December 19, 2007

SWYL: Group Etiquettes - DOs and DONTs for Wannabe Leaders

This is a part of the Share What You Learn (SWYL) series of articles in my blog.

Yet another learning today. Having been a part of many groups (both, in the real world and the virtual world), I've had a lot of good experiences and learnings. Today was the first time in life that I experienced something that makes me share it with you.

Leadership qualities refer to all qualities about oneself that the world outside can feel and understand. As a leader, one needs to be amidst groups of people in more than an occasion. This requires one to be have mastered both leadership and group etiquettes. There are many sites in the internet that talks about how one needs to behave in a group. But here, I thought of sharing an experience of how one should NOT behave in a group.

I've been a member of a big virtual group of entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley of India - Bangalore. The group actively discusses issues and activities at Startups. The group does sometimes get mails from members about vacancies in their Startups. There was a vacancy posted at a Startup in Chennai at SVLinks, and I had posted it to this virtual group in Bangalore.

Any idea what the reaction was? There was this gentleman Mr.Venga (name changed), who shot out an email to the group with a one liner "Can someone get this guy and his updates off this list?". Well, that was a shocking reaction to me. Firstly, the group did talk about job openings, but was apprehensive to my posting (Don't know why!). Secondly, it being a group of entrepreneurs, I expected some decency in the way it was put. One doesn't address a person who has had a exceedingly good professional career with singulars.

This person, Mr. Venga did this the second time too (after I replied to his earlier mail, reminding him not to be using singulars). On seeing his first reply, I was annoyed and flustered. On seeing the second reply, I felt sad for what he was. I finally concluded the mail chain by saying -
"Apologies for posting that job. I realized it just after I hit the send was too late. I was just concerned about the way people addressed me. Any more thoughts, please mail me personally.

Karthik Vijayakumar
Here are some lessons learnt through this incident -
  • When talking about other people in a group, make sure you know who they are
  • Everyone makes mistakes. A good leader is one who responds to such people by talking to them in person, rather than doing the same with the entire group as the audience
  • A good leader is a gentleman. He/She never uses singulars at anyone (forget the background of the person)...especially in a group
  • Always keep in mind that the world is small. You need to live in unison
  • When you feel that you have done a mistake - Accept it! There is nothing greater than understanding and accepting your mistakes (...even Bill Gates did it)
  • Taking ownership is the most important quality that marks the leader in you. Good or Bad, take ownership for what you did. People will look up to you as they get the courage that you can make things happen
  • A successful leader should how to take criticisms
"Don't let the bozos grind you down. The bozos will tell a company that what it's doing can't be done, shouldn't be done, and isn't necessary. Some bozos are clearly losers--they're the ones who are easy to ignore. The dangerous ones are rich, famous, and powerful--because they are so successful, innovators may think they are right. They're not right; they're just successful on the previous curve so they cannot comprehend, much less embrace, the next curve.
- Guy Kawasaki on the Art of Innovation

In the above point, Guy referred to innovators. But a good leader also needs to have this quality. This is just one drop of what one needs to know from the ocean of Leadership qualities and etiquettes.


Anonymous said...


I'm completely with you on this. Some people really do not understand whom they are speaking to in a group.

A fantastic article. Have been following your blog for a long time now, and have read and heard a lot about you. Good to read something that is written by experienced people like you.

Thank you.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Jim.

Good to know it was useful. Cheers!