Leaders or just Managers?

Recalling an incident from 2007, it reminds me of the ideology of being “emotional for your work and company”. The phrase comes to mind – “Married to the company”.

In the past I have tried to be very emotional around my work, but a couple of discussions back in 2008 with a Senior Project Manager and a Director made me realize a few things. And now when I contemplate those things back and see similar things happening elsewhere too.

My assessment back then was that being emotional towards work and company (someone else) will only hurt me in the end. In the past I had worked almost twice the tenure with my company. For the 4 years I spent, my time spent working clocked to almost 8 years. No doubts that I was learning a lot, but the mistakes I did was that I was emotional about my work. I used to put that in front of everything else in my life. The rewards were good too – money, position etc. Until the day my project started to do South. A meeting that I had with a Senior Project Manager (Manish) around my future role on the project made me realize that he was going to sacrifice a human interest for the betterment of the project. He is a very successful manager in the organization and is very talented too.

A year later in 2008, another meeting made me realize that the company will choose to pay new hires more than what I am getting because I enjoy the Goodwill in the organization. I was not fully sure how to respond back then. But, I realize now that this is how every company operates. What I fail to understand is how that works out. A company/manager chooses to pay less to an existing employee who has done well for them and has generated results in the past; someone who knows the domain and the company. How can a manager/company let go of that person and go about finding a replacement only to give that new person a higher compensation and in the process spend a lot more on training and opportunity.

Maybe, this is a trait of a successful manager, I do not believe that this is a trait for a good leader. I have not done any MBA, but all these people who are running companies around me are MBAs from IIMs and other premier institutes. I do not understand the rationale behind it.

Why I am going to US?

In last few weeks, I have managed to turned my life into a living nightmare of some sorts. I guess it all started when I took up an assignment on July 2010 for a year. I came back into India for a period of 3 weeks to get Aabhya’s admissions in nursery and get her started on her 14 years of educational journey.

Here I am still in India – for a period of 12 weeks; way more than I could have ever thought about. I have canceled my travel plans twice now and I am staring at travel on March 25 – just 3 days away. And once again, I am going through a phase of seeing Preeti sad and will be seeing Aabhya crying when I am leaving for Airport.

Starting Feb 7, 2011 – till date; I have been thinking about going or not going and I have been oscillating back and forth many times and several times in a day. I had to cancel my trip early March because I just could not take the pressure and thought maybe I can stay back. I was risking termination because of my action of canceling at the very last minutes. However, all things turned out well and currently, I do have an option of saying No to travel for this assignment `at least`. But, once again I am inclined to travel.

Preeti says – she can only see one reason which is “Money” – that I want to earn more money. Well here are my reasons:

  1. Sincerity and Honesty: I have been always sincere in my work – never said something that I could not do and never lied. Until early March when I did lie so that I do not have to travel. And somehow, I have not been at rest since that day. I feel that good things have happened to me in past because I have been honest in what I did; but this time dis-honesty is something that is not cut-out for me. Somehow, inside of me I want to make amends and get done with the assignment that I committed 8 months back
  2. Complacent and Fear: I have reached a point when I have started to find excuses for my doing challenging work – This project makes me work with some of the worst people; who are very politically influenced. I knew this from the start and never wanted to work with them. Last time around, I was kind of forced by fear of termination into this project and when I reached the ground i did quite OK. But, this time I see a chance of getting out and I was inclined to get out of the mess and do something else.
  3. Practicality over emotions: Last week my decision changed because I was offered a set of responsibilities that will provide me an opportunity to work in areas where I have not worked before and may lead me to a promotion by end of this year. I told this to Preeti and she asked me – what are the alternatives; if you do not do this, how long will your promotion be delayed? – I think it may be about another 1 – 2 years. Preeti is right in some sense if I can not sacrifice 2 years for a promotion than leave her and Aabhya for a a period of 4 months. I do not wish to do so because I believe in taking decisions on what I see in front of me right now. I can not foresee any part of the future and hence do not know what is going to be offered to me in upcoming next 2 years. I may or may not get what I am getting now. I do not think I can deal very well seeing people around me grow at a rate faster than me because they lick their boss’s ass and I ca not do that. Hence, my options are fairly limited and this is one opportunity that is going to get me to that place – hopefully.
  4. Career move: After a lot of hunting around in Indian markets, I have realized that there is no future for Architects. That role does not exist in a leadership role – CTO or CIO unless you have your own company or know someone in that position in an Indian company. I have to move over to a Program manager role and the responsibilities I am being offered in my current role, provide me with a very lucrative opportunity to move into that role and still get promoted without loosing any time. If I was to switch into this role now as a PM, it would mean another 2-3 years before I get into a PM stream.

I do see the point that I am going to sacrifice 4 months of my life with my wife and daughter and I am going to loose Aabhya’s early school life. I missed her start of Kindergarten and I am going to miss on her 3 months of Nursery too. I will miss Preeti’s birthday and any other occasions and events that will happen during this time. I will be able to speak to them daily and do video chats as and when possible. I know from past it will not be too frequent given our schedule.

And this is where I get emotional and conflicted. Career over Family? I do not think I am choosing Career or Family. I do feel that I am still choosing my Family over Career because this is step is going to get me to a position in a company where

  • I can continue to work just 8 hours in any given day;
  • Reach a leadership role where travel is limited to once of twice a year for about 1 week at a stretch and;
  • I can not live by a lie and teach my daughter to be of a principle. Although, the lie was for my family¬† but is a lie nevertheless, a breach of my integrity and ethics. A legacy I do not wish to leave for my daughter. I hope when she grows old she understands me and is able to pardon me for not being for her.

It is not about Money; Money is just a bi-product of what is happening. However, it is an important bi-product and can not be taken out of the equation. In all ways, however I look at it – Family always comes first. Nobody gains by leaving their Family behind to become CEO of a company and get lots of money, big houses, fast cars. All those are crap if you do not have your loved ones next to you when you die. And by no imagination do I want to earn that kind of money and give up the opportunity to spend a life with my family. But, then I can not also ignore the part the there are basic needs and we are at a point when those basic needs have found a way of evolving by themselves and we can not control those – Dad is going to get retired some day, Aabhya is growing up and she will have her own demands. Mum, Dad, Preeti and I are getting older and our health will have certain demands too – both time and money. I am not at a place where I can afford to take an average path and still be able to satisfy all those needs. This is one opportunity that will take me to a Sr. Manager position and will put in a place / position where I can move ahead with a slight advantage and deliver what my Family needs from me.