Continuity and teamwork the need of the hour

I am not a fan of the expression — ‘my year’. It is not ‘your year’ either. It is Rotary’s years. We are custodians of the office we all hold for 12 months. I am not a king or a god. Neither are you. We are Rotarians doing our job taking the organisation forward in a continuously improving manner,” said RI President Gordon McInally, addressing the DGEs at the Bengaluru zone institute.

From L: (Back row) TRF Vice Chair Bharat Pandya, PRID A S Venkatesh, Institute convenor and RID Raju Subramanian, co-convenor RID Anirudha Roychowdhury, PRIP K R Ravindran and GETS chair PDG Deepak Purohit. (Front row) Madhavi Pandya, Shipra Roychowdhury, Vidhya Subramanian, Vanathy Ravindran, Vinita Venkatesh and Veena Purohit at the GETS inaugural.

Stressing the spirit of continuity, he said that each initiative and project initiated during a term should transcend individual tenures, contributing to Rotary’s enduring success. “It is not about who gets the credit for something, as long as that something is done right,” he quoted American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson.

President McInally and Heather have toured nine cities in India in April. “India is a wonderful part of Rotary. The rest of the world must also look up and celebrate all the wonderful things that you do. But there is an elephant in the room,” said the president, referring to the election issues and related complaints being made from the districts to the RI Board. “The behaviour that goes on during the elections, the intimidation that takes place, the campaigning — all these are tarnishing the wonderful jewel that India should be in Rotary’s crown. I may not have the power to restore the Kohinoor diamond but I would love to see the jewel in Rotary’s crown polished and shining brightly.”

He drew a parallel between Rotary and rugby, emphasising the value of collaborative work. “Just as every player is essential for a rugby team’s success, the collective talent of all DGs is vital to advancing Rotary. Let’s work as a team, not in isolation or against each other, and run the race together,” he urged.

RI President Gordon McInally and RID Subramanian.

Institute convenor and RI director Raju Subramanian echoed the RI president’s sentiments, addressing concern about electioneering misbehaviour. “Most of you get into electioneering and neglect membership, service projects and public image. You’re all people with immaculate capacity and capability. Channelise your talent to proper use, to develop the clubs, and not to create differences in the districts. Bring everyone together so that the district becomes one wholesome body capable of enlarging the scope of the service we do, the communities we can touch and the lives we can change. That is what is creating hope in the world.”

Highlighting the various achievements of Rotary in India, he said, “Nobody does such innovative service projects as we do. We are number two in Foundation giving and number one in membership. So concentrate on what you need to do as governor, to propel the organisation’s glory.”

“What difference does it make to you who gets elected as governor. You are disintegrating the clubs by supporting various groups. Without clubs there is no Rotary. Stop going to courts. Settle your disputes within your districts.”

Director Subramanian continued: “If I come across any electioneering at the zonal elections, even if it is a PDG or DG, I will take it up in a strong way. RI director Anirudha Roychowdhury and I know what it feels like when we go to the Board meeting. It does not give us joy when we meet our fellow Rotarians when so many complaints are shot off to the Board from India. If we can correct this, India will truly be a jewel in Rotary’s crown. Unfortunately, the British took away the Kohinoor, but here we are destroying the Kohinoor that we have in Rotary.”

Emphasising the need for transparent financial transactions, he said, “One black spot there will denude us of the money flow into our Foundation. Connect the donor to the beneficiary directly, not through a website, so that the donor knows that his generosity is reaching the beneficiary.”

Subramanian advised the DGEs and DGNs to conduct SWOT analyses, strategise to strengthen small clubs, and underscored the importance of projecting the Rotary Wheel’s image to strengthen public image. To the DGs, he said, “Use the next six months to get the $40 million that we have promised for the Foundation. Do not increase membership for awards. The members you induct must stay for life in Rotary and not leave at the beginning of the following year.”

Channelise your talent to proper use, to develop the clubs, and not to create differences in the districts.
– Raju Subramanian, RI Director

Speaking on ethics in leadership, PRIP K R Ravindran touched upon three critical issues — elections, stewardship or accountability and appointments. “When you have a law that clearly discourages election campaigning you cannot do that. That does not make us ethical,” he said, and urged the DGEs to announce in their districts that if they find any canvassing, their names will be removed from the ballot paper.

As member of the first Stewardship Committee set up by RI, with PRIP Mark Maloney as chairman, Ravindran recalled visiting a nursery that belonged to another person. “The club had shown it to the Foundation as their community project to claim money under the matching grants programme.” He cited two other instances of fictitious projects — one of an ambulance being used “by a judge to carry his books to the court and another ambulance used as a tourist vehicle!” Another instance was that of an image of a tube well that a Rotary club was sharing on several occasions as different projects to get grants from TRF. Transparency in stewardship, he argued, is vital to maintain the trust of the community.

“I find that sometimes when people are punished by the RI Board, two years later someone else goes and presents a paper to get that reversed. My request to the president is that your Board should not excuse these people without going back to the president of the Board that originally punished him. Because you don’t know the facts,” he said.

Talking about appointments he said it is a win-win for the district leader “when you appoint good people because they do the work and you get the credit.”

In Rotary, ethical leadership is not a phase. “It is the foundation upon which our organisation’s reputation and success has been built. Ethical leadership starts at the top. If the top is rotten, everything that follows is also rotten. As leaders, you need to set the tone. Our principles are enshrined in our 4-Way Test designed by Herbert Taylor in 1932. It serves as a model code for all your actions, to look beyond the superficial and do something that is fair to all. The example that we set sends ripples through the whole organisation,” he said.

RI director Anirudha Roychowdhury, the co-convenor of the institute, said that Rotary needs leaders with a forward thinking mindset and who can give strategic direction for the future with focus on Rotary clubs. “Strengthen the clubs and involve the Rotarians in your plans. Membership retention can happen only when the interest of each Rotarian is sustained.”

TRF vice-chair Bharat Pandya urged the district leaders to develop their capabilities to become better. “This year and this position will not repeat again. You have one year. So set your goals and inspire your team to dream and do more. Lead by example. When you are in a leadership position your team will keenly watch you to see if you are doing what you are asking them to do.” Emphasising collaboration over individual recognition, he said, “There is no ‘I’ in Rotary, it is always ‘we’. Treat everyone with respect. You are one among equals. Remember you cannot email a hug or a handshake. Always reserve a smile or a hug for all your team members. Never compromise integrity which is very critical for the reputation of our organisation.”

Pandya urged leaders to approach challenges with a fresh perspective, advocating resilience and the power of a positive mindset. “Do not let challenges pull you down. Instead take advantage of the prevailing situation and soar high like an eagle. The greatest weapon that you have is to put your soul and mind on fire and success is inevitable,” he said.

General trainer PRID A S Venkatesh said, “Being a governor is not about getting awards. Those awards will soon be forgotten by everyone else except yourself. But what people will remember is the impact you have created through your leadership in your region. Awards are actually an unfair way of comparing districts because the composition, population, priorities, needs and resources that you have at your disposal in each district are different. So strive to do better than what you think you can do.”

PDG Deepak Purohit was the chair of the GETS and PDG Gurjeet Sekhon, the chairman of the GNTS. The district trainers’ training seminar has been renamed as the district learning facilitators seminar and was chaired by PDG S Nagendra.

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