Article: The patriarch who doesn’t let go! – Ratan Tata and Cyrus Mistry saga


The patriarch who doesn’t let go! – Ratan Tata and Cyrus Mistry saga

"The focus has to be on 'leading' rather than 'following'" does the statement by Ratan Tata point to what he truly believes in? Or is 'power' hard to let go of?
The patriarch who doesn’t let go! – Ratan Tata and Cyrus Mistry saga

Well! I could putt this ball right into the hole, but instead, I will focus on Ratan Tata – the man who I think, refuses to let go – just like the head of the family, who no matter how old, still wants to run the family business or demands to be consulted in all affairs of the family, for the family or by the family. (Or this could be completely a fragment of my imagination, and I could be a hundred percent wrong considering I have no clue how businesses are run! Maybe businesses need the omnipresence of an undisputed, dogmatic, authoritative and incontestable leader!)

However, continuing on the first train of thought, on the bright side, at least we have this man to fall back to in case of any contingencies, which is a more reassuring part of the whole thing. But, nonetheless, till what time will Tata continue to supply such assurances to the conglomerate? Isn’t he getting old?

Ratan Tata, it seems, is more focused on ‘leading’ rather than ‘following’. In one of his letters to his employees, he stated (although in the context of his companies) that “The focus has to be on ‘leading’ rather than ‘following’.” now, does this truly present the nature of Ratan Tata and in what he believes? Maybe, maybe not! It’s a known fact that it is not easy to let go of what one has earned – not particularly in terms of money but in terms of power, respect, reverence or status.

However, I am still deliberating on the question “Why leaders can’t let go?”

I am sure Mr. Tata had his reasons to oust Cyrus Mistry, but, focusing on Cyrus Mistry’s remark in his letter to the Directors of Tata Sons wherein he stated that “Prior to my appointment, I was assured that I would be given a free hand. The previous Chairman was to step back and be available for advice and guidance as and when needed…I hope you do realize the predicament that I found myself in - Being pushed into the position of a "lame duck" Chairman, my desire was to create an institutional framework for effective future governance of the group.” — Does this signal to Tata’s deliberate intrusion or is he being a backseat driver? Is this a matter of the vision that Mistry didn’t share with Tata? Do visionary leaders don’t have visionary successors? Or they have successors, but they still want to call the shots?

I feel succession planning is more than just a management task. Is it a responsibility that needs to be entrusted in the best person and by ensuring that personalities and politics don’t hinder the process. However, maybe in reality, it’s more than just that – personalities, politics, and a lot of right and left hands ensure that businesses are run, managed and planned.

Although Tata states that the decision to oust Mistry was “made after careful and thoughtful deliberation and is one the board believes was absolutely necessary for the future success of the Tata Group”, we all are wondering what could possibly lead to such situation. Tata will nonetheless have a lot of questions to answer when he chooses his next successor – and one of them in particular about why he sacked Mistry? 

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Topics: C-Suite, Leadership, Watercooler

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