Dhiraj Balakrishnan

Software Engineer

5 Leadership Lessons From My Personal Experience

Posted at — Jun 19, 2020

It is not the genius at the top giving directions that makes people great. It is great people that make the guy at the top look like a genius.

The Team

Before I start, I want to let you know that I am no expert in Leadership. I got an opportunity to lead a committee at Dell and I loved that experience. I am documenting the impact that it had on my life and the lessons that I have learnt from it. I hope you can pick up a thing or two from this journal. Let’s dive in!

Have a Vision

When I started out as a lead, I had very little reference to follow. The committee had just been formed and we were still taking baby steps when I took over. Sometimes when you don’t have any reference to follow, you are only driven by your vision and intuition. I believe it is the most important attribute that a leader can possess because, without a vision, zie and the entire team is blind-folded. It is important for a leader to understand the purpose of the team’s formation, its goals and align zir and the team’s vision accordingly. It is only then, a meaningful output can be expected from the team. This simple hack helped me initially when I took over.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew

Becoming the lead for the first time in my corporate career, I wanted to create the best impression of myself. I tried to change a few things that I thought were missing earlier and wished to have more engagement and transparency within the committee. We ended up planning for our events months in advance and we were successful with our initial events. This gave us the confidence that we very much needed. All of this motivated me to do more and in this process, I made the biggest newbie mistake possible. I took up more commitments than we could accommodate. This ended up being a major blunder as we could barely breathe and almost every event that we tried to conduct was unsuccessful. This was difficult for me and the team and we had a tough time trying to make our way out of this mess. However, when I look back, I am thankful that we could cross off this mistake early and as cliche as it may sound, failure is the best teacher. This experience taught me a lot personally and now, instead of being carried away by quantitative accomplishments ending in bad taste, I prioritize delivering quality work ending in a sense of accomplishment and joy.

Be Resilient

Resilience: this was my weak suit. I knew from my past that I take a very long time recovering from my failures. As I have mentioned, my leadership regime had its fair share of failures in the begining. I was personally having a difficult time getting out of these blows and was expecting the same from the rest of the team members. It was then, that I somehow mustered my courage to schedule a meeting with the team to discuss our next events. In all honesty, I was not expecting anyone to turn up but, I was pleasantly proved wrong. When I witnessed almost all of the core team members turning up for that meeting, I realized the importance of collective will and wisdom to bounce after a setback.

Everyone and every team in this world fail at some point in their journey, and it is not always the leader who can lift the team-up. Borrowing a phrase from Simon Sinek, It is not the genius at the top giving directions that make people great. It is great people that make the guy at the top look like a genius. To build a successful team and to be consistent, it is important for everyone in the team to be resilient.

Play to your Strengths

We did not dwell over our failure during that meeting, rather we ended up discussing strategies to get over it. It was not an immediate transition by any means and it took us time to get back on our feet. During this time, I realized that I needed to go back to my strengths to draw some energy and get back with more resilience. When I was pondering over my strengths, I realized that I had been a strategic planner throughout my life and it had played an important role in all of my successes thus far. That is when I decided to call upon this strong suit of mine to help the team succeed. We ended up planning each and every task that is associated with an event and meticulously deliver it. Additionally, being an introvert I listened a lot which helped me identify the strengths of each team member and delegate them duties for the smooth accomplishment of their tasks.

It is vital in a team to identify the passionate areas of work and strengths of each team member for them to accomplish their tasks easily and have a bit of fun while they’re at it.

Build Camaraderie

Because of my innate nature, I don’t like to express my feelings to anyone. I like my silences and I draw energy from them. But being in a lead role, you have to understand every individual and spend enough time with them to understand their strengths and weaknesses. This was new to me and it pushed me out of my comfort zone. Eventually, the more time I spent with them, the more I started looking forward to the team meetings and eventful associations. I enjoyed working with the team and this was directly impacting the events that we were organizing. I had amazing fun organizing events like the Dorm Room Hackathon, Dell Hacktoberfest, and Technical Documentary Screening. The more you start trusting your team, the more you’ll start building and nurturing camaraderie. According to me, this must be the ultimate goal for any team or organization.

I want to end this journal by thanking all team members of the Training / Innovation Committee. I have made an everlasting memory with you.