Leadership Lessons From My Grandma

Most of us will have some amazing memories of their grandparents. Memories like being fed divine food ( read : overfed ), receiving toys, always getting more money than you ask for, and of course the countless hugs and kisses. I was also one of the luckiest people to experience all this and much more.

The day I turned one, both my parents had to leave to work in the gulf, to provide me with the best possible life. And, they were only allowed to visit India every two years. Thus, my childhood was spent mostly with my grandparents. They were my Mai and Pai, which translates to Mother and father in Konkani. That’s the language I grew up speaking, while living in the western coastal region (Konkan) of India.

Of course, this also meant that I had an extremely sheltered and happy childhood. I was the center of my grandparents’ universe, and they were my whole world. They raised me with love, too much food, and values that I continue to carry forward even today.

 I recently lost my Granny to Covid19. It was all so sudden for us that I feel that we have yet to fully process it. Perhaps the most heartbreaking thing about it all was that we couldn’t even say a proper goodbye; and that still breaks my heart. I guess writing this blog is a way of saying goodbye to her.

I owe my life to her and will continue to live it, in a way that honours her memory. The values she always expected of me are many, but I want to share three that are closest to my heart –

1. Kindness

 My grandma was pure grace. Her loving heart was always looking for ways to help others. And it is this very quality of benevolence that has stayed with me.

Never do I remember seeing her wish anyone ill, even if the person had caused harm to her. She firmly believed that holding grudges only hurt us, and caused us long time suffering. Instead, she advocated forgiveness and letting go, for our own peace of mind.

This one habit could help free you from negative thoughts and it won’t weigh you down. It will also help you look at people and situations with a new perspective. I have personally experienced increased respect for people and a better understanding of their situation and actions.

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Her passing away made us realise just how loved she was by everyone. And it was not because she had power or status in life but rather, it was because she always wished well for others. Something as simple as kindness, made a huge impact on others.

Tristen Inagaki, a neuroscientist at San Diego State University, also talks about how there is nothing surprising about the way kindness and benevolence impacts one’s physical well being.

Humans are extremely social, we have better health when we are interconnected, and part of being interconnected is giving.

– she says.

 2. Appetite for knowledge

 Owing to her humble beginnings, my grandma never received any formal education, but she always was wise beyond her years. She had an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and she seeked it from everything and everyone around her.

Coming from a small village called Thottam in Udupi, located in the southern part of India. English and Hindi – two of the most spoken language in our country were completely alien to her. She migrated to the tinsel town of Mumbai, at an young age, with the sole intention of earning money. I, sometimes, try and imagine how much hardship she must have faced owing to the language barrier she faced. However, within just an year, she made herself fluent in Marathi, Hindi, and even English! Such was her need to constantly learn and evolve.

She could have easily managed to get by with just one language, but that wasn’t enough for her. She learnt them all! I will always remember the spark in her eyes and her sunshine smile, every time Kaun Banega Crorepati (the Indian version of Who wants to be a millionaire?) an would air on television. I initially thought it’s because of Amitabh Bachchan, the Indian superstar. But, when I asked her about it, she told me it was because of both – Mr Bachchan and the questions discussed on the show. She truly valued knowledge over everything else.

Hunger for learning is a habit that can be developed consciously. Passion is not only one of our most cherished values here at Focus, but a personal favourite of mine. Passion for learning can help elevate your personality and improve the quality of your life. result in a lot of positive consequences. It can be strong enough to move mountains, inspire ideas, initiate programs, be on the move and come up with discoveries and inventions that man has never known.

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A thirst for knowledge is often what gives people the motivation to find creative solutions to problems, overcome adversities, and reach for seemingly impossible goals.

3. Compassion

Compassion literally means “to suffer together.” It has also been defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.

It is not the same as empathy or altruism, even though the concepts are undeniably related. While empathy refers to our ability to understand the perspective of, and feel the emotions of another, compassion is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to help.

It can simply be understood as ‘empathy in action.’

The word compassion takes me back to my childhood. My grandma was the very embodiment of compassion. I’m not only saying that because she was compassionate to me but because she showed compassion to everyone around.

She had very little money and lived a simple life, but that never stopped her from helping anyone in need. Irrespective of their caste, colour, or religion – she went out of her way to help anyone who needed it. Most of our neighbour’s children spent their holidays at our place.

When we truly value the happiness of others around us, they feel appreciated. They feel respected. And this makes them feel truly connected to us, thus strengthening our relationship with them.

It’s no accident that organisations with more compassionate leaders have stronger inter-team bonds, better trust, and a stronger commitment to the organisation’s vision.

 

And in the end, there’s just one thing I have to say –

Thank you, Grandma.

Thank you for being the incredible woman you were. I’m so grateful to have had the chance to share the relationship we did, and I shall forever carry you in my heart. I am doing a little better since you passed, but it’s still impossibly hard. However, I know you’re always there, and you will always be present in my thoughts.

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