KEYnote/ Leadership for a Blue Revolution in India

Mumbai, India - 22 March 2014. In his keynote presentation for the International Conference on Water Sanitation and Recycling organized by the Maharashtra Chamber of Commerce, Industry & Agriculture (MACCIA), Coach Wouter of TransformationFirst.Asia highlighted the need for a blue revolution to increase low levels of water security in India and South Asia, where piped water supply is shown to be available to only 23% of households, and sanitation to 38%. As little as 22% of wastewater discharges are reported treated, making the subregion a hotspot for the growth of vibrant and livable cities according to the Asian Water Development Outlook 2013.

Engaging national and city decision-makers to focus on leadership for water security is a new direction - a new paradigm – because water challenges were in the past seen as local, technical, and financial issues. Political and administrative leaders outside the water box are now aware that the fragmented, sectoral water management practices over the past half century are a major cause of the region’s alarming lack of water security today. They can no longer afford business as usual that avoids facing critical problems and postpones making urgently needed changes. The need for leadership at all levels is now recognized.

The conference sets us on the right track with its call for a Blue Revolution – A Paradigm Shift. We need to shift our thinking to go beyond the technology, finance and training mindset to develop leadership that will create the revolution and make it work on the ground, in projects. Leadership is about influencing people, resources and results. It comes from the core.

In recent years, awareness has grown that everyone can lead, in different ways, even without holding a position of authority. That can be considered good news, because much of the Blue Revolution’s work will have to be inspired and implemented by a new generation of young professionals and youth leaders, working collectively in teams and their increasingly networked communities. Indeed, “winning teams” are already starting to become known as teams that have young leaders on board. 

Working with the new paradigm, aspiring leaders learn how to bridge gaps and span boundaries. They discover how to build trust among public, private and civil society partners to work together as never before. They fully understand the importance of communication, and they invest to master it in their work and life. Their charisma and focus boosts staff engagement and builds stronger teams that perform better, faster and at lower cost.

The new paradigm recognizes the unlimited potential for growth in people and organizations. Projects can now be created and implemented based on shared visions and an assessment of strengths rather than with the traditional preoccupation with an analysis of problems and weaknesses.

Focusing on bright spots, we can already see signs of home-grown examples of this new paradigm at work in India, including in the changes that have taken place in Maharashtra through the involvement of the different sectors of society.