“Leadership In The Indian Context”

Tushar Kansal the founder of IndusB2C.com shares his thoughts on leadership and what makes Modi and MS Dhoni such great leaders.

India is different

As a civilization we are very different from the rest of the world. I believe as Indians we are good when it comes to personal delivery of output but somewhere we seem to be short on big thinking. However I notice that that is changing slowly but steadily with a plethora of Indians now heading some of the world’s leading firms like Google, Microsoft, and Pepsi to name a few. There is no shortage of talent in India but what needs to be really developed is the killer instinct which is the need of the hour in today’s highly competitive marketplace. We need leaders who believe in creating better products and services and not leaders whose aim is to earn a huge compensation whatever the costs. Short term personal gains should be overlooked. We need committed leaders who can think out of the box and make a positive impact. However our education system is such that it discourages original thinking. We lay too much focus on degrees and certificates and on marks. The focus instead should be on practical use of the knowledge acquired in school and on acquiring skills. The American education system gives 50% weightage to academics, 25% to personality and 25% to sports.

Additionally I feel the emphasis on the knowledge of English makes the corporate market lose out on some very good talent. Those who cannot speak English are ignored by the recruiters in India a stark contrast to other emerging economies like China, Russia, etc who have grown by focusing on their regional languages and tapping the potential of the masses. If we do the same and recruit people who may not know English but have the right attitude and knowledge we too would be able to unearth a vast goldmine of talent.

I also feel most Indian businesses lack the ability to build empowered teams. There is a lot of emphasis on processes and controls, which acts as a hindrance in encouraging new ideas and thoughts.

The important aspects of leadership

I believe in the following mantras:

  1. Decision-making – There are essentially two leadership techniques – One, take the best wisdom and knowledge from your top team, then make decisions. Second – evaluate data, form judgment and then go by sixth sense. That said, there is absolutely no substitute to leading by example
  2. Benchmarking the quality of team . The most basic being testing the reliability factor of each team person, how true he is to his own self and does he take ownership of work. In my view, one of the most important criteria for hiring is whether the person is curious, tests the boundaries of knowledge and is willing to learn by experimenting. In other words if the person still has their ‘inner child’ active
  3. People-handling – One has to know the team inside out, and keep oneself updated with what is happening in their life which effects their motivations and eventual performance
  4. I call this the “NGO test” – If yours were an NGO which can’t pay salaries, would you be able to make your team work without money? – This is a key test not only of their motivation, but more importantly, your own leadership skills
  5. One has to make the team culture in a way that each team person comes to you, rather than you having to reach out to them
  6. Most important quality of a Leader is mastery over his work and honesty to self.
  7. The most fair and effective leadership style should lead to a democratic culture within the team – To achieve this, the leader should follow company processes, use as little discretion as possible and treat people from vantage point of the company’s mission

Narendra Modi (Modi) –

Modi has created a new discourse in India. He is different from our past leaders.

  • Modi believes in the slogan ‘sabka • saath, sabka vikas’ meaning ‘welfare for all’. Unlike other political parties in the past who focused on religion , geography and caste vote banks Modi has kept his focus on working and taking the right decisions .His zero tolerance towards corruption , his socialist intents, his foreign policies , his focus on improving foreign relations, his implementation of the GST, his focus on IT to bring about regulation has redefined how the Central government should work. In fact it has redefined India itself and today people view us as a confident ,nationalist and bold nation rather than a nation on the back foot all the time !

M S Dhoni (MSD) – Leadership traits proven by MSD

  • Fix core players in your team and • back them to the hilt – CSK kept on buying its core players again, thereby retaining most of the original team. Players were attuned to the way the Franchise worked, the management and leadership behind it, they even carried an institutional memory on their history of winning; The players had belief in the abilities of each other and hence rallied behind each other in crunch situations. Retaining key talent by paying asking price also meant that success and commitment was rewarded. Corporate Board rooms would be well advised to create a long-term unit built around mutually assuring winners.
  • Multi-cultural, multi-racial character of • the team makes for strong genetic code, given the right work ethics of the team – The IPL teams have worked in an MNC culture. With maximum 4 out of the playing XI from abroad, the teams need cohesiveness built around a strong performance-driven culture. While foreign players in teams like Pune and Delhi have failed, CSK’s Hussey, Bravo shone by grabbing Orange and Purple caps. CSK also got unproven talent in the form of a young gun like Holder from West Indies (a breeding ground for some of the best performers in IPL) and made him into a tear-away winner by making him open the bowling. Holder rose to the occasion by bowling line and length. Lesson for Corporates – In a multi-ethnic world, knitting a merit-driven culture generates performance.
  • Strategize and improvise on resource utilization according to match

