These two words in the title may not find any mention in any of the management books. Even the Oxford dictionary may not have them as I have mentioned. But I am sure you have got the idea what I am trying to say. Dhirubhai Ambani was a Grassrooter while Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani are Parachuters. A grassrooter learns the practical lessons of life and the trade in stages as s/he struggles at every step. S/he fails and fails but accepts failure as a part of life and every failure teaches him/her a lesson and takes him/her a step forward. The journey to the top for the grassrooter is very tough, uncertain, ambiguous and full of stumbling blocks. But when a grassrooter reaches the top, s/he is a seasoned leader: full of confidence, energy, enthusiasm and expertise.
While a parachuter is person who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. S/he gets everything on a platter and just lands up at the top of the organization. Such a person obviously lacks experience and expertise and therefore has lack of confidence in himself and therefore on his subordinates and teammates also. S/he is shaky in taking decisions and leadership doesn’t come to him naturally. Leadership has been thrust upon him/her.
Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India is a grassrooter while Rahul Gandhi, the President of the Congress party is a parachuter. When the grassrooters achieve great heights, they contribute to the organization in a significant way. They take their organizations to great heights. When parachuters are dropped to the highest chairs in the organizations, they normally become a liability for that organization. The senior people in such organizations tend to take a back seat and become silent spectators. This further deteriorates the credibility and performance of the organization.
So what is the mistake of someone who inherits a parachute. There is nothing wrong in it. But such a person must be subjected to intensive training and mentoring by the experts before s/he dons the role of the leader. S/he must perform at lower rungs of the organization so that s/he gets acquainted with the grass root problems. S/he must also have some acquaintance at higher and higher levels and goes up the leadership ladder may be at a faster pace. But s/he should undergo a lot of testing and impartial evaluation at every level. Only after such gruelling training and passing the tests with flying colours, if a parachuter takes the leadership role, s/he can do equally great wonders.
The problem happens with parachuters when they assume that it is their birth right to occupy the highest chair irrespective of whether they are talented or not. They want to be leader even if they haven’t learnt the desired traits and tricks of the trade. Such parachuters may seem to succeed for some time but in the long run they just disappear unless they make sincere efforts day and night and learn through the hard way. So a parachuter can’t sit, become slack and relish on the basis of laurels won by his/her ancestors for a long time.
Rohan Gavaskar, the son of legendary cricketer Sunil Gavaskar tried his hand in cricket for some time and got some opportunities too to prove himself but then just disappeared. Abhishek Bachchan is no match to all time, evergreen, the greatest actor Amitabh Bachchan. Mukesh Ambani, though a parachuter, seems to have learnt a lot from hislegendary father Dhirubai and other stalwarts of Reliance and continues to take his Reliance empire to greater and greater heights.
There is a story of 7 lions who were part of a circus company for about last 10 years. They used to show some tricks in the circus show and then have plenty of meat to eat and then sleep. No running, no need to chase animals for their survival as plenty of meat is served to them daily. One day, the court ruling bans the show by lions in the circus in the name of stopping atrocities on animals. The circus owner had no option left now but to leave the lions in the deep jungle. Just 10 days later, he gets the news from forest rangers that all seven of them have been killed by the wild dogs staying in the jungle. What a sorry state for such lions who were living such a luxury life that they had even forgotten how to chase other animals, kill them and eat them for survival.
Same thing happens with parachuters if they become lazy and start staying in the cosy comfort zone around themselves. Their lineage will work only to a limited extent to open some doors for them. But ultimately, they will have to perform there as per the prevailing standards otherwise, the masses will boo them out irrespective of the arena. This is a universal truth. Parachuters can also become great if they understand this universal truth and accordingly prepare themselves. They will have to practice, practice and practice and then perform.
The journey to the top for the grassrooter is very tough. By virtue of his/her level, s/he is not even able to dream big. But some among them perform to the best of their capability and keep climbing steps of success. They pursue excellence in whatever they do and success follows them. The journey for the parachuter is comparatively much easier because all the support system is available for them. The path for them has been chalked out by their predecessors. The direction is set. They have to just follow that direction with determination, dedication and discipline and they shall reach their destination.
All those who are reading this article, majority of them will be grassrooters. I appreciate the tough times you have gone through and congratulations to those who have risen quite high in their chosen fields. Some of you may be lucky that you inherited a small or a big business empire from your parents. Congratulations to you also. Yes, you are a parachuter then but I hope you have worked hard to seek all the knowledge and the skills required to do your job in an excellent manner. You must take the inherited business to much greater heights.
I also know some of my friends who were born with a silver spoon in their mouth and had a great safety net that they could take any risks. They decided not to inherit the business of their parents but started their own in a totally new field. They wanted to follow the grassrooter route to build their business so that they can have the satisfaction of the struggle and creating their own niche.
As an exercise, just make a list of grassrooters and parachuters in business and politics and discuss it with your colleagues or friends and even your wife/girl friend/boy friend.
VK Jaitly is a motivational speaker, a consultant, a coach, a writer and a mentor for the corporate world. He is an ex IITian with 35 years of experience in corporate, academics and defence. His workshops on ‘Business Excellence thru People (BEP)’ have been highly acclaimed for increasing productivity and profitability of organizations.
Jaitly has a number of articles to his credit and has delivered lectures/ presentations at National and International forums and has travelled across the globe. He had been the Leader for an All India Motor Cycle Rally and was Oi/C for a Car Rally from Kanyakumari to Delhi. He loves to trek, plays Golf. His first motivational book ‘We Can! We Can!’ has been getting very good reviews.