Ramesh Jude Thomas (RJT) is the Chief Knowledge Officer at Equitor Value Advisory Pvt. Ltd. He introduced Brand Value management as a strategic business tool to Indian Industry. He is a prolific writer, having contributed a viewpoint to almost every major newspaper and business magazine on the theme of ‘Intangibles/ Brands as Business Assets’. He is also a TEDx speaker.
Five years ago, I set up a trust in Kolkata for the retired teachers of the St. Xavier's Collegiate school. I spent 15 years in that institution, from the age of 6 to 21. After a hundred and fifty years, the building blocks of any institution like this must be its teachers. If I have any claim to leadership today, there is no greater debt I owe than to these noble souls.
And here's the reason; good teachers pass on useful knowledge, great teachers build character. And the outstanding ones create leaders.
My first accidental brush with teaching began when I was 18. And I have never forgotten what it taught me. Once a distraught, hardworking, corporate executive arrived home, asking my father for help with his daughter, who had failed to clear her ICSE prelims. The demon subjects were the sciences, which the pater didn't dabble in. He asked if I could help with my newfound love for numbers. The parent grudgingly agreed to give it a shot. I found my ward had a brilliant mind, but with a block for Math and Science. All I did was to clear the block. The kid cleared all her papers with over 80%.
Lesson 1: Expand the mind. It will never return to its original configuration.
However, the generosity of spirit defining a teacher is not restricted to a classroom. My debit balance kept piling up after I entered the workforce. Three amazing bosses taught me more than any management program could have in a lifetime.
My formal tryst with teaching began at 29, when I was asked to address a classroom full of post-graduate students at IIM Bangalore, for 3 hours. Somewhat nervous, I began by overloading the session with graphics and videos. In the break the prof. in charge of the dept gently told me, "Maybe they want to hear what YOU think. Maybe you want to hear what they think."
Lesson 2: it is not about the content, stupid.
The years rolled by, the classrooms morphed into Management Development Programmes and the campuses spread from Melbourne to Fontainebleau. I have taught business owners and CEOs at one extreme, and drug addicts and orphans on the other.
And the lesson has never changed, ever. If every session can help them think differently about themselves, they will never be the same people again, as individuals, as colleagues, and as leaders.
This is my debt. This is why; I need to pay it forward. This is why I teach.