Never abandon people when they are struggling

September 10, 2019
Never abandon people when they are struggling

My Quote #252 says, ‘Never abandon people when they are struggling.’

Last week, many of us saw the moving images of our Prime Minister consoling Dr. Sivan, the Chairperson of ISRO after what was a last stage glitch of the Chandrayaan -2 moon mission.

Video courtesy: DD India

Leadership character in full display

The video was a demonstration of stellar Leadership character in full public view.

On the one hand, it demonstrated a very high degree of personal accountability on the part of Dr. Sivan. I have no inside information but my sense is that he broke down because, in his view, he had ‘let the Nation down’. On the other hand, the Prime Minister’s act was a demonstration of standing behind Dr. Sivan and supporting him and the ISRO team fully while consoling him – in other words, not abandoning his ‘team’ when they are struggling.

In my opinion, there is a couple of reasons why this video went viral. First, in Indian politics, it is a rare occurrence to see a political leader demonstrate such leadership character. Second, it is equally rare to find a Chairperson of a Govt. organization demonstrating such ‘public’ accountability. And of course, the human element in the video – the vulnerability of a fine human being breaking down in ‘public’, and the spontaneous act of a comforting and emotional embrace by an ‘elder sibling’.

It is a myth that senior leaders do not go through crises. In my own life, as a senior leader within my organization, I have had situations where I was at the crossroads, and sometimes clueless. Now, as an Executive Coach, I meet several senior leaders who are struggling to move forward. Very often, they are also lonely. They are stuck…until they spot a breakthrough.

Nothing worse than working for an insecure leader

I have always believed that there is nothing worse than working for an insecure leader. Not that there is much choice in life.

Insecure Leaders are so much worried of themselves that they will not stand by you in times of crises.

We have all been insecure in our professional lives. Insecurity does not operate with a binary switch. It is never fully insecure and fully secure. Insecurity shows up in shades.

In my case, I have worked with many secure and insecure leaders.

Secure leaders and insecure leaders

Secure Leaders, though rare to find, are able to demonstrate a strong leadership character. While they protected and guided me even when I was at fault, allowing me to learn from my mistake, they were not worried about the political fallout of their action or decision. They did what seemed right at that moment. Given their leadership quotient, they were also able to effectively justify their actions and decisions, politically. They would never abandon people when they are struggling.

And of course, there are insecure Leaders. They are worried to take a stand. They could take a different stand for the same situation based on who stands to benefit. It is, most often, for their own benefit. They play favorites. You will see them do the right thing only when there are no political implications for themselves. Only if the right action or decision is also politically correct, could a win-win situation emerge.

Real-life situations

I have faced situations when a Leader agrees with me in private, but on a global call, takes a diametrically opposite stand to suit his political convenience, and then, apologizes to me in private, later. I have experienced bosses who have told me that while they know I am right, they cannot support me in public – one of them even told me (though not in so many words) that it does not suit his political interest. In some cases, the Leader leaves you completely exposed while looking the other way. It is expected that you should fend for yourself so that the Leader’s image remains spotless.

I will not say what kind of a Leader I was. It is best to leave it to my team to judge my Leadership character on such occasions. They would know if I stood by them when they were struggling or whether I was busy looking the other way at my political Sensex.

But I will certainly say:

‘Never abandon people when they are struggling.’

If you follow this leadership principle, your people will love you to the moon and back.


One of the areas I coach professionals on is People Leadership. I also run interactive sessions on Employee Engagement (to ensure People Managers keep their team highly engaged) in large organizations. Interested? Contact me at [email protected]

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