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Great Leaders : The Bosses We Remember…

New Delhi : The year was 2000 and month was July. We were having our monthly sales review with our circle CEO, Mr Deepak Khanna at ‘Drive in 22’, a resort on Ambala – Chandigarh highway. Resort was located exactly 22 kms from Ambala (that’s why the name) and 700-800 meters on the side of the highway. A kucha road from highway would lead to that resort. Review was planned for two days and we were planned to stay at the resort overnight. After hectic first day of review we were all sitting in the lawns, discussing how presenters made their presentations (kiski lagi our kaun bach gaya 😅) and waiting for our drinks to arrive (that’s the best part of review meetings 😂).

Suddenly, a small drizzle started and we all thought that it will be a passing shower. We kept sitting in the lawn and more people joined us for the gossip and our ‘king of Good Times’ had also arrived by then. Drizzle started growing thicker every minute and by the time we were through with our first pint 🍺 the drizzle had turned into rain. We were forced to shift ourselves to lobby, still not knowing what’s in store for us in next few hours. The dinner which was supposed to be served in the lawn was shifted to resort’s restaurant. By the time we finished our dinner, around 10 pm, the lawn had turned into a pool 🏊‍♂️ and it was difficult to return back to our rooms which were located on the other end of resort and we had to walk through open lawns to reach back to our rooms. The heat of review meeting was melting the clouds, we joked 😊.

We waited in the lobby for rain to subside a bit and asked hotel staff to arrange umbrellas for us when we suddenly saw a hotel staff member rushing towards us. He was panicky and told us to immediately shift our cars from the parking area, located near the gate, to the backside of resort as the water is entering the resort at the speed of knots and he feared that our cars might submerged in it by morning. Abiding by hotel staff’s directions we reached parking areas, fully drenched, despite umbrellas arranged by hotel staff. We shifted our cars to the backside of resort and came back to our rooms, fully drenched obviously but still thinking, positively, that rains will stop by midnight. I changed my clothes, reviewed my presentation which was scheduled for next day morning. Confident, that I’ll have a good presentation tomorrow, I switched off my laptop, packed it in the bag, reviewed crease of my shirt sleeves, trousers and tie and slipped into my quilt bidding good night to my partner. Soon I was into my deep sleep.

It was around 2 in the night we heard someone banging our room door frantically. At first I couldn’t understand and thought that I’m in a dream. But suddenly I realised that it’s real. We woke up, switched on the lights and opened the door. Hotel staff was standing outside with frightened face. He told us that water had entered the resort and there’s 3-4 feet water already in the outer area of resort. A nearby dam had broken and water is speeding towards the resort, not at the speed of knots but at the speed of light. They feared that by morning resort would be drowned and we had no alternative but to escape at this hour only. In the meantime we had received series of messages on our workgroups about the current situation. Ya, in those days there was no WhatsApp and we had our sms workgroups. We packed our bags and rushed to parking area. Rain had already turned into thunderstorm.

Reaching parking area, we saw that our Circle CEO, Mr. Khanna, was already there. He had not slept and was coordinating with hotel management. He had already anticipated that rains could turn into thunderstorms and had planned for ‘what if the team has to leave in the night’. While his team was slumbering he was awake, anticipating the inevitable and planning the escape route. Great leaders think this way. They anticipate and plan.

We were told that the road leading to the resort has been swept away by ever increasing water levels and we will have to drive through that 700-800 meter area very carefully. Nearby villagers had been asked to bring their tractors to ferry our cars through the water as the option of crane was not available at that hour. Our team from Ambala office was kept on standby and our rooms at Hotel Batra Palace had been booked. 2 employees from Ambala office had arranged for the car mechanics who would be standing at the highway in case any car breaks down. That’s meticulous planning even in the crisis situation.
We were told to take out our cars, one by one.

So who should be the first one to go. We were thinking when Mr. Khanna said ‘Amit, you go’. Amit was our Panipat Branch Head and tallest among all. We all wondered, why Amit ? Anyhow, Amit sat inside his car (Maruti 800) and drove outside the resort with car tied to the tractor. Just when he reached in the middle of the road, back tyre of his car stuck in mud. Amit had no option but to come out of his car and stand in the middle of water, we along with tractor driver watching him. He was 6 feet plus and being the tallest among all he had the least chance of drowning. Some villagers made their way to his car, in another tractor and lifted his car and pushed it across the road. Through this we all understood that we should avoid that path and drive our cars through adjacent path.

One after the other took out his car without any further hiccups.

Mr Khanna, kept telling us one by one who would be next person to go. And as the courtesy demanded, we would always say ‘Sir, aap jaye ye pehle’ and he would very politely say ‘ After you, Dear’.

Eventually, when everyone crossed that treacherous road and reached highway, we saw Mr. Khanna’s car coming. He was the last one to leave the resort and only after he was ensured that his team had reached the destination safely.

Great leaders don’t leave their teams in crisis rather they lead
When a ship sinks captain is the last one to leave the ship

This was the biggest lesson I learned on leadership skills and that was not taught in a training room but on a rainy night on the kucha road near the highway.

Next morning the presentations happened, on time and Mr Khanna was as energetic as ever. Thank God, clouds that day didn’t melt due to his heat 😊😊

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Gaurav is a management graduate with over 30 years of experience in Sales Management at various Functional levels. Had worked with Tata group, Tata Green Batteries as National Channel Head, Sleepwell Mattress as National Vertical Head, Vodafone as Circle Retail Head & Reliance Infocomm as Zonal Head. Presently, working as a Sales Strategy Consultant & Trainer and associated with Cos of repute. He’s a fitness enthusiast, HM runner & Cyclist

Gaurav Bhatia,

LP News

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One Comment

  1. Amazing Piece of Writing Gaurav! Very Interesting Read and Of Course Inspirational !

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