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“Lincoln’s Letter” is the essence of Management Skills

Management skills
25 Apr 2014, by Prof. Chandra Kant in Blog

Lincoln once write a letter to the teacher of his son. It is quite well known and found in most text books. I happened to glance at it at my daughter’s school and marvelled at how similar it is to the management skills we teach in classroom.

He will have to learn, I know, that all men are not just, all men are not true. But teach him also that for every scoundrel there is a hero; that for every selfish politician, there is a dedicated leader. Teach him that for every enemy there is a friend.

We have discussed that there is no such thing as fairness. We have also discussed the rule of 1/3rd, wherein, you will, in general, have 1/3rd of the persons supporting you, 1/3rd opposing you and a good salesperson is one who focusses on the 1/3rd sitting on the fence.

It will take time, I know; but teach him, if you can, that a dollar earned is of far more value than five found. Teach him to learn to lose and also to enjoy winning. 

We have talked about the fact that sales is about numbers, and a hit ratio. Therefore we have to fail more often than succeed. The faster we fail, the nearer we get to success. To earn a dollar, we have to struggle, and in struggling, we learn, like a butterfly gets fluid in its wings only by struggling to get out of its cocoon. Machiavelli also said, “the less a man relied on fortune the stronger he has made his position. ” He also said that to  acquire power strictly by prowess is more difficult to do, but the person has a better chance of holding onto their power.

Steer him away from envy if you can, teach him the secret of quiet laughter. 

We have talked about the concept of a “mental shrug” and a “mental smile”. We need to shrug off, mentally, any misfortune that comes our way. Similarly, a smile from within, “smiling with every cell in our body”  even if our face is serious,creates an aura of peace and tranquillity within and around us.

Let him learn early that the bullies are the easiest to lick. Teach him, if you can, the wonder of books. But also give him quiet time to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun, and flowers on a green hillside.

We also learn that fear comes from imagining a dismal future, and in most cases this future does not come true. A bully tells you about your future in such a way that you believe him, and his power comes from your belief.

Well, reading books is important, as they are a distillation of thoughts of various persons. I know that experience is the best teacher, but if a teacher has had the experience, and he has written a book about his experience, why not learn vicariously?

In school, teach him it is far more honourable to fail than to cheat. Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone tells him they are wrong. Teach him to be gentle with the gentle, and tough with the tough. 

This is a tough one, and goes against most modern norms. I will leave it to you, dear reader, to make your own judgement on this.

Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone is getting on the bandwagon.

This is the essence of product differentiation. Most of us tend to hide in mediocrity and we accept the Great Indian Crab syndrome. We allow people to pull us down. We want to be part of the crowd. Lincoln clearly says that we need to make our own path.

Teach him to listen to all men; but teach him also to filter all that he hears on a screen of truth, and take only the good that comes through.

We make decisions based on other person’s advice, and opinions. With the advent of the Internet, we tend to take opinions on the Net as facts.

Teach him, if you can, how to laugh when he is sad. Teach him there is no shame in tears. Teach him to scoff at cynics and to beware of too much sweetness. Teach him to sell his brawn and brain to the highest bidders, but never to put a price tag on his heart and soul. Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob and to stand and fight if he thinks he is right.

This goes back to creating our own path. The problem is that of self esteem and the confusion that we have grown up with. People tell us to be different, but when we do, say in class or with friends, we are asked to confirm. I believe this to be a test. People who cave in, and become part of the general populace, becomes followers. But people who bide their time, and then emerge to create a new path, become leaders.

Treat him gently, but do not cuddle him, because only the test of fire makes fine steel. Let him have the courage to be impatient; let him have the patience to be brave.

The purpose of a teacher is to push him into doing things he has not done before. A teacher is an agent of change, and given the short time he has (typically a year), he needs to make changes in a student. We tend to remember those teachers who created a change in us, even if controversially. It is said in motivation, that a stick is good to make a person move, but carrots are needed to keep him moving. If you use a carrot to make a person move, the person can decide that he does not like carrots. However, he cannot avoid a stick.

Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said, “In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.”

Teach him always to have sublime faith in himself, because then he will always have sublime faith in mankind.

This directly related to self esteem and self confidence. Looking to others to provide support, having faith that others will pitch in when needed – these are nice to have but slightly ephemeral. The only thing that is concrete is our faith in ourselves.

Chandra KantProf. Chandra Kant is a Professor at IBA and has over 25 years experience in Strategic IT implementation for the Banking and Financial Services Sector. He has held the post of Head, Asia Pacific Technology for Credit Suisse, CIO of JM Group, Head of Financial Services in Perrot System India, Vice-President in Merril Lynch and Head of Marketingin Quintegra Solutions. He has been consultant to various companies advising them on Technology and Strategic Alignmwent.

 

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