“Hello” I was accosted by the chair. I turned back. “You seem to be walking fast ignoring me totally. Don’t you remember how I was supporting you through all those challenging times? Whenever you had a problem, you leaned on my back. Whenever you suffered stress, you rested your head on my shoulders. Don’t you have some gratitude?” I apologized to the chair. “Sorry. I was going to a meeting and my mind was lost in some other thoughts.”
“I understand. Have I not been a witness to several meetings you attended?” I could hear the chair laughing mischievously.
I just recalled one of those meetings which I attended in a conference hall of a government organization. Along with me it was attended by thirty people and the main agenda related to the implementation of some legal directions. The person on the chair was one known for rudeness and aggressive behaviour. As the meeting started the chair desired to take the last agenda on print as first which related to the organization I was involved. In just a few minutes after the commencement of the meeting the chair threw the whole file towards me in the presence of several vice chancellors. The issue was that the legal directions were not implemented fully across the country within 24 hours. The chair knew fully well that it was impossible, but to just assert the power of the chair it presumed that there was a magic wand to do things. (We did not have the technology in those days. Communications had to go by Registered post!). Sometimes the people in the chair do not have basic idea of how the organization they are questioning function. As I was upset, I wanted to react. A senior official sitting by my side pressed my thigh and said “No reactions. This person will always do something with everyone as the person is drunk with the power and authority of the chair.” The meeting lasted for an hour and almost half a dozen people returned like broken pieces of furniture picking their self-pride from here and there, though they occupied exalted positions.
Years later, I had the fortune of (?) sharing a platform with the same person. The person under reference was the chief guest and I was the keynote speaker. I was unable to resist the negative energy radiated from the chair occupied by the individual. After a few minutes, when the chair was invited to give the awards and prizes to a few teachers, the chair refused to hand over the award to one teacher and asked her to go back because the way she represented herself was conceptually not acceptable to the chair! The chair by my side recorded the invisible tears showered at the edges of her eyelids; the lady returned empty handed! The inability to accept others point of view, the actions resulting out of one’s ignorance or conceptual disagreements arising out of different geographies, heritages, legacies or religious perceptions should never stop one playing a decent game on the stage! Have you not met people who have got the habit of throwing either papers or tantrums at people working with them just to exhibit the arrogance of authority? Does the chair not realize that there is always another way of communicating disagreement or disapproval? Does a chair think abusing, insulting, singling out or condemning one person before others is a way of communicating their control over the group? How foolish are such people sitting in those decorative chairs?
Chair, Positions, power totally lost in an ocean full of arrogance of authority are expressions of the lowest level human systems management! “There are two kinds of pride, both good and bad. 'Good pride' represents our dignity and self-respect. 'Bad pride' is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance,” says John C. Maxwell. He goes on to say, “People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.”
Have you not been familiar with the people who sit in the chair and strongly feel that their only job is to find fault with others? Haven’t you seen people who radiate negativity as you enter their chamber? Have you seen people who always want to play the role of a commander wherever they are, sometimes even to shield their ignorance or stupidity? Have you seen people who manipulate words to bring others working with them to disrepute to show one upmanship?
Let me introduce you to Mr.Mac. He was given the opportunity to head the organization in which he was in the middle level management. This sudden elevation to the head of the organization was caused by a relationship he established through a family marriage with the chief of the company. He knew fully well that there were better qualified, skilled and competent people who were senior to him in the organization. The low self-esteem he brought with the post pushed him to a defensive position. He started yelling at everybody declaring them as incompetent. People were scared to enter his room. You could very well imagine what would have happened to the organization. “An arrogant person considers himself perfect. This is the chief harm of arrogance. It interferes with a person's main task in life - becoming a better person,” says Leo Tolstoy.
The chair should bring along with the esteem, some sense of compassion, human touch, understanding and magnanimity. Rules do exist in every organization, and they need to be respected and followed. But reaching out to people with a human touch is not an antithesis to any rule.
The chair heaved a deep sigh. “Sir, I have seen several such negative people sitting on me. You may not know how much of heat I experienced as I survived.” I could understand and empathize with the chair.
“Why don’t you remind me someone who brought glory and laurels to this chair?” The chair was pleading.
“Of course, there are people whose radiance illuminates the entire aura of the chair. I still remember the principal in the early seventies under whom I worked for a brief period. As I walked into his chamber with a pack of sweets, he quipped “what is the occasion? Are you getting married?” I smiled and replied, “No sir, I just passed my post-graduation in Hindi Literature” He almost jumped from his seat “Wow, what wonderful news! A chemistry post graduate qualifying in Hindi. Please do not stop with this. You must now do Post graduation in English literature. The question is not the degree, but knowledge. Learn every day and at every opportunity! The day may not be too far when you must sit in this or a similar chair. But my friend, remember – ‘Deserve and Desire!” The words were so impactful on me that they shaped the entire thought architecture of my life. A chair can do a magic – influence not one, but many… “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they do not necessarily want to go, but ought to be” says Rosalynn Carter, former first lady of the United States.
A chair has the capacity to see what others fail to see! When it happens, the chair never regrets it! “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself; once you are a leader, success is all about growing others” says John Welsch.
The chair represents a responsibility! Isn’t it?