The journey towards the formation of the National School of Leadership began way back in 1994 during a train journey in a IInd Class compartment in the North East Express travelling from Guwahati to New Delhi. The compartment was packed with NCC cadets and I was representing the North Eastern Region as a best cadet, Junior Division, to participate at the Republic Day Camp in New Delhi. The train halted at Kishanganj (a small town in Bihar) for 2 minutes where a tall, muscular gentleman with an overgrown beard, face almost resembling a pirate of the Long John Silver fame, but clad in an old, almost torn Indian Kurta boarded the train and sat silently next to me. Few hours of speculations and scary perceptions about him later, we spoke.
He identified himself as Vighnesh Kashyap, a social worker travelling to Patna to work for street vendors. Even while I basked in the glory of going to participate at the Republic Day Camp, and he demonstrated humbleness in working towards sustainable living for the poor, we discovered something in common between the two of us: Our love for our nation and our dream to see our nation lead in all aspects.
While the train was cruising at its peak speed, the sharp wind through window bars piercing through our nostrils making it difficult for us to breathe. Vighnesh pulled down the window and continued the conversation in Hindi, in his own poetic way. Feeling linguistically impaired most of the time, my limited exposure to Hindi kicked my ego every passing moment. All I could do was pretend that I understood and agreed to every word he said. But I did pick up a few keywords: Sustainable Development, Giving Back to Society, Imparting Education amongst Masses, Change, Leadership and LEAD INDIA amongst others.
Being a IXth Standard student then from Don Bosco School, Guwahati, I saw serious challenges in my involvement in Social Development wherein my source of Sustenance was my pocket money which was barely enough to Give Back even so much as a candy to Society even if I get a Lifetime Achievement Award in return. And I stood a greater chance at Changing and Misleading India if I were to Impart Education to Masses by bringing my intellectual innocence to play. LEAD INDIA, imparting education to masses, did stay back giving me sleepless nights helping me realize how badly I wanted it. It pulled all other key words along with it and pushed me to Delhi after my XIIth Standard to pursue my graduation from Delhi University.
We started teaching slum children in Mall Road, Delhi, through Vighnesh’s social organization, Path, and took up small time jobs to sustain their study. This led to a revolutionary change and a visible paradigm shift in the children we taught and we exceeded our own expectations by multiple folds. This was the turning point which took us from Dream LEAD INDIA to Vision LEAD INDIA.
As time passed we saw a massive increase in the number of children we were teaching and our finances, or rather lack of it, posed as the biggest threat to their learning. Small time jobs in pubs, restaurants, game parlors, public transport, and private tuition did not help anymore. I joined the corporate world while Vighnesh ventured out for funds for Path. We survived.
During my tenure in the corporate world, it was evident that the frantic rat race and survival of the fittest in the industry had an impact on the behaviour of corporate employees across the board, on the things they do – seemingly unrelated actions that sometimes go a long way in curtailing or slowing down their own careers.
There was a huge space – and the inescapable need - for real leaders across organizations, irrespective of the positions they held. Leadership is required everywhere, and we needed a broader perspective, a platform which would not only LEAD INDIA by empowering rural India with Leadership skills but would also formulate a way to build the kind of management competencies that are required in the global market today. This led to the formation of the National School of Leadership.
Three years were spent on extensive research where CEOs and other leaders from some of the greatest companies and educational institutions joined us to design the dream curriculum based on requirements from these organizations keeping in mind their future Leaders. We spent time over how a successful CEO thinks and what are the kinds of people she or he would like to work with. This loosely-linked group of industry stalwarts has today evolved into the NSL Consortium for Global Leaders, or CGL.
One of the key requirements of this entire structure was a very strong technology platform, which would be the backbone of the NSL program. With the help of our colleague Amit Saha, a techonology mastermind, we designed the next generation technology infrastructure which would not only support such learning, but also be a platform for the CGL to build their future leaders. It took over a year to build the state-of-the-art infrastructure.
National School of Leadership was established primarily with the intent of empowering people, organizations and nations to grow at a pace that could keep them at the very forefront of development. We defied common age old perceptions such as ‘leaders are born, not made’, ‘there are no short-cuts to success’, ‘innovations can happen in well equipped laboratories and board rooms only’, ‘leadership is only based on authority’ et cetera – all of which we gave a massive thumbs-down to. In the process, we unveiled the biggest secret and hidden reality behind all existing myths – you can be a leader by choice.
I welcome each one of you to this prestigious institution, and pledge our support to help you transform yourself, your organization and your nation into being leaders by choice.