Leader: A True Learner

Leader: A True Learner

Shalini Mehrotra

Principal, VDJS

‘True leaders understand that leadership is not about them but about those they serve. It is not about exalting themselves but about lifting others up.’ – Sheri L Dew

Leaders are fundamentally learners. However, a true leader is one who does not only lead but nurtures everyone around her by the equality of her actions and the integrity of her intent. One who is not condescending in her approach, and has the gracious ability to listen to the needs of others with compassion, and dares to make tough decisions when required.

Being in the field of education, I am constantly surprised by the innovative and creative young minds that I get to witness. Every individual I have had the privilege of crossing paths with has made me learn something new, and it is the culmination of these experiences that makes me who I am today.
It’s been 70 years post independence and we still haven’t been able to liberate ourselves from the shackles of the English Raj. Immensely talented youths in our country cannot qualify for well-deserved opportunities due to their lack of command over English. One such incidence has left an indelible mark on me and compelled me to challenge our education system. During my interaction with prospective parents in the admission process, I noticed a young woman attired in a rural outfit outside my office trying to get me to notice her. Upon interacting with her, I realized that whatever may come her way, she was determined to get her daughter admitted in VDJS. She told me that she has been continuously applying for her daughter’s admission in our school but failed each time as she cannot interact in English. Her sheer determination, faith and confidence moved something within me.

On reasoning about her daughter’s scope in a school wherein the medium of instruction is English, and how this could impact the child’s confidence, her argument left me speechless. She said that they hail from a village where there is no school with teachers who know English in the first place. How, then, will her daughter get a chance to prove to the world that, given equal opportunity, she is no less able than those fortunate children who have access to quality education in reputed schools? I was left with no further argument to deny her daughter a chance that might change the fate of this bright young girl. The mother had left us questioning our education system.

On interacting with the child, we realized that despite the language constraint, she possessed immense talent and was keen to learn at VDJS. I had no doubt that I have to break the set barriers for admissions and open the door to immense opportunities for this confident and aspiring girl. No less, the sheer determination of the so-called uneducated mother was a reason compelling enough for me to take this chance. As expected, with the help of the teachers, peers and mentors, our experiment yielded positive results beyond our expectations. Today, she is no different than any other Jindalite of whom we are immensely proud. This experience reinstated my belief that every child has tremendous potential, no matter where they come from.

One thing became evident that day; the power of conviction will move reality in the direction of our belief. Beyond the field of ‘No’, there will always be a broader field of ‘Yes’. This incident also made me realize that sometimes even the most defined processes can and should be challenged when there is a determined person with a real purpose on the other side to improve the social ecosystem.