Contextualized Leadership with Shishir Khanal: Three Key Takeaways

Author: Sharad K.C.
MBA, Fall 2017
King’s College
One of the most repeated notions in business school for one reason or the other is that there is no right or wrong. As much empowering as this notion shared by almost every faculty in every classroom sounds, it generally ends up confusing me, as a student, further. Why can’t some themes, some notions and some concepts just for this one time be more right? After all management is as much a science as it is an art and no matter how gray the area of management looks, there must be something that presents things in black and white.
For some reason, today’s discussion on contextualized leadership sounded less murky, a little more encompassing and closer to black and white than most gray matters of management. ShishirKhanal- the cofounder and CEO of Teach For Nepal, the guest lecturer for today seemed the true embodiment of someone who practices what is taught in classes of Leadership as five exemplary practices of Leadership. In establishing, Teach For Nepal, the now successful educational movement in Nepal, Khanal has made extraordinary things happen in his organization.
As if accepting the metaphorical challenge of our text book titled, “The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations”, Khanal did what, according to Kouzes and Posner (2012), every exemplary leader should do— model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act and encourage the heart— to make extraordinary things happen, leaving traces for learners and leaders alike. Here are three key takeaways from the leadership session with ShishirKhanal.
Clarity, reassurance, and belief:
A brief group discussion among our classmates grouped together by spatial proximity showed how valuable the guest lecture had been. Everyone gleamed through the bubbles of understanding having been enlightened by pragmatic application of an abnormally theorized concept called, “Leadership” reaching towards the conclusion that everything covered by our syllabus that we, in all our critical mindset, don’t want to accept was vindicated by this one person who is creating leaders, positively changing educated youths and communities. Simply put, the session with Khanal gave clarity, reassurance, and belief in the course as well as methods that we are trying so hard to learn.
Leadership driven towards making yourself obsolete:
“The leader’s main job is to make themselves obsolete”, said someone called Laozi. I don’t know who the person and neither did I remember Laozi during the class. But, the impact of the session with Khanal was making me google the quote searching for the quotation, that’s how profound the session was for me. For some reason, Khanal’s idea of creating leaders that believe in changing the society through education is making Khanal unnecessary in the lots of communities that Teach For Nepal reaches. It almost seems like Khanal has been able to inspire hearts to clone himself and his beliefs by inspiring TNF fellows to lead the change. And if this realization of self and vision of change by changing self continues, I can happily smile imagining a future where access to proper education for every child is a possibility.
Rest assured! Contextual leadership is not context dependent:
One of the questions posed in our group discussion was to find irrelevance, if any, of the concept of contextualized leadership in organizational context. Although, all groups tried hard we were actually scratching our heads to come up with some intelligent-enough answer to say. And most of our answers, we realized later, were said for the sake of saying something. The concepts, practices, and learnings were that relevant. I am someone used to finding reasons such as time and context for many good things I don’t do. And most of the time, I am right. But, contextual leadership and exemplary leadership practices, for that matter, already encompass context inside them, hence it is not something that cannot be applied to any other industry or individual. All it needs is time, continuity, and more conscious effort.
Last but not the least, if there is one thing that has hit me to the core after this session, that I want for to remain with me forever, is that:
From tomorrow onwards, I have one less reason for not doing what I can, need, and want to do.


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