10 Inspiring Leadership lessons from a Teabag

“Some people lead teams, some lead armies or countries. But we all lead a life – Our own. And the quality of your life depends squarely on the leader – On you.” says Prakash Iyer, Author – The Secret of Leadership, Executive Coach and MD- Kimberly Clark Lever

With competition becoming fiercer, businesses collapsing ethics being compromised and social media changing the rules of communication, what should a leader do? What would it take for leaders to succeed on the new normal? Given that most leaders are finding themselves in hot water,maybe we can learn a few lessons from something that thrives in hot water: The Humble Teabag. As you sip your next cup of tea, here are some leadership lessons to take away from the tea bag. Lessons to help make your life the perfect brew!

1. What counts is what’s inside the Teabag.

All Teabags have different packaging, some with fancy one some with simple one. But the quality of the beverage is determined by the tea inside the bag – not by the label or the string. What’s true for teabags is true for all of us too. The fancy title or the qualification or the Alma mater, the clothes we wear and the label and the string. They only make you look nice. What really matters is  the kind of person you are deep down. Your beliefs and your attitude – that’s what defines the person you are.

Focus on being a good human being. Fix your attitude. Get your values right. And don’t fret about the small stuff. It’s really who you are – at the core that makes a difference.

2. The real flavor comes through only when the Teabag gets into hot water.

If you take a cup of lukewarm water and dip a teabag in it, you won’t know how strong the tea is. To get the best flavor, you need to dunk the teabag in hot water. And only them will its real strength show!

Likewise, the true character of a leader shines through in adversity. How does a person behave under pressure, when he is in “hot water”? The hot water test is a good one for judging the quality of the tea. And the true character of leaders.

3. Good teabag look forward to getting into hot water.

When a teabag sees hot water, it says, Wow! Can’t wait to get in!  Teabags love hot water, they don’t run away from it. They know they were made just for this! This will give them a chance to show their true worth.

Great leaders relish on challenges. They love the opportunity to test skills and prove their real mettle. And it’s these tough spots,these challenging situations in business and the cries, that help distinguish. Just as teabags love hot water. So the next time you see a challenge, a tough situation, think like a teabag and dive headlong into it, it may be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for to show what you are capable of. Some of us are so scared of beings scalded by the hot water that we stay away from it. The fear of failure. Don’t let that happen to you! Given yourself a chance to show the world what you are really all about!

4. A Teabag must be porous.

Imagine you have the best tea in the world and you put it into a bag that’s impermeable. It won’t work. You just won’t be able to make a cup of tea. For teabag to work, it need to be porous. You need the tea and the water to come in contact with each other.

In our lives too, we cannot survive and thrive in isolation Leaders need to be careful not to build walls around themselves that prevent people from reaching out to them. As a leader, you need to be able to touch other people. Else, all that’s inside will be wasted- untouched by all the good around you the tea was meant to mix with the water. Similarly all of us were designed to work with other people, with teams, and with society at large.

5. Teabags work, never mind where they are in the cup.

Once you dip a teabag in a cup, it doesn’t matter where the teabag sits. It could be at the top, on the side or right at the bottom, it will work. The teabag’s efficacy is not linked to its position in the cup.

It is a mistaken notion that leadership is only about the guy at the organization. Leaders are everywhere. And you shouldn’t let your ‘position’ in the hierarchy limit your impact as a leader. Position is irrelevant. Leaders derive their strength from within- not from a title or a position in the organization. And truly great leaders recognize that. ‘They look for leaders in every corner of the organization.

6. Sometimes, one Teabags is just not enough.

If the pot is very large, then one teabag may not be sufficient to make a good beverage. It can try its best, but the tea will just not be strong enough. The solution is simple add another teabag.

And that can be true of organizations too. Sometimes the enormity of the challenge could call for more than one leader. And leaders don’t need to feel inadequate-or incompetent- when asking for help. Too often, good leaders get branded as failures- not because they weren’t good enough, but because the challenge was too big for one man. Asking for assistance is not a sign of weakness. It is often a sign of great strength and self-confidence.

7. Sometimes, you need to add some sugar and milk.

If what you are looking for is a cup of tea with milk and sugar, no teabag in the world can give that to you by itself. You need to add milk and sugar.

Sometimes, the business needs complementary skill sets that no single leader can provide. Good leaders learn to hunt in packs. They find partners or colleagues who complement their skill sets and fill in the missing pieces. This helps ensure that the result meets the objective.

8. Someone else hold the string always.

No matter how strong the teabag is, it recognizes that someone else holds the string in his or her hands. And they can pull the teabag out and throw it away any they like. No questions asked. That ‘s a humbling thought which leaders must never lose sight of. No matter how powerful a leader becomes, he must remember there is a string tied to him that’s in the hand of some other stakeholder or the board- or just some other more powerful force. The realization of this truth can help ensure that leaders don’t let power go to their and begin seeing themselves as lords and masters of all they survey.

9. It’s all about how good the tea is. Not the Teabag!

Nobody ever drank a cup of tea and said , ‘Wow, that was a great teabag!’ He’d say ‘That was a great cup of tea!’

In the ultimate analysis, leaders get remembered not for how good they themselves were, but for how good their teams and the institutions that they built were. Too often , leaders get caught up with looking at themselves in the mirror rather than turning the spotlight on their teams, their organizations-and their results. Good leaders never forget – ‘it’s not about me. It’s about them’.

10. Eventually, Teabags need to make way and get out.

Teabags recognize that once the brew is ready, they need to move on. They don’t worry that if they were to move out of the cup. And they realize that if they stayed on any longer, they’d some in the way of the person enjoying his cup of tea! Alas, too many leaders see themselves as being indispensable and overstay their welcome! They get so taken with their own abilities and greatness that they start believing that if they were to leave, the organization wouldn’t survive, they get so attached to their role and their organization that they just don’t want to leave. So visualize the teabag. And remember that getting out is a normal and necessary  part of the tea-making process.

The next time you pick up a cup of tea, savour the flavor. Enjoy the moment. And think of the lessons too!

Just as the true flavor of a Teabag comes through only when it is dipped in hot water, the true character of a leader shines through in adversity, under pressure. The hot water test is a good one for teabags and for leaders.



Ashutosh Rawat

Ashutosh Rawat, a Digital Entrepreneur, is the founder of InspireIndeed.com. He love connecting with people who have a passion for Personal Development, Entrepreneurship, Success & Motivation.