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Expanding I – Leadership Development

Apr 21, 2016

During the IDI’s Global Leadership Symposium in Shimla, India, last November the participants consisted of SAI young leaders – and SAI experienced leaders from different INTOSAI regions attending the meeting. Ms Archana Shirsat, Deputy Director General & Head of Capacity Development at IDI (INTOSAI Development Initiative) in this blog item shares her experiences from the symposium.

-“What defines your generation?!” I asked a bright young lady sitting in the leadership symposium.

-“It is all about me” she said!

The quieter young persons in the room nodded in agreement. The more seasoned leaders looked on with interest. So, the younger generation mainly think about themselves?? I found their honesty refreshing and I admired their courage! They were not afraid of being judged as selfish and self- centred. They said this as if it was the most natural thing to say. As I interacted and watched other leaders, as I reflected on my own actions, I became acutely aware that the young lady’s response was true for all of us!! After all, it is only natural that each person mainly thinks about themselves, their thoughts, ideas, successes and failures.

On the other hand, many of the leadership development theories and best practices that I have been exposed to, talk about developing leaders who create opportunities for others, open doors, show compassion, care,  and give back.

Are we chasing impossible dreams? More importantly, are we barking up the wrong leadership tree by requiring people to be other than what they are? How do we balance this contradiction between our nature and recommended best practices? I had been thinking about this for some time when I started browsing through my old copy of ‘Little Prince’ by Antoine De Saint-Exupery. This time when I read the conversations between the prince and the business man, the prince and the fox … it got me thinking….. When the businessman in the story thought he owned stars because he counted them, the Prince reacted by saying ‘But you are of no use to the stars’. The fox brought this truth again to the Prince by saying ‘You are responsible for what you own’. If the younger generation’s leaders primarily focus their attention on themselves, leadership development can be about facilitating a process of expanding their sense of self and ‘I’ to include and take responsibility for the things they own. My team, My SAI, My community.

What will it take to facilitate the expansion of ‘I’? Exposure to a wide set of experiences, thoughts and cultures? Opportunities for deeper connect with the team, SAI and community? A recognition at the SAI and community level of the contribution made by the young leader? A culture that encourages and rewards such contributions? I believe it will take all these and much more. A good starting point would be to provide opportunities for the individual to develop an understanding of their ‘I’. It is possible to reach out to others only when you are comfortable under your own skin. For some of us, that is a lifetime effort ………..


Archana Shirsat

Deputy Director General & Head of Capacity Development, IDI (INTOSAI Development Initiative)