Thoughts on economics and liberty

Tag: FTI – leadership, team building

What is a team (of leaders: e.g. Freedom Team)?

This is going to be a ‘running’ blog on my thoughts on what is the meaning of the word ‘Team’ in Freedom Team (

Indians arent used to working in Teams
Indians are generally unable to work as a team. They dont have any experience of team work from their school education onwards. They are always competing with each other, not working on team projects. As adults they therefore prefer to function in one of these two ways:
a) Dictators. Purely hierarchical. The boss is always right. No one questions the boss.
b) Subservient. The junior obey the senior. No questions asked.

This is similar to the High Command model in parties or factions in India (e.g. Congress High Command). Both are essentially the same model: i.e. hierarchical. Both are highly political, with jockeying for positions. That is why in the Freedom Team of India the greatest problem has been to get people away from the idea of ‘office bearers’. A leaderless organisation simply doesn’t click in the heads of most Indians.

So what then is a team?
– A team is not a party. Thus it is not merely partisan. Instead, it is a place to be and to contribute as an equal. It is about the journey equally as it is about the end goal. It is thus an experience in itself. It is a dramatically different culture to that of ‘parties’. It is true that FTI members may ultimately form/join a party, the culture of which may well be slightly different. But it is to be hoped that the culture of the Freedom Team will spread to that party as well.

– It is a team of equals. Equal citizens. None above the other. Thus, there is NO team leader. No office bearers. Leaders are nominated/volunteered for various tasks. No ones voice is louder than that of others. All are encouraged to lead/participate actively. All are encourged to freely express their views.

– It demands opposition, not conformity. Opposition is GOLDEN. There has never been progress in the world without opposition. So it is not a bunch of yes-men who mimick the ‘boss’. There is not the slightest diminution in ones independence of thinking. Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Advantages of working in a Team
– We dont make major mistakes because we listen to a range of views
– We innovate by allowing expression to a wide range of new ideas, some of which are piloted because we want to test new things
– We prioritise properly by listening to a range of views and don’t get sucked into action for the sake of action
– We work as genuinely equal citizens on our common projects and never reduce our respect for each other.

– Working in a team is much more tedious and frustrating (people hate being blocked by others) than being a dictator.
– It is much slower since every issue is revisited ten times and everyone must agree.
– It is extremely daunting for Indians in particular, who are not used to working in teams. It is common for their egos get hurt easily when team members oppose their ideas, of for them to get flustered and angry. Working in a team needs a thick skin, which most Indians don’t have.

Challenges fpr FTI
FTI, being the first major team in India’s political horizon, faces great challenges in moulding its strong-willed ‘leaders’ into a Team.

Time out approach
Whenever any issue starts dominating emotions to the extent that mutual respect is diminished and conversations become personal, any team member should be able to call a Time Out and focus on team building, examining our basic purposes, etc., and working happily together again. Without that, the team will crashland quickly and blow up.


raising issues openly by any member and voting with or without comments is an important factor to be incorporated.
==Putting bye our emotions, and each one had to say the following.

1. Good things about self (every thing) – all complete the task over 1 – 2 hours.

2. Good things about others (each one) as observed by them (reiterating others views or adding new views but not just unduely praising any one) – 1- 2 hours

3. Bad things about self (every thing)

4. Bad things about others (each one) as observed – polite, firm, objective to the extent possible, non abusive, etc. – no personal attacks.

Every one’s mind is conditioned to accept good and bad remarks with an intention to help them improve / correct any aberrations in behaviour and take the good aspects of others.

Of course some reasonable level of familiarity is required to achieve this team exercise. Else it would become an exercise in futility.

The 4 aspects noted for each is circulated to all.

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Proposed leadership aspirations for the Freedom Team of India


This is a leadership aspirations proposal for FTI to consider. I'm drafting it directly on the internet, using my blog as a wiki tool – I will continually change the content till I get it 'right'. Please provide feedback to help achieve a sensible (ambitious, realistic, doable) aspiration for FTI (Sanjeev, 28 January 2009).

