Stability in the storm: Reflections in challenging times

Finding the right path when all is murky is a special challenge today. Deep listening and deep conversations can throw some light. This facilitated conversation does just that

Founding Fuel

Note: Welcome to the first in a new series, called Thinking Room. These learning sessions are designed for small groups of leaders, where insights emerge from building on each other’s experiences and ideas.   

There are three ways you can access this discussion: 1. Watch the complete video above (recommended). 2. Listen to just the audio track below. 3. Watch interesting takeaways from the discussion (further below in the article) before you choose to watch or listen to the full discussion.  


Intense churn. Uncharted territory. New normal. These are the kind of phrases we’ve heard across the board.

So, what strategies are leaders and organisations using to stay on top of the cataclysmic changes that are breaking out around us?

It’s clear that we need a new playbook for leaders and for leadership, because many of the existing tools of leading a business, like scenario planning for instance, are more likely to fail us at this time. Because no one had quite seen this kind of uncertainty and volatility ever before.

To make sense of it and find new directions, we need to step back and reflect on what we're really going through as leaders.

That's why we created Thinking Room—a metaphoric virtual and mental space for deeper conversations, a space to gather wisdom from each other.

The first conversation in this series was led by Kaushik Gopal, a business psychologist who has worked as an executive coach and a consultant in leadership. He is currently transitioning out of his role as managing consultant at YSC.

The intensely conversational session drew direction from Kaushik’s deep work with leaders around the world.

The special guests and the Founding Fuel team then went into breakout sessions—huddles in smaller groups—to share our experiences and insights and thread out new meaning from each other.

These breakout sessions were facilitated by Kavi Arasu, who provides thought leadership to Founding Fuel's learning business.

And the special guests included: Satish Pradhan, a former Tata group veteran; Ipsita Dasgupta, country manager, India, Apple Services; Judhajit Das, CHRO at ICICI Prudential; Shrinath Bolloju, managing director, operations and technology at Citibank, South Asia; Vedika Bhandarkar, managing director at; Arun Anant, partner and co-founder at IncValue Advisors; and K Vaitheeswaran, co-founder, Again Drinks.

Excerpts from the conversation

From crisis to meaning making

“[When] Nelson Mandela came out of prison, he changed the entire dialogue [around apartheid]—from civil war to something very constructive. When I look at this entire process of churn, I find that there is a certain flow. There's a crisis, there's suffering, and there’s a meaning making process. And then there's an emergence.” - Kaushik Gopal

How are leaders responding or reacting to the present crisis?

“The leaders who are able to thrive are the ones who can take this opportunity—the slowdown in activity—to step back and reflect on the way forward. [They] are able to use this chaos to guide and push their team to think ahead. To challenge their team to take a real deep look at their model.” - Vedika Bhandarkar 

How do you work with the people who are feeling victimised or are in denial?

“They're talking about things like Zoom has taken over our lives. A mother’s got to handle the children now that they're not going to school. The food, the cleaning—everything. And yet, from nine to nine, she’s on Zoom because it’s expected. The responsibility that needs to happen is, what do we as an organisation do? Are we really listening down the line? Are we paying attention to the impact on different people?” - Kaushik Gopal

Qualities that help a leader move forward

“There are two underlying characteristics of leaders that make a big difference in a time like this. One is clarity of thought—ability to separate signals from noise, or find patterns in chaos. The second is the ability to adapt. Who knew that you have to develop a skill set to understand how to make senior employees comfortable with working at their home—manage their household chores, and deliver.” - Ipsita Dasgupta

What could I or other leaders do practically to have an impact?

“There's a sense of frustration that you can see. There was a quote from this person that we are all managers, there's nobody here who's really a leader. What he meant is that nobody's taking a step back and looking at what's the impact on everyone. There's so much negativity. How can we focus on the response and change that area or that part of the narrative to help deal with this kind of broader crisis?” - Kaushik Gopal 

Still curious? Here’s why listening without judgement can help leaders understand the big picture and improve the quality of their decisions. And how your worldview—or lenses—influence your leadership calls.

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About the author

Founding Fuel

Founding Fuel aims to create the new playbook of entrepreneurship. Think of us as a hub for entrepreneurs- the go-to place for ideas, insights, practices and wisdom essential to build the enterprise of tomorrow. It is co-founded by veteran journalists Indrajit Gupta and Charles Assisi, along with CS Swaminathan, the former president of Pearson's online learning venture.

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