“Leadership Is Not About The Number Of People Who Follow You Rather Its About How Many Lives You Have Been Able To Inspire”

Charulata Ravi Kumar, CEO Razorfish (India) in a vibrant interaction with B&E says she believes in giving everything her 300% !

What makes a great leader ?

Charulata Ravi Kumar, (CR): a Leadership is a combination of instinct, skill and art. And underlying all of this is discipline. A combination of all this makes you an inspiration for others. I personally have used my instincts a lot more than techniques. I share four very important ones that have always guided me.

1) Be an extremely good listener. This isn’t about just listening but about listening between the words, going beyond the words and understanding the deeper emotions and always looking for the core thought while sieving through the words spoken.

2) Show strength of character and control. Not flapping during the most adverse situations and empowering the team with strength and guidance to see it as a new challenge and opportunity to find the best solutions.

3) Lead from the front, from the middle and the sides. I like to be there for my team in every way that’s apt for the situation at hand. It’s not about acting the boss but leading them to discover their best and beyond.

4) Be unbiased, fair and just at all times. An honest relationship demands it and is important to place the organization and its people collectively before the individual.

Aristotle once said -the hardest victory is the victory over self.

What are the self-mastery secrets that make you the world-class leader that you are?

(CR): OMG! This is the tough one. I would like to hire Aristotle to mentor my teams and me! The hardest thing is to look within and acknowledge your gaps – both capability and leadership skills. There is not a single person who says they do acknowledge but many in the hearts don’t really believe it. And again we tend to reach a certain level of excellence and get ourselves waylaid by praises and accolades to believe we are the cat’s whiskers. This is our doom and it’s the point when Peter Principle starts setting in. There are three simple things I do to keep my humility in check. A) Keep interacting with people who are better that you. There’s no point being the king (or queen) amongst fools! B) Stay in a student frame of mind. That means read a lot and write a lot. C) Expand boundaries to meet people from all walks of life from the industry and many more from unrelated quarters. What’s important here is to remain non-judgmental and appreciate and absorb the difference this brings.

Leadership should not be about the number of people who follow you but rather how many lives have you been able to inspire and change for the better.

What according to you is the one most important quality of a leader?

(CR): It can never be one quality. This responsibility is about dealing with a multitude of situations and vast diversity of humans. A one-quality leader will remain a one- trick pony that will fail when the hurdle it knows how to jump changes to a pit it has to cross.  Sourav Ganguly, a leader I have always admired went through the peaks and troughs of his life with equal grace. At times displaying determination, at times courage, at times humility and above all resilience.  Taking decisions, which positively impact the larger good, is also an important trait.

Can we teach people to become better leaders? (Is it an inborn skill or can it be taught)

(CR): When I was pushing my son, who is passionate about sports and excels in many, to work towards becoming the captain, with one knock he taught me a very important lesson. He said, “Mamma, But I don’t want to be a leader. I want to play well.” A new lesson in leadership that I learnt.Sachin Tendulkar, a failed captain, has led by inspiring millions around the world to aim for excellence. Leadership can be both an inborn skill that must be polished to shine and yet like in case of Mahatma Gandhi, it can be taught. But in both instances, the passion and drive must come from within… to strive for excellence and to inspire others towards it. Leadership cannot be a status you ask for. It happens because others choose you to be so.

How important is team work in achieving success? The secret to building a strong and efficient team?

(CR): It is indispensible. In today’s world collaboration is the only way, between individuals and between businesses. But collaboration without strong relationships will be futile. From a leadership pov, it is important to trust and empower your team on the one hand, but also never allow a compromise on a strong performance-based culture. Building and demonstrating a culture that is unique to the organization will bind its people together firmly and the common purpose will be a joy to work towards. Not to forget that individual needs and dreams are just as important as the collective goals.

For us, integrity, passion, collaboration, innovation and speed underlie strong performance. But hey, lets not forget to have fun while doing all this!

The secret to getting more done in a day as compared to others.

(What are the most important day to day habits that help you get the maximum out of the day? Your secret of effective time management)

(CR): Multitasking is a skill one must acquire and train towards if you wish to make your day rich with experiences. While I accompany my son to all his sports training and matches, I write my columns and interviews such as this.

a) One also needs a fantastic assistant and in my case I have RajuTarange, who more than doubles up in any role you put him in.

Some good techniques are,a) learning the art of speed-reading and being able to quickly grasp the key points. Learning to connect dots from life experiences to apply the learnings quicker and more efficiently.

b) Waking up at 4am to be able to do all the things you want to before the phone pings you to madness!Its important not to become a slave to the phone specially irrelevant social media chatter.

c) The urge to peek into the phone every 20 seconds must be avoided.

d) Stress leads to loss of productivity. One must learn to control stress with suitable exercise and following a passion to immerse in.

e) Above all, it’s the inner drive and energy, and strong will to explore the new, that will always make time for you.

The motivation secrets of a leader-how do you inspire and sustain motivation?

(CR): I don’t have an “inspiration strategy”. And I seem to remain forever motivated by life. I find inspiring people to connect with and I find inspiration in all I meet. The inspiration you draw from those around you will emanate as your positivity.

The secret to handling failure effectively ?

(CR): To see failure as a success. Because only those who dare to try, can ever fail. It is important to be proud of your failures, learn from them and become stronger than be arrogant about your success.

How do you prioritize work and life?

(CR): I don’t. Both have equal priority in my life. And both run simultaneously! No day is perfectly balanced. But I have learnt to improvise as we go along.

Leaders you admire?

(CR): My parents – for coming from humble beginings to becoming inspiring leaders in their respective societies and yet remaining humble all their lives.

Aung San SuuKyi – for the power of gentle that forced the world to come together and a nation to change.

The Dalai Lama – For the Spiritual leadership he brings to our world

Mahatma Gandhi – For his determination to become the leader the world needed and, his astute sense of strategy and human understanding.

Lionel Messi – For showing us new heights of excellence and exhilaration we did not know existed.

SouravGanguly – For bringing fire in the bellies of the Indian team

Your views on the leadership skills of the next generation of leaders?

(CR): Each generation likes to undermine the next and vice-versa without a consideration of the era’s evolution status. Assuming that the next generation of leaders is all flawed will be our folly. Each generation brings with it a new wave and a new way of doing things. But learning from the past is equally important. The new generation is bringing a lot of dynamism, innovation and a spirit of entrepreneurial leadership. This of course with its share of impulsiveness and frequent focus shifts. If they can learn to channelize their restlessness in the right direction, then they can well be the torchbearers of the new exciting future that awaits us.

Best advice you can give to the future leaders

(CR): Become the inspiration. Don’t chase power or fame. Embrace failure as much as you would success – yours’ and others’.

Give everything in life your 300%.