence them only with logic, evidence, and data.”

“I read somewhere a sign which said, ‘We believe in God; everybody else must come with data!’

“Ha, ha!! I think Atal Bihari Vajpayee combined both empathy and rationality in equal measure.”

Lulu, my Parrot

“A leader must be empathetic and rational. To my mind, in that order too! First understand people, then decide what to do. Apply empathy for understanding, but decisions must be made with rational mind.”

“True. These are the two qualities, common mindset, required of a good leader.”

“You missed out something very important”

“What’s that?”

“Unless a leader is proactive, he is not a leader at all! How did you miss it? How can you have a leader who is not creating something new or is not driven by a dream?”

“You said it, Lulu. The triple characteristics of empathy, rationality and proactiveness make a good leader.” Lulu flipped his wings and moved closer to me.

(The first post in this series on leadership is ‘Power and Leaders‘)

Vivek S Patwardhan

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”

Feature Photo by Antonio Lainez on Unsplash