What Leadership style is suited for India?

How is Leadership style different for India?

Q1. Why is India different?

The very ethos of our civilization are different from the West in many ways. If one reads the works of ex-Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group – Devdutt Pattanaik, one would get to know more.

Some relevant Devdutt’s articles:

What are Vedic values, aka ‘Indian Ethos’ of the Hindus?

Is Hinduism A Religion, A Myth Or Something Else?

Karmic faiths

Devdutt Pattanaik: East vs. West — the myths that mystify

The Indian approach to business: Devdutt Pattanaik at TEDxGateway 2013

India is not chaotic: Devdutt Pattanaik at TEDxYouth@DAIS

Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik Lecture – Cross Dressing God

Ganesh ji

Ganesh ji

Indians have half-ego because we are strongly mothered and also because unlike the West, where kids are left alone to fend for them at the age of 14, Indian kids get family protection and support for long. The management style thus calls for a clear drawing of rights and responsibilities top-down in the organization but a more personalized bottom-up style of management.

Since Indians are mentally very free and each one has his own Karma, we are generally good when it comes to personal delivery of output. But this also means that many times Indians seem to be short of big thinking, even Tata’s and Reliance are not world class brands, but conglomerates. Till recently, US companies preferred Indians in either up to below top-level Blue collar jobs or middle/ lower Management White collar jobs. With accession of a plethora of Indians as CEO’s of world’s leading firms like Google, Microsoft and Pepsi, the trend has digressed, especially in the US. But go elsewhere – take the example of Dubai or Singapore: The Sheikhs and the Confucian masters still keep top Management posts for Whites/ Chinese and the middle level for Indians. For a white and an Indian on same post, the white guy gets a higher pay. This says something about racism but also calls for introspection on the commitment and integrity of Indian Leadership to have a long-term vision and work actively towards it to build globally competitive companies.

Talent is there, a positive legacy is building up, but being at a goal for really long period seems to be missing. It doesn’t help that the cut-throat nature of competition calls for a leader with killer instinct, one who believes in creating better products/ services, goes all out for wiping out the competition by all available market practices and doesn’t get satisfied by the comfort of huge compensation which lifts his standard of living so much that it ends up killing his motivation for larger success. A number of such potential Leaders, like Rajat Gupta (ex-McKinsey, currently behind bars in the US in an Insider Trading case), end up falling by the wayside, allured by short term gains made with unethical and unlawful means.

Our Education system is such that it discourages original thinking. India, thus, needs to move the stress laid in our Education system, from obtaining degrees/ certificates to getting people to learn skills – While Skill India is welcome, but student’s skills need to be physically tested rather than checking answer sheets, which result in rote system. So, we would do better by largely following the American education system, which lays 50% weightage to academics, 25% to personality/ communication and 25% to sports skills.

One of the biggest reasons why the monstrous market potential in India remains untapped is that the schooling so far in the country is English specific – Most middle and lower class sends their wards to Government School – no person who can afford Private Schools, sends his children to Government Schools – The generations coming out of Government Schools is poor in English. But can anyone say that they don’t carry necessary IQ (Intelligence Quotient), EQ (Emotional Quotient) or SQ (Social Quotient)? But what happens to them in their career – Automatic Apartheid! No Private company considers them since they lack English proficiency. And they end up becoming clerks or enroll in some petty jobs!

India’s treatment of these own citizens is one of a kind worldwide and in direct contrast to peer emerging economies like China, Russia, Brazil, Germany, Japan etc, which have grown on back of their own languages by tapping the resource mass in Villages. Many would have observed while taking interviews – one finds candidates who lack substance but try to show off their English! – Such useless attitudes have been built over the years by us Indians only by treating English speakers as superior to vernacular language speakers! Just look at the vernacular social media, mainstream media market or the local language software market in India – its languishing! And the vernacular speakers are in the rut too, and sadly lagging behind on most indicators! How far can local language markets develop, depends on Government action on this politically sensitive issue.

I personally believe in recruiting people from Government School/ College background but those who still scored high. Just check them for right personality traits – one will get a goldmine of talent hidden there. Their English language skills can be upgraded in 6 months.

I have seen companies, especially Indian one’s, getting crushed from the intensity of control its Promoters continue to exert, thereby not letting the foundations of the business to be built, with empowered teams. My belief is that it is never too early to create Policy driven processes for each and every aspect of the business. While many Founders tend to think of policies as restrictive and their own word as final, but there are umpteen instances of breakdown in the organization while it is trying to rake up growth, within ambit of a one-man show.

