But no one perhaps exemplifies this model of leadership more than Arvind Kejriwal. When he insists that the landslide election victory is not about him or his party but about the ordinary Delhiites, his frustrations and aspirations, Kejriwal is essentially echoing what Lao-Tzu, philosopher, wrote about servant leadership in the fifth-century BC: “The highest type of ruler is one whose followers say after the task has been accomplished, ‘We ourselves have achieved it!’” That’s precisely what the volunteers and followers of Aam Admi Party (AAP) are saying.
Servant leadership is a style that nurtures participatory leadership and encourages the talent of followers and hence is in direct contrast to the centralised, command-and-control model that most organisations follow.
But like all successful business leaders, Kejriwal made sure he remained focused, resilient and communicative with his core audience, as a result of which everyone knows why AAP was created. His single-minded approach to fighting corruption ensured that no business school can teach the importance of ‘focus’ as well as Kejriwal.
Articulation of your mission to your team and customers is another important facet of leadership. And this is where Kejriwal and team performed brilliantly through one-to-one, direct communication through ‘mohalla sabhas’ with clear ideas, all of which was force multiplied by social media usage. This is what is known in management parlance as the blue ocean strategy — create new demand in an uncontested market space rather than compete head-to-head with your competitors.
Kejriwal may not leave you spellbound with his carefully crafted speeches or a strong persona, but he surely knows how to connect with the hearts of his audience – the 60% of Delhi’s 17 million population – through disruptive means of communication which did not require money power.
And he surely knows how to laugh at his own expense – a trait which endeared him to many. Which political leader in India would be willing to appear in a spoof show on Youtube where the host asks him whether he would like to have coffee or cough syrup? All this was part of a carefully cultivated smart marketing of a leader who is “normal”, resembling your friendly neighbourhood ordinary educated middle class man firmly aligned to values like justice, equality, truth and transparency. If this is not smart marketing, what is?
As he gets sworn in tomorrow, the only concern Delhi’s new Chief Minister should have is how to scale up the model. As is the case with almost every political party, AAP is also fundamentally a one-man band. He has to remove that crucial similarity with the traditional leadership model. The faster, the better.