… my experiences in India

Intimacy with ‘core incompetence’

I was invited to attend a talk given by Dr Prasad Kaipa at the Hotel Le Royal Meridien, organised by Madras Management Association on Thursday 13th Sept. The title of the talk was “Unleashing Personal Leadership: Managing Core Incompetence.”

My first impression was that it was going to be a talk on how the competent managers need to manage their incompetent staff, which didn’t inspire, but I thought I’d give it a go anyway. So I arrived in plenty of time for High Tea at the very exclusive venue.


The event began with a series of people introducing each other which created some anticipation in the audience. Was Dr Kaipa going to live up to the expectations created by the introductions?


In my opinion, I think he did. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the talk developed into a journey of self exploration for the audience. Dr Kaipa presented a series of PowerPoint slides to illustrate the present context of business as we know it. He used concepts such as outsourcing, the service driven economy and the need to compete innovatively.

He believes the way in which we can bring our greatness and uniqueness as managers to our work is by getting to know ourselves more. Coming from a Person-Centred counselling and Buddhist meditation background, this was music to my ears!

Specifically Dr Kaipa was encouraging the managers in the room to become intimate with their ‘signature strength’ (i.e. what got you where you are today, what you lean on in times of need). He claims that our signature strength is also our biggest weakness (core incompetence) and it can become our downfall. He used Zinedine Zidane’s behaviour in the World Cup 2006 as an example where passion became rage. Two sides of the same coin.

The presentation itself was professional, assured and illuminating. However, I got a clearer sense of Dr Kaipa and his ‘being’ from his responses to the questions asked at the end. He had described in the presentation how organisations lack humanness, innovation and creativity and that who you really are needs to be brought into your work. I feel the talk itself was a micro representation of this concept. Take away the computers, slides and script and meet the real person.

Dr Kaipa’s spontaneous responses to questions deepened the concepts he had introduced in the presentation. He referred to the need for us to have the courage to find silence in our lives where we can examine our ‘being’ and thus know it and use it appropriately.

He described how we can apply this learning in the moment by using AAAR (Awareness, Attention, Action and Reflection). He clarified that we are not attempting to remove our signature strength/core incompetence, but to disassemble and reassemble so that our foundation of who we are is stronger and not simply taken for granted.

He transformed the following classic phrase from:

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

into something much more profound:

If it isn’t broken, break it once in a while.

These concepts of self examination, disassembling ones self and staying with the process are very familiar to me because it was routine throughout my three years of training as a counsellor in UK. The only thing that I think Dr Kaipa did not fully emphasise was the excruciating pain, fear and groundlessness that accompanies this process. During my training I experienced my feelings so fully at times that I felt I was being consumed by them, I couldn’t see the woods for the trees, I didn’t know who I was or what I stood for, I questioned everything. It is hard bloody work and worth the effort.


What did I most get from the talk? The confirmation that the work is never done, it is an ongoing process… life long learning.


One Response to “Intimacy with ‘core incompetence’”

  1. thanks for reflective and thoughtful review of my talk in Madras last year.
    Enjoyed reading it after a friend referred me to your review of my talk.
    Prasad Kaipa

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