My relative Lokesh Jindal says “Leadership is about ‘influencing’; about getting people to believe in you and to accept you as a leader without any hierarchical authority. You still needed the ‘vision’ but also needed ‘conviction’ and ‘communication’.

If your team says ‘You are exactly what we had heard you were’. It means your open communication is working and making it to all levels in the organization – the key is being ‘consistent’ and ‘persistent’. The notion of ‘culture’ begins to take shape.

I have learnt that there is no ‘one right style’ of leadership. It is situation oriented and people oriented. Every member of your close team is different and responds to a different style. While your beliefs and goals always remain the same, how you communicate them or the relative priority changes based on the situation and the person. Leadership is about bringing the best out of everyone in the team rather than just looking to change the team all the time. Of course you will need to make changes as the organization needs evolve but that is not the primary operational focus. Getting the best out of your current team is.

My quest for leadership continues. I don’t think I will ever fully know how to be a great leader but hope to continuously evolve towards being one!

Q2. Leadership consists of following aspects:

  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 is critical. This can be basis: Reliability factor of each team person, how true he or she is to their own self and last, do they 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 your team inside out, keep 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 of their motivation, but most 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

Q3. What are the self-mastery secrets that make you a leader?


Q4. Leaders you admire?

Narendra Modi (Modi)

We are in midst of multiple duels – that of India vs Bharat (meaning the West-eulogizing ruling elite vs rural have not’s), that of neo-modern India (as a 70 year old independent nation) vs classical India (as an 8000 year civilization) as well as crony capitalism/ crony socialism vs market economy cohabiting with a welfare state. But taking the right decisions, beyond contradictions, has been the remarkable achievement of this Government under Modi.

Modi has created a new discourse in India. He is different from earlier Political Leadership:

  • From policies of doles and freebies of Congress and state-level dynasty parties, of creating Mai-Baap relationship with citizens, Modi has the policy of Sabka saath, Sabka vikas, meaning Welfare for all
  • Earlier Governments of Congress and state-level dynasty parties resorted to Minority pandering and creation of religion, geography and caste Vote Banks – Modi has refused to pander to specific constituencies, instead working on taking the right decisions consistently and condoning anyone who is on the wrong side of law
  • Zero tolerance to corruption, in contrast to humungous corruption seen from 2004-2014 under Congress-led UPA Government
  • So far Modi has kept aloof from true secular causes – but seems some work is starting – so, a committee has been constituted for Uniform Civil Code for same civil laws for all religions. People are wondering why some religions have separate laws. Public voices are also coming for having same laws for “minority” educational and other institutions, as are for other institutions, under Right to Education Act. Similarly, there is a huge uproar in social media of freeing Hindu temples from Government control – all Mosques, Churches are under independent control of these communities but Temples are under Government control
  • Giving a new meaning to Socialist intent of the Government – Subsidies linked to Aadhaar, PSU disinvestment, industry-friendly policies, 25 crore Jan-Dhan accounts, Black money disclosures, new push in Defense/ Railways/ Power. The UDAY scheme which will plug distribution losses of companies, Mudra Bank for SME’s, Digital India, Make in India and Skill India
  • IT-enabled governance – Computerization of all Government systems
  • Foreign Policy – friendly in neighborhood, muscular with dictatorship-powers like China. $100 billion forex reserves result from international over-reach
  • Statesmanship – Relations with US were boosted in spite that Modi was denied US Visa when he was a CM, Modi got GST done in spite of it being of a potential loss to Gujarat, 42% share of central revenue to states instead of 32% and no selective sops to states
  • Media has been tamed to some extent by Government’s focus on social media

In short, the entire description of how a center should be, has been redefined – It is a new definition of a confident, nationalist, bold India; rather than an India on the back foot all the time

M S Dhoni (MSD) – Leadership traits proven by MSD as given in my article Corporate lessons from M S Dhoni’s leadership

Author: Tushar Kansal

Tushar has been associated with the Project Assessment, Fund-raising & Financial Advisory realm in India for 2 decades. He has straddled multiple roles in Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Times of India’s Brand Capital, Aircel, MTS India, Entrepreneur in Education field and as a CFO (Chief Financial Officer) till 2014. He has major experience in Education domain – From 2001 to 2006, Tushar led his Education entrepreneurship venture which provided Entrance examination training for Engineering colleges in India. Tushar is a Columnist @ Business World, Indian Defence News, Business & Economy, Indian Economist, Digital Market Asia and OpIndia.

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