I recently enrolled into a three year PhD program – my research area will be around Leadership and specifically focussed on India and the Indian Leader. One of the reactions I got when I shared my news with a friend was a very confused: Why a Phd? I made some flippant response to end that conversation – it got me thinking once I got home though about my reasons for signing up. Anyone who has ever done research especially towards a PhD will already know that this is not an executive learning program. This is also not a “show up and you will get your degree” exercise. It is a huge effort of reading, sorting out reams of information, interviewing people, endless report writing, coming up with original concepts and testing them and then of course, the mammoth task of writing and defending your thesis. As a business owner with an established brand and client base, why would I voluntarily take on so much additional work and invest so much time in something that will not directly translate into any commercial or brand-building benefits.
And my answer is simple: I am doing a PhD because I am interested in validating what I have concluded about Leadership – to be exact, how Leadership can be learned by Indians – through my own coaching work. I want to utilize the academic rigor of a Phd to make sure that my hypothesis holds true. Is it more than “professional vanity” and can it translate into a learning model that can be replicated to produce results – in this case, produce Leaders – in India, for India? That’s it.
There has been one other, totally unintended, benefit: I am blissed out. I love coming back to academia. And this time it is by choice – there is no pressure of performance or a need to hurtle towards the job market. So, I am savoring it. I am able to connect the dots, have my own AHA moments and most of all I get to collaborate with other bright minds and have super conversations everyday.
The real takeaway from this inquiry – Why the PhD? – has been two-fold. One, we live in an age where learning, unlearning and relearning must be a continuous process of our lives. Two, it is really important to ask “why” sometimes, it is equally important not to worry about the “why” at other times, and most of all, to know what falls in which category.
One final thought: Did you know that research on Leadership began only as late as the 1940s?
PS Be prepared, my friends, coachees and clients, to hear from me soon – you are the center of my work and the protagonists of my PhD thesis!