Leadership in 100 words: Simple tips for complex challenges

Madhumita Basu | Updated on: Feb 03, 2022

In this conversational book on mentoring, Mainak Dhar prods the reader into reflecting and asking questions

“Imagine that you are not just holding a book in your hands, but that this is an opportunity to engage in a mentoring conversation with me on leadership”. With these words, author Mainak Dhar sets out to engage with his readers and not just write a treatise on mentoring. The book is truly “conversational” – in its construct, layout, and very engaging tone. The author claims to have begun this journey with a post on LinkedIn in which he set out to share a mentoring conversation he had had with a colleague.

The post was a tad long and he edited it to a hundred words. Through the first lockdown the questions kept coming and Mainak set out to respond - a hundred words at a time.

 What we have here, then, in ‘Leadership in 100 Words’, is a total of 124 questions. These have been divided into three sections – leading others, leading through change, and finally leading yourself. Each section is like a workbook, encouraging the reader to reflect on his learnings, leadership challenges and to articulate more questions. There is a bit for everyone, from the fresher in office to the diehard veterans. For the fresher he has to say that the degree is a ‘point of parity’. To unlock potential, one needs to find out the points of difference. These can be a better ability to work with people or bounce back from failure.

The questions too, have a bandwidth from the very predictable on how to manage conflict or measure success, to how one can make one’s presentations more effective. The author tries to hold back from direct responses or advice and encourages the reader to think and apply in his own working context.

Guidance on evaluation

Young leaders, early in their journey of leading teams, will find guidance on whether toughness and aggression are desirable traits, and how to evaluate people. The best, Mainak reserves for the last section on ‘leading yourself’. In his words, “To be great, you need to learn to effectively lead one additional person. You.”

What will encourage a reader to read the book from cover to cover, however, is the easy storytelling style. “Is it lonely at the top?”, he quizzes. For many it is not always easy to seek advice and most times one does not have access to a mentor, either due to lack of a broad enough network or the more accepted understanding that senior leadership is inaccessible.

Quoting a Forbes article, from the book, “76 per cent of people think mentors are important but only 37 per cent have one”. The simple construct of this book makes it easy for the reader to navigate. He may read it in one shot and will want to return to some relevant section or questions from time to time. It is like having by your side, a mentor genie, trapped in this book.

From the first page where he shares the genesis of the word mentor, to acknowledging the role of his grandfather and parents in imbibing the right values and leadership thoughts, there is a very relatable emphasis on what we learn outside the classroom and the boardroom. The author is also a karate blackbelt, a sport that taught him to unlearn, relearn and learn from those much younger than him. He brings wisdom from the dojo, when he mentions that confidence comes not from knowing how to hit but from losing the fear of getting hit.

When taking 124 questions, many with an overlapping theme, it is difficult not to sound trite. Here lies the author’s verve and flexibility in enthusiastically drawing from his rich experience as a CEO and corporate leader, learnings from his mentors and writing skills as a prolific author of popular fiction.

 (Madhumita Basu is chief strategy officer and marketing officer at Nuvoco Vistas Corp)

Check out for the book on Amazon

About the Book

Leadership in 100 Words: Simple Tips for Complex Challenges

Mainak Dhar

Bloomsbury

118 pages; Rs 322 

Published on February 03, 2022
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