Often we pre assume “advising” as very organized; involving an advisor, mentee and a process. However, from ancient time, we have had examples of resourceful, talented and often unassuming people inspiring and advising others without even being aware of it – they are the passive advisors.
Recently, I had a privilege to meet my organization CEO at a panel discussion.
Amidst the leadership insights, punctuated with humor, the conversation dwelled on advising. History shows us some great examples of passive advisors. The famous Indian epic Mahabharata depicts Ekalavya the young boy who wanted to learn archery from the acclaimed guru (teacher), Dronacharya. However, Dronacharya refused to teach Ekalavya since he lacked the desired social status. Undeterred, Ekalavya made a stone replica of the famed guru and armed with inspiration, self-taught himself into becoming the best archer in the kingdom. Whilst Dronacharya was not there in person to teach the young disciple; he was there in his prayers. Dronacharya …..the passive advisor.
Over the years I too have had many passive advisors; one of them being my friend Bala. He is a leader I have known for a decade, from whom I learnt character. I am fortunate to have learned some remarkable life lasting qualities from many other passive advisors too. Sometime early in my career, work took me frequently to my company’s manufacturing plant in the outskirts of TamilNadu. As a greenhorn trainee, I had a chance encounter with one of the plant employees whose only job was to serve hot refreshments to customers and potential clients visiting the plant. He was always impeccably attired in his crisply starched white shirt and trousers with polished black shoes: he bore a perpetual smile. He rarely spoke as he suffered from acute stammering. However, the inimitable and purposeful manner in which he served his guests stood out. He would make the perfect tea with the correct amount of tea leaves, milk and sugar and serve it along with biscuits.
Mr. Bala communicated with his smile and positive demeanor. On occasion he would silently scrutinize my dress as if to communicate that I was below par. What I learnt from this simple gentleman were 3 things; firstly, dignity of labor. No matter how mundane a task, treat it as it were the world’s best! Secondly, how even simple attire can project a professional image, when well managed. His spick-and-span white clothes and shoes really said, “You are very important”.