Respect for the role or the person?

A friend called up the other day. He had recently moved to a semi-independent role from a managerial role for a large portfolio and he was surprised that the attention he had been garnering until recently had gone down significantly. “Are they ungrateful or am I not the leader I was anymore?”  he wondered.

We mused this over a pot of coffee and a few cups of tea (we had one of those uber coffee shops nearby). He really had been a good manager, so this wasnt about people acting up. Not at all – so what was happening?

My friend got it first – “looks like I missed the “parnephelia associated with the position” with my person. The oohs and aahs were really for the position huh?”

We had a good laugh as we thought about the fate of our politicians once they were out of power. Or the hero who finds stardom suddenly elusive after a string of losses. What about the manager who who finds his (willing) subordinate list shorter after a transfer? Or even a teacher who finds disciples not quite as submissive when the students have graduated. Maybe understanding the adulation was really a “role thing” makes the heartburn easier on us…

But while this could be the rule, exceptions abound. Scientist and former Indian president Abdul Kalam fondly remembers his childhood teacher for shaping his success. We see Indian gurus and world-famous musicians wax eloquence on the greatness of their masters all the time. Anand viswanathan, the chess champ recalls his mother’s pivotal role in getting him onto the world stage.

The interesting thing when you think about it is that none of these “remembered” folks would have seen with certainity the success their prodigies were to become. Kalam’s teacher would certainly not have known his student was a scientist or a president in the making. He must have just given of his best – with no expectation of reciprocity of any kind. He must have actually given unconditionally to a million others who may have not captured the eyeballs but must be living quitely inspired lives somewhere.

Which brings us to a central question – how successful are we in doing what we are contracted to do (our position) and how do we fare on unconditional giving? (what we give dosent matter really – we could give anything at all- money, knowledge, compassion or wisdom).

And an even more pertinent question – have we thanked enough or spared a thought for the many who played “compass” in our lives?

Got to partake of my own medicine now – so if you’ll excuse me now – have some leading lights to call and say thanks now…..


  1. Good one Subra. I think I know your friend as well.

    In many walks of life, it is ‘what we are’ that is more important than ‘who we are’. We all are searching for some things in life and are typically attracted to ‘hi fliers’ and successful individuals. Once the glamour wanes or when we get what we search for, a majority of us move on. Those that stay behind to keep in touch are those that respect the person. We have seen this in many movies, haven’t we ?

    Have we thanked enough ? No amount of thanks is actually enough. If we remember those guiding lights during important moments in our lives and be grateful for their guidance we can take that we have done our job.

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