Lessons in leadership


The governors-elect and governors-nominee training seminars (GETS and GNTS) formed a prelude to the Rotary zone institute which went virtual this year. The training sessions were breakout sessions on the zoom platform and were named after zodiac signs. GETS, GNTS and Partners’ sessions were followed by an hour of entertainment during Jan 7–10. GETS and GNTS chair RIDE Mahesh Kotbagi and his team had pulled out all stops to make these training events memorable and effective for the incoming leaders.

GETS and GNTS chair RIDE Mahesh Kotbagi
GETS and GNTS chair RIDE Mahesh Kotbagi

Shekhar and his movers

The DGEs were told by incoming RI president Shekhar Mehta: “Remember these are tough times; dedicate this year to the people around you. But always put family first. You are leading a part of a 115-year-old organisation, which has a legacy of eradicating polio and transforming lives of millions of people across the world. You’re from a country which is a Kohinoor in Rotary’s crown. So, your dreams and plans must be special.” They will be district governors during Mehta’s year as RI president.

Your leader has a favourite slogan. I won’t sleep nor will I let you sleep until a job is done.
– Shekhar Mehta, RI President-elect

He referred to the lines from Dan Palotta’s book Uncharitable which he has been reading recently. “It says between a person heading an NGO and a CEO of a corporate, the NGO head is paid less. But NGOs handle most of the community’s issues while a corporate is engaged in enhancing its profits. Being an NGO leader may be a thankless job but it is a soul-satisfying endeavour.”

Urging the incoming leaders to dream big, he recalled how as a newbie Rotarian, he had in all innocence said that his goal was “to become a good governor” in reply to his mentor’s question. “He told me, Shekhar, that is not a goal. Your goal should be definite and purposeful. So, I went back and rewrote my goals and have been fairly successful till date.”

He counseled the DGEs and DGNs to seek the support of their district teams. “Involve them to do the job and share the credit. My mentor always said that a DG’s job is to lubricate the egos of club presidents. And that holds true. As a leader, you must delegate work. If you think you can do everything, you will be a failure.”

RIPE Shekhar Mehta
RIPE Shekhar Mehta

Concluding, the incoming RI president warned with a smile: “Your leader has a favourite slogan. I won’t sleep nor will I let you sleep until a job is done. For this one year, let us live for others. Be an eagle, soar so high that nobody dares to be where eagles dare. At the end of your year, you will look back and say, ‘those were the most beautiful 365 days of my life’.”

Addressing the partners, he said, “You too have to get involved in serving Rotary and with your push, your spouse will be a really good governor.”


Enhancing public image

Institute convener RID Kamal Sanghvi urged the DGEs and DGNs to “set your standards high. You must first win your own self before you can win the confidence of your team. Be passionate about your service activities and greedy for membership and TRF contributions. Create your own benchmarks and tread surefootedly.” He stressed the importance of public image, saying that Rotarians should popularise their service activities and Rotary experiences on social media. “It is not for medals that we are telling our stories, but to ignite the fire of service in others. Instead of publishing the news after doing an eye camp, do it before the camp. Write there, ‘All those who want to join to help us, are welcome.’ People will join hands with you. We need to have a positive image in the community to attract new members and keep the existing ones. Both these are extremely important for Rotary to survive.”

It is not for medals that we are telling our stories, but to ignite the fire of service in others.
– Kamal Sanghvi, RI Director

Institute chair Sanjay Khemka welcomed the incoming district leaders saying that they have to reach the horizons with all that they learn from this training seminar. RIDE Kotbagi observed that this year will be a challenging one and with travel restrictions it will be a humongous task for the district leaders. He christened the DGEs ‘Shekhar and his movers’. “Although we could not meet at Kochi as planned much earlier, I guarantee that you will cherish for life what you learn on this virtual platform,” he promised.


Support the Foundation

RI Director Bharat Pandya, referring to the enormous support provided by TRF, said, “during these gloomy nine months, TRF had shone as a beacon of hope. Despite this darkness and despair, Rotarians remained committed to TRF, in programme participation and supported the Foundation by raising funds. Individually we may not be able to do much for international peace, but the Foundation helps us contribute our collective energy. Its success tomorrow requires our support today.”

RID Bharat Pandya
RID Bharat Pandya

He urged the district leaders to promote giving to the Annual and Polio Funds. The demand for GGs has brought sharp focus to Annual Funds. “It is important to grow this fund otherwise our GGs will die a slow death. Encourage all Rotarians to contribute whatever they can to the Foundation,” he said.


