‘Being the change’ with Dr. Connson Locke
“For the longest time, my parents thought I was a failure.” Dr. Connson Locke’s powerful opening sentence set the tone for what was to be an engaging and inspiring guest session at the Young India Fellowship Programme.
Dr. Locke, a lecturer in Management and Leadership at the prestigious London School of Economics, then proceeded to share her journey with the Fellows. Her life was something that several of us could identify with, and animportantmessage that emerged from her account of it was that it is okay to be confused. She stated that nothing one ever does is a waste of time and explained how she has used everything she has done in the past to get to where she is today. This includes a B.A. in Sociology from Harvard University, over ten years of experience in management consulting and training, and an M.Sc. in Business Administration —followed by a PhD — from the University of California, Berkeley. “I was 33 before I realized that teaching is what I really want to do, so my message to all of you would be to keep searching,” she said.
Dr. Locke then moved on to the ‘What’ and ‘How’ of leadership. She explained how leadership is used in every aspect of life, and dealt with several misconceptions about leadership. She showed that leaders and managers do not have to be mutually exclusive, and also that although one may be born with leadership qualitiesthey can also be learned. “I don’t like research which tells me that how I was born determines whether I succeed,” she quipped, drawing nods of agreement and appreciation from several members of the audience.
The importance of charting your own path and determining your own values is another aspect that Dr. Locke stressed. “When you grow up with authoritarian parents, you tend to imbibe their values as your own. You also imbibe a lot of values from your peers,” she explained, adding that it is necessary to find the values you identify with in the midst of all these inputs.
A final, valuable lesson that Dr. Locke gave the Fellows was the need to be conscious role models. Building on Mahatma Gandhi’s ideal of ‘being the change you want to see’ she said that the culture of an organization grows around the behaviour of its leaders. “People talk about leaders as role models, but they don’t realize that being a leader invariably does make you a role model,” she said. “The bigger the leader, the bigger the shadow he casts,” she added. She stressed the necessity to cultivate self-awareness and judge the impact of one’s actions on others.
When asked about her views on strengths and weaknesses, Dr. Locke gave the aspiring leaders a resonant message. “Don’t think about strengths and weaknesses, think about passion. Focus on what you really enjoy doing. Let your passion drive you, and work on the weaknesses that get in the way.”
By embodying the qualities that she teaches, Dr. Locke has served — consciously or unconsciously — as an incredibly inspirational role model for the Young India Fellows of 2012-13.