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7 Questions on Leadership with Ashok Thussu

Name: Ashok Thussu

Title: Master Licensee

Organisation: LMI South Asia

Ashok is the Director and Master Licensee for Leadership Management International South Asia operations and has served LMI since 2002.

He has extensive experience in the manufacturing and services sector and has been the National Coordinator for UNIDO's project Compstrat.

He lives in Gurgaon, India

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Ashok's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

The most challenging aspect as a Leader eventually is to get the effectiveness levels of team members to potential. What must be accepted is that each person is different, and their perceptions, beliefs, desires and circumstances vary. There are of course the building blocks, skill sets, competencies, shared purposes, work ethic, motivation and many more.

Eventually people settle into patterns and the challenge is to have them break out of those zones. This breakout is needed to help them reach their potential. Not just being good but moving to higher planes of success.

Working with them with a personalized upliftment plan and pointing them to their promise and potential has worked to overcome this challenge.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

We are leaders from day one, leading oneself is the basic level. This can have several components that one needs mastery – things like having a vision, retaining goal focus, managing required activity, being organised, prioritizing and similar things that contribute to work ethic.

Then comes working with and through people, eventually Leading organisations. So, becoming a leader in all facets is a continuing journey.

My start story is that having just passed out of college with an engineering degree, had a vision to become an entrepreneur and an idea that appealed to me was to do something that wasn’t being done. I selected manufacturing a hormone, from a base natural plant-derived chemical. Got laughed at and ridiculed - with people saying there are giant companies in India, with experienced researchers who haven’t been able to do this.

Immense self-belief is required when we encounter such headwinds. Great application of mind, perseverance, and a laser-sharp focus on getting it done. Research is one thing, establishing a workable process is another, and finally getting this to be done on a commercial scale. This needs getting all things in place, finance, factory, equipment, designs, process, people and leading to desired outcomes. Self-belief works when you work hard and work smart.

I did it and then at the young age of 25, I received the Udhaym Shree Award from the President of India on import substitution. What I felt like is indescribable!

As you climb the heights, new heights emerge and so was it with me from that leadership journey to more peaks conquered beyond.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

Structuring your workday is one of the cornerstones of organised and prioritized activity. My typical workday will be spending the first 2 hours with my wife, bonding and renewing our special relationship. In all turbulent times, this is the safe harbour that renews enthusiasm and provides courage and meaning to what all we do in our pursuits. Then 10 minutes are taken to thank for all we have a meditative period of gratefulness.

Then getting ready to get to work, reach office at 9 AM. Here the first thing is to prioritize all tasks to be done and get the most important stuff done first and ending with a review that triggers what next actions. I am hugely goal led thanks to LMI and hugely organized in all that I do.

Then back to home, usually I manage EVERYTHING by 5 PM even though I manage the South Asia operations of Leadership Management International, have never had the pressure to work late. Then is family and friends time till I go to sleep.

I am a Rotarian and do enjoy the fellowship as well as participating in significant projects that help the people in need in our community.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

The most significant leadership lesson is that whatever you do you have to do with humility and with an objective of being of service to others. This presupposes that one has empathy, and lives life by practising positive values which builds trust. When you respect the dignity of others that is the magic magnet.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

There have been many books that have had an impact. The one that impacts me most is surprisingly a book that I have written. The Seven Circles of Dharma, this is a book on ethical personal leadership, is not a book on religion, and provides a framework for one’s mindset and hugely helps prioritize actions in an ethical manner. The principles had been there in my mind for decades before I published the book. It leads me to be honest, have matching integrity in my actions and have peace of mind that I have done the right thing. It keeps me stress-free and guilt-free.

I stumbled on the core of the framework while listening to a priest who was giving discourses after my father had passed away. The core was deeply hidden in the other elements of his sermons and quotations of religious texts, these addons had submerged the framework into invisibility! Had the Aha moment 6 months after everything fell into place, our subconscious mind sifts and uncovers hugely!

Practising these principles has made me to be viewed as fair, ethical, honest, and trustworthy; as the circumstance defines such adjectives. It is not enough to know; we have to exemplify by consistent actions.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

The best advice to a young Leader is to have your personal Vision and mission clear and develop goals to achieve your purposes, with matching actions year by year, month by month and day to day with complete self-belief and a solution-centric mindset. Build and nurture relationships and have a gentle heart. Review your progress constantly and weed out things that stop you, one by one.

This in fact describes a process, as the journey as a leader is a journey, not the day's transaction.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

The most meaningful story is about my parents. Dr Onkar Nath and Dr Jagat Mohini. They were both medical doctors and spent their life in running a charitable hospital. During their lives, they touched literally millions of people with service above self their motto. Dedication, commitment to a purpose, unfazed by obstacles, grit, and giving to the people who are most needy. They earned respect and gratitude as a byproduct; they touched lives and made a difference till their last breath.

How this came about started with a great tragedy. My father lost his first wife and 4 children all succumbing to a fire that engulfed and destroyed everything in the building. Despite being in his 30’s he would not remarry. He set up a small charitable clinic, and then by a curious circumstance a tourist broke his leg, was treated for the fracture and healed. This person asked my grandfather why my father had such a sad look in his eyes.

On learning about the past, he asked, why doesn’t he get married again? My grandfather told him that my father had put an impossible condition, he said that he would only marry a woman who is a doctor and willing to spend her life serving others. This gentleman said, now I know why I broke a leg, I have a niece, she is a doctor and says she will marry only if the person has dedicated his life to charitable purposes.

Finally, they got married and did just that. Serving people in need, not just through medical needs, but also helping people financially and serving society.

In the end, my mother left with the greatest earnings in life that anyone can think of. Instead of being called a doctor, everyone called her Mummy.

A testament to what she got to be called by acting like a mother to all.

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