If FTI is to guarantee the quality of leaders it offers to the people of India, we must all become good leaders, and that includes being team players. Our personal failures to improve our leadership skills and work as a team can cost millions of lives in the future. On the other hand, with good leadership (the 'servant leadership' concept comes to mind), we can deliver the world to India today and in the future.

The kind of leader FTI is looking for is an ordinary, SOVEREIGN, citizen-leader who refuses to 'kow-tow' towards anyone within our outside FTI or any other organisation. Equally, team member must be committed to working collaboratively with others to achieve the society he/she wants.

The team has set itself ambitious goals for personal leadership development. When we learn karate, we must ultimately aim to become 9 Dan masters, or as in Richard Bach’s ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ – enter a realm of consciousness where we see the world from a 'higher' perspective (say, of 50,000 years) but deal with all the necessary detail today, to make that outcome, 50,000 years later, happen.

Level 4 or 5 leadership (cf. Jim Collins)
Similarly, FTI members could aim for level 5 leadership (just a concept, without getting too bogged down by what it means) in the end. In particular, hubris or arrogance comes naturally to all of us – humans that we are – so we need to doubly ensure we keep ourselves really low on the ground at all times! [I found these slides (650KB) on the internet and have kept them on my website – I acknowledge the author of these slides though I don't know the person!]

But level 5 is virtually impossible for most of us, requiring a level of self-awareness, self-control, calmness, critical thinking, sharp memory, and knowledge that we could barely hope to achieve without lifelong practice. Level 4 leadership is therefore an excellent intermediate step to aim, for most of us. Out of that may arise level 5 leadership. That will mean contributing to the success of India (not the team alone, which is only an instrument of that goal) as best as we can, without holding any expectations from anyone but ourselves alone, or even any expectation of success. As Newt Gingrich calls it in his book, 'Real Change', it is all about being citizen leaders and doing the right thing with 'cheerful persistence'. This is in keeping with many other wise teachings of a similar sort, like that of Krishna in the Gita, that doing the right thing is its own reward.

Flowing on from this team leader concept, we don't need any one or more leaders. Except for one occasion (1921) when Gandhi (a level 5 leader by most accounts) was the President of Indian Congress Congress he wasn't interested in nor bothered about these ceremonious roles. Yet, the Congress was almost entirely guided by his views for another 25 years. Similarly, when India became independent, he moved back into private citizenship for the most part, but remained a critical voice in India because of his moral leadership. Gandhi's example tells us a few things which we can seek to imbibe (without justifying everything Gandhi did or said)

a) Sincerity (do what you ask others to do)

b) Humility (never impose; be willing to listen)

c) Moral and philosophical leadership (elaborate on the bigger goals for each citizen and the world; aim not for a petty position for oneself, even the position of Prime Minister of India)

One of the great shortcomings of Gandhi was his failure to develop leaders. We can overcome this problem by ensuring a culture which generates leaders.

An organisational culture for FTI to aim for

"Organisation-free" organisation
We want a culture of equal independence and joint commitment to our common causes than a culture rather that values hierarchy in any way. We are goal focused, not title-focused. Therefore, FTI is a team of equals without (at least currently) any 'core group' or 'secretaries' or 'president'. Yes, we need a Trust to help us manage funds properly, and we can have 'office secretaries' and the like to keep things clean and tidy, but we don't need any Presidents, Secretaries, and such high-flown designations on FTI.

Why so?

a) We are equals
FTI is a flat 'pyramid' with no 'pointy top' of a single leader. We are all citizen-leaders and team players. Everyone on FTI is a citizen-leader. Hence we don't need a single leader (or a 'core group' of leaders).

b) Leadership challenge and development
FTI is all about leadership development. Each FTI member should – on his/her own – be sufficient to transform India. As Guru Gobind Singh said of the Sikhs he was prepating to be leaders – "Sava lakh se ek ladaun". Even one Gandhi is enough. We are asking for at least 1500 Gandhis, so India never has to be short of good leaders again.

c) We can contribute wherever we contribute best without formal titles
Members could aim to work as a team (each with their own independent opinions, which are always welcome) and take the lead on projects where they can contribute most. Of course, we can choose to play different roles (and hence exercise different levels of influence through persuasion). We can select/elect 'team leaders' for various teams or tasks, or (better still) nominate ourselves as 'team leaders' by volunteering to lead certan tasks. But we don't want (for the most part) any official designations and 'organsational structures'.

