Kachori Leadership

September 2, 2016 | Author: Amit Pandit

A single search of the word “leadership” generates millions of hits, referring to its definition and practice ranging from historical practices to scientific research on leadership. Yet this is a field that is not fully understood and there is not a single leadership trait that works for all situations.

I do not claim to have read the millions of internet articles or the millions of books from public libraries about the art and science of leadership, but I do have a keen interest in understanding what drives people to follow someone and join others who follow the same leader to accomplish a common agenda or a goal.

I am an occasional reader of Harvard Business Review articles on leadership and general management and have also read books by Peter Drucker and Dale Carnegie, as well as biographies of some of the greatest leaders ever like Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and such.

My takeaway from all this reading is that a leadership is a thought, not a person. A thought that excites its followers and stimulates their brain so the leader and the follower(s) work in harmony and synchrony like a perfectly oiled machine with all the gears engaged and grinding together to produce an established outcome or a common goal. 

As a curious observer, I came across one such leader when I was on a business trip to Honeywell Technology Solutions Bengaluru. I had the opportunity to know Mr. Sunit Saxena.  Sunit is a senior engineering manager at Bengaluru for Honeywell Technology Solutions. Sunit has developed a team of around 20 highly motivated individuals working overtime and odd hours developing some of the greatest products for Honeywell Aerospace business.

I was amazed to see a unique style of leadership. The team looked enthusiastic and happy to help. Sunit told me that he and his team make sure to spare one hour every month to meet casually with the entire team over some snacks and tea. During this time, the members come with an open mind, leaving their projects or their titles outside the room to discuss serious matters in a casual way. This platform allows them to have an emotional bond.  It also allows them to realize the typical work they do during the day and odd late hours is not for their boss and not because they have to do it, but because it is their team’s responsibility to deliver. In other words, they feel responsible for the team’s overall goals. If one team member has a deliverable due or a meeting very late in the day to match time on U.S. east coast, the remaining team does not simply wrap up and go home. Rather, they stay back and continue making progress in their own projects. This creates a perfectly harmonious functional team, which works together and not in parts.

All this coherence in the team is accomplished by that monthly one hour snack party.  I call it “Kachori Leadership”. (Kachori is a spicy Indian snack, very famous in northern India). Kachori leadership allows team members to openly express their opinions, ideas, complains or concerns, knowing that their ideas matter. Even though it is an open forum, none of the conversations or feedback is taken for granted. Each comment is seriously noted and acted upon for marginal improvement. This cycle of feedback, action and improvement gets constantly polished over time and results in a high performing team.

Average managers lead the entire team in a uniform fashion and move in the same direction, while the Kachori leadership style allows a leader to discover what is unique about each individual and then they capitalizes on it. This was evident when I noticed that each team member in Sunit’s team had a unique personality. Funny enough, I even noticed that each team member was given a second name that linked them to some famous person in history. This behavior was a way of recognizing each person’s individual strengths and capitalizing on them. In other words, the whole group felt bigger than the sum of its members. The whole team felt like a big family where everyone knows everyone and everyone wants to work with everyone.

Here are things you can do to employ Kachori Leadership:

  • Plan a biweekly or monthly recurring time to know your team.
  • Use this time as active brainstorming session in the disguise of casual socialization.
  • Plan ahead, sow the seed of topics to be discussed, but listen and let the team talk.
  • Take note of all comments and all conversations that are happening and later act upon them.
  • Treat each individual with respect and try to establish “we focus” instead of “I focus”.
  • Show genuine interest in each individual and try to remember each person’s name and address them with their name. 
  • Become genuinely interested in other people and make the other person feel important, but do it sincerely.

Kachori leadership theory can be applied anywhere across the globe. For example, teams in the U.S. have meetings over doughnuts and coffee or a monthly pizza party. However, a lot of onus is on the leader or manager of such teams, because they have to learn to use this precious casual time to gather feedback and act upon it to constantly improve their team’s performance.

To support my theory of leadership impact on team performance, I take the following passage verbatim from Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee’s study of Primal Leadership.

“A leader’s emotional style drives everyone else’s moods and behaviors-through a neurological process called mood contagion. It is like smile and the whole world smiles with you. Emotional intelligence travels through an organization like electricity over telephone wire. On the contrary depressed, ruthless bosses create toxic organizations filled with negative underachievers”.

Amit Pandit

Amit Pandit

Amit Pandit is a senior flawless launch engineer at Honeywell Aerospace.

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  • Bill Kircos

    Great advice - and a very spicy snack (!)

  • Rich Barlow

    A really neat idea to get to know your team even better! Thanks for sharing. :)

  • Vijayvenkatesh Srinivasan

    Very nice article. Good idea for informal team bonding and brainstorming.

  • Naresh

    Many thanks for sharing

  • Mohan Singh Tomar

    Very nicely delivered leadership lesson. Thanks Amit and Sunit.

  • Milos Kovac

    Yes I definitely agree, that this must be part of good leader. But it is not enough. I believe that true leader must clearly know what enable every team member in his team. What are his values, his passion, what his personal life vision and life challenges are. If you do not know what are values of your team member you basically do not know what really inspires him and how to motivate him to better productivity and help him to be really happy in his work. Mr Marriott in his books was mentioning, that their leadership culture includes talking with team members about their personal challenges as well and helping them to solve them, even if this may looks like outside of company job issues. He was saying, that this was only way how to make sure that every employee will do his best with contact of customers all the time. Somebody else was alsay explaining, that true exceptional leader is one who will make all his followers feel better of themselves. And this is true, because ultimate target should be that every employee is doing his work because it is part of his own life vision and goals. In that case leader do not need to do a lot of activities management, because everybody in his team is self leader. Question is how many people really knows what his personal life vision and goals are. My experience is, that unfortunately only very few.

  • Muthusankar S

    I liked the title and techniques described to employ Kachori leadership :)

  • Senthil Kumar S

    Thank you for sharing ….Very inspirational remark about Leadership :)

  • Navin Shetti

    Hi Amit: Thank you for sharing. I think we all can implement elements of this in our MOS. Navin

  • Deepavali Desai

    "Kachori" leadership is indeed a very interesting concept . Thank you for sharing Amit.

  • Shivani Roshan

    Very interesting article!! This is the style which differentiates a Leader from a Manager!!! And like you said it is always a thought that one follows not the person...thanks for sharing...

  • Swathi Pennapareddy

    Interesting and innovative ideology! Thanks for sharing...

  • Usha

    Nice simple article and well said about the leaders emotional influence upon the team. I was trying to see how Honeywell and kachori are tied up and landed up reading this article. ..eye catching title indeed😊