Sunny Sunrise Gurung has over 10 years of training and organisational development experience and has successfully brought positive professional and personal transformation in over 5000 individuals globally. Since 2015, Sunny has been working as a Business Skills Trainer for a leading training and development organisation in Northern Virginia, USA. With his training and coaching, he transforms his clients into successful Corporate Employees. Business 360 had an opportunity to quiz Gurung about things pertaining to leadership. Excerpts from the interview:
What is your definition of leadership?
Some see leadership as a gift, hence the phrase, leaders are born. Some see leadership as a challenge. But leadership, in its true essence, is an opportunity. It is an opportunity to change not only your life, but also the lives of all those who trust and follow you.
What are the characteristic features that distinguish a leader? What do leaders do differently?
Effective leaders have three core skills – VQ, SQ and EQ. VQ stands for Vision Intelligence. It is the ability to see the future. SQ stands for Situational Intelligence. It is the ability to adapt to the demand of a given situation. EQ stands for Emotional Intelligence. It is the ability to connect with others. It is the willingness to put yourself in others’ shoes by effectively using empathy and sympathy.
Many see Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a threat to the human workforce in the near future, what role does leadership play to prepare businesses and employees for such situations?
Change is the only constant. And AI is the future! There is no escaping it. From a business stand point, leaders need to adapt to AI for any task that needs repetition. The goal should be zero defects, high quality and increased efficiency. And AI can deliver that! Trust me, it makes life much easier. From an employee stand point, leaders need to build the emotional capacity of their employees. You see, AI will get the work done for you. But your employees will add the human touch that makes your products and services come to life.
If you could name five essential skills that a leader requires in this day and age, what would they be?
First and most important is Knowledge of Self. It is very important to understand yourself inside out. Analyse your strengths, your challenges and your limits. Second is VQ. As Shiv Khera rightfully said: “Have a vision. It is the ability to see the invisible. If you see the invisible, you can achieve the impossible.” Third is to be a Follower. Whether active or passive, a leader needs to follow an inspiration. Inspiration can be drawn from other leaders or it can be drawn from non-living source such as mountain or the sun. Fourth is the willingness to Reciprocate. I think this is the biggest reason behind employee turnover. When an employee contributes to your vision, you need to reciprocate with acknowledgement. If you fail to do so, your employees will lose motivation and may leave you. You see, an employee does not leave a company. They leave a leader. Fifth and final is the willingness to Accept Failure. Bill Gates said: “Failure is not the opposite of success. It is the first step toward success.” Accepting your failure will take you closer to succeeding.
Can leadership be taught or is it an in-built feature in human beings?
Steve Gladis, in his book, ‘Positive Leadership – The Game Changer at Work,’ writes, 50% of who we are, how we feel and how we behave is because of our predominant personality. Some call it genes. It is how we were born. Hence the phrase: “Leaders are born.” 10% of who we are, how we feel and how we behave is because of our day to day life experiences. The external factors responsible for our daily life experiences are not directly under our control. And these experiences can easily influence how we feel and what we become. But most importantly, 40% of who we are, how we feel and how we behave is because of our choices. 40% is a huge number. If you own 40% share in a public company, you are treated like a king. If you get a 40% raise in your monthly income, that makes a significant improvement in your life. Never underestimate the power of 40% i.e. your choices. So leadership for me is based on the choices you make.
How and in what way attending workshops help an attendee?
Leaders are so busy in their continuous effort to achieve their vision that they seldom get time out to sit down, reflect and analyse the effectiveness of their leadership approaches. When leaders attend workshops, it gives them the much needed opportunity to reflect and analyse their leadership effectiveness. Through workshops, leaders will not only add new skills, but they will explore their true potential, which will aid them in building a strong self, and a strong team. After all, a strong self and a strong team is the secret mantra of success.
Is leadership trait and style universal? Does what works for a company leader in Nairobi work for his contemporary in Kathmandu? If so, how? What can and cannot be replicated?
Absolutely not! It never was and it will never be. Every economy and society is unique. They are different in terms of core values, principle, culture, life style, market need and mentality. Having said that, leaders should also understand that though trait and style needs to change, the core leadership skills i.e. VQ, SQ and EQ are universal. It is needed in all geography.
What are the objectives of leadership workshops?
The objective of leadership workshops is mainly to show a mirror to the participants. As I said earlier, leaders seldom get time to reflect. Workshops will help participants identify their strengths and their challenges. Most importantly, leadership workshops will equip participants with contemporary ground breaking leadership skills that will help them in taking their company and their team to the next level.
Why is leadership skill suddenly under the spotlight? Everyone wants to study it (college courses) or acquire it (through workshops).
After all, leadership is the art and science of leading others effectively. In the past, organisations were owner driven. Owners established a company, hired employees, and had them blindly follow the owners. Today, it is a completely different ball game. Organisations today are employees driven. And this is the future too. In the past, as long as you managed yourself, you could sail just fine. Today, managing yourself is important. However, having the ability to manage your employees is critical to your organisational success. The better you manage them, the better your chances of professional growth. That is why everyone wants to study leadership.
Could you tell us some of the leadership approaches that worked in the past but won’t today?
Some? I can tell you many! One approach that will not work today is ‘Leaders know it all.’ In this age of information, employees have the skills to not only complement, but also to supplement leaders. Another approach that is bound to fail today is ‘Money is the only motivation.’ Millennial or Gen Y are purpose driven. The idea that, as long as I pay them their basic salary on time, they should give me their lives, is as old as black and white television. Leaders need to find other ways to motivate their employees. Finally, the mentality that ‘Employees are a cost to the company’ is one of the reasons why Nepal is struggling to go past the ‘Under-developed economy’ name tag. Leaving few exceptions, most companies still view employees as a cost and not an asset. This in-turn breeds de-motivation and disloyalty. Those leaders who view their employees as asset, most definitely, have a prosperous future.
How are Millennial and Generation-X different as leaders than Baby Boomers?
I may look old due to my grey hair, but the fact is, I am a millennial myself. Millennial or Gen Y are best referred as Generation ‘We.’ We have had the best education ever. We were exposed to technology and social media from a young age. We were brought up to be equal and socially responsible. We are more aware and knowledgeable. But most importantly, we were always taught to be purpose driven. We were taught to have a goal in life. To summarise, the main source of motivation for a generation Y leader comes from (a) purpose, (b) equality, (c) constant recognition, (d) online presence, and (e) active participation in social cause. This is how we are different as a leader in comparison to Gen X and Baby Boomers.