Membership growth

RIDE A S Venkatesh and PDG Ravi Vadlamani laid stress on the importance of membership development while addressing the incoming leaders. “All along we have been satisfied with, what I call, the ‘delta changes’ — three or five per cent growth from the previous year. It is time to think out of the box now. The order of the day is disruption — not doing the same thing but something outrageously different,” said Venkatesh, leaving a few questions for the incoming leaders to ponder over to make a quantum jump in membership.

“Start with the population density of your region. You could say, ‘My district has a population of 1.5 crore. Let me see if I can bring 10,000 members.’ Let us not be in the comfort zone of 5 or 10 per cent growth which has been the norm all these years. Our potential lies in our ability and has got nothing to do with what our predecessors have done in the past,” he reiterated. His next suggestion was to consider the demographic composition of the districts. “See if it is reflected in your membership. Single vocation Rotary clubs are also possible now. You can consider a body of doctors or advocates to form clubs,” he said.

It is important to grow our Annual Fund; otherwise our GGs will die a slow death.
– Bharat Pandya, RI Director

On growing clubs, he suggested they study the pattern of growth and how it was propelled. “You might notice that only 20 per cent of members would have brought in a new member each. Take to social media and promote membership saying ‘I have brought in a new member, have you?’”

Above all, he stressed on wearing the Rotary pin outside Rotary meetings. “You will get a chance to explain about Rotary to an inquisitive total stranger and who knows, he may get interested to join your club,” he added.

PDG Ravi Vadlamani recommended formation of separate committees for increasing and retaining members at district levels and recognise Rotarians for introducing new members. “Start Rotary clubs in gated communities and members can meet at their club houses. Such clubs will be sure hits as they also enhance better bonding in the neighbourhood,” he said. People sharing similar interests can form clubs. “You can have clubs for cricket, yoga, etc. With Rotary’s enhanced flexibility, the choices are many,” he said.


TRF and Polio

TRF Trustee Geeta Manek from Kenya urged the incoming leaders to not lose focus on polio immunisation for “we have worked very hard to come this far and the day is not far off when we can truly celebrate the milestone moment. But until then there is no room for complacency.” Referring to WHO’s recent polio-free certification for Africa, Geeta said that when India was declared ‘polio-free’ it was an inspiration for Africa to follow. “It has given us renewed energy to eliminate polio from Pakistan and Afghanistan so that the entire world is declared polio-free.” She urged the incoming leaders to give at least 20 per cent of their DDF to Polio Fund.

Our potential lies in our ability and has got nothing to do with what our predecessors have done in the past.
– A S Venkatesh, RI Director-elect

TRF Trustee Gulam Vahanvaty stressed on maintaining an effective communication with the club presidents and the district team. “Whether it is a global grant or a club project do not do a service project just because you want to do it. Do a needs assessment and proceed. Seek help from your district Foundation committee and technical cadres,” he said.

TRF Trustee Gulam Vahanvaty
TRF Trustee Gulam Vahanvaty

PRID Manoj Desai, chair, TRF’s technical cadre, shed light on the evaluation of global grants projects by the Foundation. There are 700 cadres from 70 countries including 200 medical professionals, 150 chartered accountants, 110 agriculturists and economic development experts, 100 civil engineers, hygiene experts and sanitation professionals, 50 educators and 40 peace mediators. They help clubs and districts with financial management and grant planning, he said, and added, “Cadre members of your district are an important resource in your success. Use their expertise while filing for grant applications so that approvals become easy.”



PRID P T Prabhakar talked about the genesis of the WinS programme and its achievements so far. “In the last five years we have covered 34,000 schools and nearly 10 million children have been taught how to thoroughly wash their hands. Now this habit would protect them from Covid,” he said and urged the district leaders to implement the programme in as many schools as possible.

RID Peter Kyle highlighted Rotary’s connection with the UN and RID Nicki Scott spoke about the need to focus on Rotary’s public image.

Partners’ session

RIDE Kotbagi’s wife Dr Amita as programme chair and Sonal Sanghvi as programme convener brought together an interesting partners’ sessions for the spouses on all four days. A virtual icebreaking session had the spouses warming up as they shared their interests and talked about their region’s specialties. Rashi Mehta impressed upon them to participate actively in the spouses’ programmes during their leadership year. “Your support will help the governors make a lasting impact in your district,” she said.

Partners’ Session chair Dr Amita Kotbagi
Partners’ Session chair Dr Amita Kotbagi

Referring to the virtual mode, Vinita, wife of RIDE Venkatesh said, “This has given us a new skill set. It is a testimony of our ability to learn when it is much needed.”

“You are the cheer leaders. Keep encouraging your partners and don’t be shy to share ideas with them. Who knows, it could be a brilliant idea for your district,” said Dr Madhavi Pandya.

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