Yesterday I had the privilege to be on a flight with the founder-chairman of Infosys Technologies, N R Narayan Murthy, the poster boy of Indian IT revolution. I first spotted him as I was waiting for the flight to be announced. I saw him being accompanied by an airline official, going towards the gate. Later when the flight was announced I joined the long line that had formed to go through the gates and board the flight. Knowing the VVIP status that this outstanding Leader enjoys in India, I thought that he would have been already ushered into the aircraft and comfortably seated; imagine my surprise to see him standing in the line waiting patiently for the line to move towards the gate! The airline official kept pace with him as the line moved, making small conversation with this icon and ushered him into the aircraft.
As I entered the aircraft, I expected to see him seated in the first row of the economy session, but he was not there and was seated way back. I knew that he never flew Business Class on domestic flights but I did not think that he would even wave the privilege of occupying the first row of economy. The airline could have easily organised this, but knowing him as someone who does not like to cash in on any privilege that comes because of his status, this extraordinary leader would have turned the offer down.
On reaching Kolkata, he waited along with the other passengers patiently for the checked in luggage to come. Looking back, it was action speaking louder than mere talk and a powerful lesson in Leadership.
Authentic Leaders have no difficulty in saying ' No' to special privileges that come with the the status as a celebrity or VIP. These privileges often isolate the Leader from the people in general or people they lead and thus killing the opportunity to see firsthand the challenges the followers face and the opportunities to find solutions. Such privileges also inconvenience the general public or the followers. Then there are instances where the Leaders have gone beyond the normal privileges and asked for more, often breaking that thin ethical line and losing their credibility and the right to lead.