Similarly, local groups at constituency level we will need to help mobilise support. These groups (and should) function as enirely non-hierarchical 'families' and 'teams', not as formal bodies. We are friends working together, not 'high command' vs. the 'ordinary member'. All citizen-leaders.

Thus FTI aims to be an "organisation-free" organisation that requires high levels of commitment, understanding and a minimal ego on the part of each of the "team/family" members.

d) Formal roles can aggravate competitions and caus neeless conflict
Having 'offices' is also divisive, at least until the organisation is deeply bedded down in a culture of freedom and democracy. These 'offices' often distract from the main purpose and become a source of conflict. We should aim to avoid them until we have 1500 genuine (at least level 3 or 4) leaders with us. The public wants results, and doesn't want anyone fighting over utterly useless 'positions' which don't add any value to society.

We may ultimately have office bearers
It is not that FTI will never need 'office bearers' – in some contexts these may be relevant. When FTI really star
ts organising, some such things may be useful for as a public face. But these are indicidental, not critical to our goals. Even if FTI were to elect people to certain roles (say, a spokesperson), that would not make them anything 'above' the rest of the team. Everyone on FTI must always remain equally free, sovereign citizens.


Level 3: Good at one’s work and proficient in getting things done. Intent on short term results. People trust the leader and take him by his word. Works well as a team member and engages respectfully with others but not yet focused on developing others, the institution, or the country because limited by personal ego and over-sensitivity to other’s comments. Example: Most people on this group today (including me)

Level 4: Level 3 + able to show many people the bigger picture about India’s future and bring about a shift in perspective among many people including those on on FTI. Works as a democratic decision-builder, builds consensus, challenges people to grow out of their personal limitations while keeping them focused on the main goal. Able to generate consensus and common strategy which leads to significant achievements for India. However, intent on medium term results. Emphasis on developing leaders but not yet interested in succession planning because of limited time horizon. Example: Rajaji/Masani.

Level 5: Level 4 + able to show the world a new and more effective way of thinking, able to gain consensus across the world and deliver significant global change + focused on leadership development and succession: intent on long term results. Zero personal ego (in terms of personal aggrandisement) with 100% focus on results for India and the world. Example: Lincoln/ Gandhi (not completely level 5, though, possibly 4.5).


Here's an attempt to point out some of the required characteristics of an FTI leader – any and every FTI member. These traits are listed in no particular order:


  • Top most priority to one's own mental and physical health, and family relationships

  • Paying significant importance to one's inner world; self-awereness. Knows that if the inner world is lost, the outer world cannot be 'conquered'.

Inner qualities

  • Strategic: always focused on the goal/ on results. Not distracted by low priority issues

  • Strong sense of proportion: never 'sweats the small stuff'

  • Optimism (including 'learned optimism)

  • Enthusiasm; confidence that one will successfully contribute.

  • Ability to overcome adversity (in all its forms), e.g. ability to lose – repeatedly – and yet maintain focus and enthusiasm

  • Ability to remain calm in otherwise stressful situations

Dealings with others

  • Lots of (infinite) patience, including ability to explain the same thing again and again and again

  • Forbearance: willingness to ignore other's minor flaws knowing that no one (including oneself) is perfect

  • Respect for others on the team (and humane behaviour towards everyone more generally).

  • No lust for 'position', i.e. ablity to work as a team member without a formal role

  • Aware: sensitive to others' perceptions

  • Pleasant; delightful: never throws his weight around

  • Excellent communicator: both written and verbal

  • Values driven: truthful: doesn't hesitate from speaking the truth (subject to a sense of discretion; and of time and place)


  • Critical thinking: constant application of the rational mind; constantly asking questionsExtensive reading and knowledge (knowing that knowledge is never enough)

  • Humility to know that no one knows or can know everything

  • Learner: Committed to life long learning.

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