May 29, 2017, Halifax Airport. This was the date and place of my first meeting with Dr. Binod Sundararajan. I was passing through with my family on my way home (Vancouver) and Dr. Sundararajan was on his way to present at an academic symposium in Toronto. Over the past year, our first brief conversation has transitioned into an extended dialogue that continues to inspire my personal journey.
Dr. Binod Sundararajan is the Associate Director of the Rowe School of Business, Faculty of Management at Dalhousie University. He teaches Managing People at the MBA level, and Business Communication, and Corporate Communications at the undergraduate level. Students enrolled in the MBA Leadership program have the benefit of Dr. Sundararajan’s knowledge and experience, which is recognized internationally. His speaking engagements and conference presentations span the globe.
Dr. Sundararajan recently co-founded CELNeT, with his research partner, Dr. Martine Durier-Copp. The Collaborative eLearning and Network Lab (CELNET) specializes in researching virtual communications, how to make virtual teams more effective, and e-Leadership – the art and science of managing virtually.
CEGE Connection is thrilled to launch Dr. Sundararajan’s column, Musings from the L-Edge, which will focus on sustainable leadership that responds and adapts to the requirements of our fast-paced, ever changing global community.
We invite you to join the conversation.
Editor and Blog Coordinator, CEGE Connection
Musings from the L-Edge – Dr. Binod Sundararajan
Leadership is not about being appreciated.
It is about responsibility.
It doesn’t matter that the burden is heavy.
It matters that you carry it.
– Splinter (Hamato Yoshi-Sensei of the TMNT -s1e14)
The Human Condition has been variously described as the interplay between the viva activa (active life) and viva contemplativa (contemplative life) – Hannah Arendt, the dynamic between the selfish and selfless human instincts (E.O. Wilson’s theory of Eusociality), “a profoundly deep, extremely dark and fearful – indeed terrifying – psychological issue” (Jeremy Griffith) or as The Who sing about it in “Teenage Wasteland”. Whereas Arendt discusses the Human Condition in terms of the role of labour, work, and action, others have delved into deeper socio-psychological aspects of the concept. What then does this have to do with the Leadership Condition?
The Leadership Condition is the cognitive stasis in the mind of the leader that lets them focus on the betterment of their followers. When one feels that they are impelled to do something, the right thing, they move from the ‘contemplative state’ to the ‘actio’ state, to action. This metastasis of thought could move them to the “viva praetōrēs” state, to be a leader of life. Not being a Latin scholar, or even remotely familiar with Latin, I picked the vocative case of the Latin word ‘praetor’ to denote ‘leader’, because this case identifies the person being addressed, in this case a ‘leader of life’.
Why is this Leadership Condition important and why isn’t everyone being afflicted with this condition? It falls on a few, not necessarily the chosen few, to recognize that they have it within them to use this cognitive metastasis into a practical, useful, relevant, and meaningful pursuit, that of ensuring that their followers (stakeholders) are indeed in a better state than when the leader assumed the leadership position. When an individual is in the throes of this Leadership Condition, then they are focused on their responsibilities, they are aware of the burden they carry, and the difference is that they not just carry it, but they carry it well. Then we have the exemplars of the Leadership Condition, not just footnotes.
How then can one achieve this metastatic state of the Leadership Condition? The Leader always sits on the precipice, the L-Edge. They look forward and have the luxury of looking back as well. Every leader is not Janus, though they can be, staring at the precipice and looking at what was and what can be, not just for themselves, but their followers as well. How the leader views this situation, context, and course of action, determines how the leader will successfully carry the burden they are entrusted with. The L-Edge is both the leading edge of innovation and discovery, but also the bleeding edge where the leader can perish, when the metastasis of thought and action is untrammeled and/or devoid of empathy. But when the praetor acts in good faith, then the Leadership Condition is manifest in its might and the praetor is operibus anteire, leading the way with deeds. Orta recens quam pura nites – Newly risen, how brightly you shine.
Dr. Binod Sundararajan