Congress president Rahul Gandhi's resignation letter has plenty of takeaways, both good and bad. Experts read between the lines to tell you what's the right way to resign
Congress President Rahul Gandhi at a rally held at MMRDA grounds, BKC, Bandra in March. Pic/Suresh Karkera
Last week, when Rahul Gandhi tweeted his resignation letter — stepping down from the post of Congress president — twitterati had a field day dissecting his intentions and predicting the future of the crisis-hit political party. While the four-page letter had a good deal of ebb and flow in thoughts and enough room for speculation, there was also adequate takeaway for what a good resignation letter must entail.
Bestselling author Meghna Pant believes she speaks for India when she says that we must respect Gandhi's decision to resign. "What I liked in the letter was that he highlighted that the idea of India has changed forever, where one voice emerges over a symphony of voices. Another good thing is that as a leader, he has taken responsibility for the failure and that makes the letter sound authentic and heartfelt," elaborates Pant.
However, she feels since the letter did not indicate his next course of action to strengthen himself as a political leader or demonstrate real passion for the path he's chosen, it lacked vision. "I hope the Congress learns from this. In order to revive, the party must expedite the process of selecting an able successor — preferably a woman — from within or outside party ranks. Apple's Steve Jobs recommended Tim Cook as his successor in his resignation letter, that's what a leader with a strong vision for his company would do. This is where Gandhi failed. He should have named a few potential successors who he thought could take over, in order to demonstrate thought and decision-making — the lack of two qualities that have undone him in the past," says Pant.
Having said that, Pant feels that Gandhi (or more likely his speech writer) covered everything a resignation letter must have — "analysis of the self and opposition, outlook on the country, political innuendos, sincerity, but it did lack the strength that has been lacking in Gandhi's vision in the Congress party's election manifesto — of a strong and able leader who can truly take India forward," she adds.
Look at the big picture
Ad filmmaker and activist Ram Subramanian feels Gandhi's letter had a lot of conviction in it. "It was emotional and sounded honest and extremely strong at some level. It is not easy to quit something that you and your family have been part of for so long. However, one must look at it as a larger picture: While he is quitting the post, he isn't quitting the role of leadership. That comes through very strongly in his words. It is good to remove yourself from the equation and get a better perspective of things and that's what he is doing. Most politicians — including Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray — didn't hold a post in a party, but that doesn't diminish their power as a leader," he adds.
Don't burn bridges
In large corporate houses, most senior leaders carefully weigh what goes into their resignation letters. "They primarily take into account the culture of the business they're leaving, while keeping in mind the ramifications of the letter, including future reference checks, background checks, and the future costs of burning bridges. Rahul Gandhi has taken accountability and praised the karyakartas for their hard work, thus burning no bridges with his party. At the same time he has torn into the opposition party, as a politician would," says Pant.
Vrutika Dawda, Director, IdeateLabs thought what Rahul Gandhi wrote in his resignation letter was what a politician would do. It is a calculated and strategised PR move. "While addressing his party, he was also addressing media, other political parties, and people of the country. Resignations on senior levels in the corporate world are usually company affairs. So, you are given ample opportunity to discuss your future and grievances against management, if any, during exit interviews. Therefore it is better if you keep the resignation letter concise. Also keep the language polite, professional and gracious. Many a time, you will be remembered by the manner you left the organisation. Therefore it is better that you leave without any baggage. Try not to burn bridges," she reminds.
Adding to this logic, Ajay Shah, VP and Head-Recruitment Services, Teamlease Services says, "Resigning for any individual is definitely a difficult step, and does lead to a lot of emotional turmoil since there is plenty of hard-work, time and effort invested by an individual in discharging the duties and responsibilities. Thus, an emotional tone to a resignation comes very naturally. However, the signs of a true leader are the ones who highlight the changes they have brought about during their tenure, how they value their people's contribution to their success and also mention about their journey ahead. Criticism or downgrading any individual or the organisation's systems is the last thing to be done by an individual while parting ways with an association."
Gratitude is everything
Dawda feels it's important to be graceful when you are resigning. "Business circles are small and ending things on a bitter note does not work. It is better if you give your boss a notice before you submit your resignation that you would like to discuss 'your future.' Understand that you have been part of a team that trusts you and relies on your expertise and experience. It is possible that replacing you may or may not be difficult, but it is always considered a good gesture if you help with a smooth transition."
Subramanian adds, "Gratitude is a great virtue to possess. One must always be grateful for what an organisation has given them — even if it is for a short time. The opportunity they gave you when they first met you that is what you must be thankful for. Make sure to thank all the people who you've worked with — the world is round and the corporate circle
Hoping to see people — who you worked with — grow is a positive message to send out. "Despite the fact that you are breaking up from an organisation, if you send out a positive message, the mood and tone will be positive and people usually appreciate that, especially from somebody at the top," says Subramanian.