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A leadership lesson from Parikrma…

2016-08-21         Luciano Costantino, a communication specialist from Netherlands

I had the chance to get to know the Parikrma Humanity Foundation last February when, as part of the international module of the Full-Time MBA, I visited the school with my classmates. The whole experience was particularly moving and those joyful children touched my heart deeply and flooded me with positive emotions, despite their difficult backgrounds. As I left them, I was enveloped by a sense of serenity and I learnt an amazing lesson: the strength of joy. I built my life on emotions, especially the positive ones such as enthusiasm, commitment and passion, which have driven my behavior and attitude. In my leadership credo I advocated the principle of leading with joy and I will follow this in my future career. Despite this, without those children I would have never understood how powerful joy can be. It is fundamental for leaders to understand the value of simplicity, as it will bring us back to our origins, to the inner core of the human being. Leading others means first of all understanding them, and in order to understand others we need to understand ourselves – I believe children will help us with this. I thought I would never see those children ever again. However, destiny has a funny sense of humor and it always finds ways to surprise us. I returned to India in July to start an amazing experience at Infosys Consulting and the first thing I did as soon as I stepped in the country was to get in touch with Parikrma asking them whether it was possible for me to volunteer over the weekends. They were more than happy to have me on board (humanitarian foundations like Parikrma need volunteers in order to survive) as they are not capitalizing profit. To put it in MBA terms: it was a win-win situation. So, here I am, proudly starting my volunteering experience on the day of my birthday. What better way to celebrate life than that? When I arrived, the children’s joy took over me, just as it did the first time, and I knew I was in the right place. The task I am entrusted with is very simple, and entails the use of emotional intelligence: I am helping the marketing department to increase Parikrma’s brand awareness by drafting children profiles. This means, talking to them and outlining their personal stories and family background in order to sponsor the school. I meet them individually, and we talk, we get to know each other, take our time, laugh and exchange information. These children are full of hope, passion, happiness, and gratitude for what they have. They show curiosity and willingness to learn and always find the way to surprise me with riddles (“do you know which fruit has its seeds outside?”). And yet, they all come from difficult situations, problematic households, slums where life is hard. Surprisingly, they keep their smiles on, they never get down, and they love going to school “because it’s providing us with a good education, free clothes and delicious food” – as Divya, one of the children, told me – and they never complain or show any kind of whim or caprice. To some extent, I found them more mature than many adults I know, and their stories confirm this. “My ambition is to become the President of India because I want to give food to everybody”, continues Divya. Her classmate Deepika, wants to become a teacher so she can teach people who cannot afford to study, “teachers at Parikrma are very kind and good to us” she explains “whenever we make a mistake they never hit us like other teachers do, but they talk to us and make us understand with good communication what was not right”. Also Bhavya wants to help others, her ambition is to become a Police Officer and in the meanwhile she enjoys her time at Parikrma. She loves maths and helps her mum cut tomatoes and cook rice at home. Lastly, Geetha wants to become a School Director so she can allow every poor child from the street to receive a free education. She is very happy to be at Parikrma, just like any child I spoke to, however she is feeling sad because her smaller brother could not join the program (only two children per household can go to Parikrma, one of her brothers is at the school already, A/N). So Geetha is helping her smaller brother every night after school by teaching him something new that she learnt at Parikrma “I feel bad and sad that my small brother cannot join Parikrma” she confides. After duty, comes pleasure. The children wanted to show me their classroom, the projects they worked on, how well they know their multiplication tables… and they went crazy for taking selfies with my phone. These children are full of ambition, and yet possess the simplicity and humility of pure souls – this is a success story to tell generations to come. They have the soul of children, the caring heart of mothers and the strength of men. The lesson to learn here, as future leaders, is to take a difficult, disadvantageous situation and turn it, with joy, into a way to get through it. We all have hard times, sooner or later in our professional and private lives, we just need to find the right approach to face them. Joy is the way I am dealing with it: leading with joy means showing your enthusiasm, commitment, and passion to the people you are leading in order to motivate, empower and inspire them. If we feel joy for what we do, joy for what we believe in and joy for what we feel, the outcome from our followers can only be great. There is a small step from the dream to the miracle: believing. Believe in life, believe in us, and believe in the present. Children are able to do so. We should perhaps look to them and conserve the small child that is inside of each one of us. This is the miracle that I wish for, for us as future leaders. Luciano Costantino, a communication specialist from Netherlands

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