    • MSD sprung surprises by picking relatively untested players in some mid-games or by changing the batting and bowling order – his decisions were based on the type of pitch and opposition team mix. That he was unafraid to improvise meant pressure on the chosen players to perform. By placing faith in his men, he was able to draw good performances with all available talent to his team. Companies need to bring relatively raw mid-managers to key tasks to test their long-term potential.

    Put faith in confident and brave players

  • Winning is more important than • individual records and MSD has trained his best players to think like that. Big match winners are those who have a very strong mental willpower and that is what he has focused on developing within his team and managed to get the best out of each and deliver a winning performance. Corporates too should focus more on building the right attitude of the team and help them become focused and confident .
    • Focus on youth but retain few experienced chaps – MSD has consistently backed young players but also made the seniors give their best. Corporate leaders too should give their senior leaders their due but keep infusing the organization with fresh new talent.
    • “Never-say-die” spirit – His teammates know it – that MSD never gives up, no matter what the situation. He always leads from the front. Corporate leaders too need to lead by example and fearlessly take bold decisions to take the company forward.
    • Winning is a mind game – MSD never plays to the opponent’s reputation. This is borne out by his innovative field placements as also intent to hit the ball for sixes while facing formidable bowlers. He knows that given his strengths and the range of shots in his repertoire – he should play according to situation. Corporate Managers are best advised to assess their own SWOT and formulate strategies given the ever-changing needs of the marketplace.

    Taking singles is most important – even when the score is going well, MSD will never let go of a single. It is a testimony to his good health and fitness as also to a strategy of accumulating runs even with good balls. Corporate lesson – each small step adds up to a larger score.

Support the in-form player from other side of crease – One remembers the way MSD kept on hitting sixes when Sachin was on his way to 200 in a One day game. He knew his partner was tiring and hence he himself needed to relieve the pressure. Point to learn for Companies – Sometimes keeping the honor and name of your senior most team member takes precedence over other short-term goals.

  • Play with sportsman spirit – One never sees MSD protesting too much, or resorting to sledging. He plays straight and ignores occasional human errors. Corporates to note that in today’s times when Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) determines branding, one has to do the right thing and not only being seen as doing the right thing.
  • Build your place in playing XI on basis of performance – MSD has benched even the most prolific players, if their form was down. Faf Du Plessis, one of the best batsmen CSK has, didn’t play even a single match this season. For MSD, Team dynamics are infinitely more important than paper logic. Corporate lesson – A Manager is only as good as his/ her continuing performance.
  • Fight abuse with equal might – One remembers when the Men in Blue toured down under with Australian team on a winning momentum. The team faced worst kind of sledging but hit back and won the tournament. Corporate lesson – Gandhigiri might be fashionable, since our Text books glorify it, but hard men win hard fights and sometimes you have to give it to the competition on an even keel.
  • MSD’s coaches have always placed faith in his views and he has given back by cultivating a solid team culture around them – Remember the best coach India ever had – Gary Kirsten, or the CSK coach Stephen Fleming. They always deliver their best under him. Corporate lesson – Mentors also need to be a part of team and have to be inculcated.

Enjoy the game till it lasts

  • Dhoni plays for the love of the game • and not for the money. His passion is visible on the field. Corporate leaders too should focus passionately on their work and make it fun and not get carried away by their designations and the power that comes with it.
  • Regionalism is killer of team performance – MSD has never indulged in selecting players from his state just for that reason. He places his faith in qualities his team mates should have, rather than other crony factors.

Communicate honestly, be open and fair to media

  • Dhoni is a feraless communicator and • speaks straight from the heart.His frank speeches make him connect with all.
  • Marry simple – A man who never forgot his roots in spite of all the success He could have got anyone but Dhoni chose to marry his childhood sweet heart in a simple ceremony.