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In conversation with Dr. Kiran Bedi

A rare leader epitomising silk and steel, Dr. Kiran Bedi reveals insights into the making of her winning mindset in a rare interaction

Words by Karan Karayi and Sakshi Dhingra

Hers has been a career that is most interesting, of diverse stripes; as a former tennis champion, an administrator par excellence, and India’s first and highest ranking woman police officer, she’s donned so many hats, or should we say uniforms, with great distinction. 

The woman of mettle we’re talking about is none other than Dr. Kiran Bedi, whose trailblazing work and bold calls saw her ascend to the pinnacle of public renown. As we sat down with her to deconstruct her mindset of success, we came away enlightened by what it takes to build not just a career, but a legacy that is impactful and long-lasting.

On her defining characteristics

Every successful personality has defining traits that have underpinned their ascent and success, and it’s no different with Dr. Bedi, who wastes no time in putting forth the secret sauce of her success recipe when we put forth the question. 

“It’s been simplicity and authenticity. What I say I mean, and of course, I’m flexible to learn and grow. But I’m also very collaborative, and never look to be a credit snatcher, but rather a credit giver. It’s important to have a giving approach, not a taking approach. So any leader who has a giving approach gets more people to work with.”

“My textbook for success is very simple. It’s not rule-bound; it’s about being sensitive to people’s needs. I don’t work for anybody; I work for myself, but I work with people.”

In a world where complexity often rules supreme, it’s a breath of fresh air to be reminded to KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly) and not overcomplicate things in your own head. Declutter, simplify, and go forth, young padawan. 

On values she holds dear

At our emotional core, we all have values and a truth that we hold dear, not willing to let go of even if we have to do so with bleeding fingernails. It’s no different with Dr. Bedi, who adheres closely to an internal value system that has stood her in good stead.

“Some fundamentals are not changeable. For instance, using others is something I don’t do. Even in policing, I never used anybody. On the contrary, I took a very protective approach. If he or she has done the right thing. And done it by let’s say my orders, because in policing you have to give orders also, while some things are requested. If I’ve ordered to open fire, and there’s been a mishap, I take responsibility. So you have to be responsible for what you asked to be done.”

“People knew that I would take that responsibility. And if on my order, the person has done a good job, he gets recognised for it. So I think that these are the kinds of things which are not changeable. They stay with you.”

No matter what walk of life you look at, this simple, inalienable truth is something we can all agree with. As much as we look to empower those that follow us, it is important that we partake of their success as much as any of their failures, for that is how a sense of camaraderie and the strongest of team bonds are formed. And even beyond that, authenticity, vulnerability, humility, and a sense of ownership is always respected, even more so when you slip up and acknowledge it, only to get up and rise again. 

Evolve, and grow

Clichéd though it sounds, we had to pose the question; if Dr. Bedi could offer one piece of wisdom to those reading this, what would it be?

“Every day, get up, ask yourself, you have got another day, you’re blessed. That means you’re there to keep growing, keep evolving. Otherwise, life is dead. If you don’t keep evolving, you’re dead.”

That is perhaps the perfect note to end this conversation, for to evolve is the natural order of things. After all, life is but a journey of learning, and there’s a long way to go to graduate from being learner to learned. We’ll see you when we get there.


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