What if a million people in India discovered their leadership potential? That question has driven Sangeeth Varghese for the last four years and led to LeadCap.
As graduate student at the London School of Economics, Sangeeth studied the significance of effective leadership in the development of nations. Along the way, he concluded that leadership is a personal decision. Connecting the two themes, Sangeeth realized that India had a serious leadership deficit. A fast-changing nation of 1.15 billion people needed more and better leaders to realize its potential and improve the lives of its citizens.
Sangeeth returned to Bangalore. Rather than resuming his successful telecom career, he founded LeadCap, a nonprofit dedicated to building India as a nation of leaders. “LeadCap is built on a belief that leadership is a decision, not a position. Anyone can be a leader irrespective of birth or living conditions,” Sangeeth says. “This is not yet a common mindset in India.”
Sangeeth knew it would take unconventional strategies to overcome barriers to leadership. One step was to set up “Leadership Villages” for people living in rural and marginalized areas. LeadCap volunteers created leadership libraries, held book readings and hosted discussions between local people and outside experts.
Meanwhile, CCL had been pursuing innovative strategies and new partnerships for bringing leadership development to underserved populations and people all around the globe. CCL’s Leadership Beyond Boundaries initiative had emerged from work with social-sector organizations and populations at the grassroots in India and Africa.
“The idea was to distill powerful leadership lessons into tools and ideas that could be shared across language, culture, background and status,” explains CCL’s Lyndon Rego. “With the right partners, our deep knowledge and practices of how to develop leaders could be passed along, creating a cascading effect and inspiring leadership among people who historically have not seen themselves as leaders.”
For Sangeeth and LeadCap, the CCL Leadership Beyond Boundaries work was the missing piece. Using the Early Leadership toolkit (which includes curriculum, tools and assessments) LeadCap created workshops for young people who are eager to make a difference in their communities. Each person is then empowered with the toolkit to help others step up to lead.
“Seemingly simple techniques are very powerful,” Sangeeth explains. “The act of discovering their values, or identifying the attributes that they respect in a leader, opens people up. They understand that leadership is accessible to them. They realize who they wanted to be and why ? and begin to see their true potential.”