Article: Why leadership is a lonely walk


Why leadership is a lonely walk

Pratik Kumar, Chief Executive Officer, Wipro Infrastructure Engineering on the key influences in his life, what success means, leadership and more
Why leadership is a lonely walk

Leadership many a times is a lonely walk and many of the struggles that one goes through, one has to deal with them alone


Pratik Kumar, a member of Wipro’s senior leadership team, has been associated with Wipro for the last 22 years. Pratik assumed leadership of Wipro Infrastructure Engineering as its CEO in July, 2010. Besides his business role, he also provides leadership oversight to the HR function of Wipro Enterprises Ltd. 

What have been some of the early influences in your life?

I think it has a lot to do with surroundings in which I grew up. My father was in a government job which gave me the opportunity to move from one town to another frequently. This and the dusty lanes of the small towns where I grew up taught me the meaning of friendship, resilience and camaraderie. I would just play with children without knowing their background or where they came from; we simply engaged and interacted with each other. Being able to move from one city to another also taught me to adapt and be responsible for one’s actions. My only window to the world was books. Looking back, I think to a very large extent books in addition to other things I have mentioned, influenced me in my formative years.

How would you define success and what do you think are the ingredients of being a successful leader?

The meaning of success varies and it is different for every individual. I think a fair degree of discipline and being able to stay on course is one of the ingredients of being successful. Being focused and consistent goes a long way and one’s willingness to learn from whoever can teach helps tremendously. Also, being open to feedback is also necessary. As Mark Twain says, “If three people are telling you are drunk, you lie down anyway”; thus you need to have a healthy regard for others’ opinions but it is also critical to have self-belief as well.

What is one key lesson that you have learned in your leadership journey?

In my leadership journey, the key learning for me has been that leadership is not tested in good times but in challenging times. The adversity is what really tests you out as a leader, it makes you stand out; and how you deal with it, how effectively you are able to control the pressure is what defines a good leader. A leader has to play the role of a shock absorber for the organization and hold things together because even the best of leaders begin to falter in adverse and challenging times.

What has been your biggest struggle as a leader? What advice would you give to other leaders?

Leadership many a times is a lonely walk and many of the struggles that you go through, you have to deal with them pretty much by yourself. Along with this, you have larger organizational responsibilities and there is a need to not let emotions affect decisions. The ability to deal with this is what differentiates one leader from another. Today, disruptive technology and what the future could be doing to the businesses worries me as a leader because if I am not being able to keep pace with it, then I might not be able to be on top of evolving trends and may not be able to guide my organization in the right direction..

The advice I’d give is to never seek shortcuts, the likelihood of losing the way is fairly great because it gives you a sense of more temporary achievement and will not sustain for a long period of time. The second advice is that never commit to what you cannot deliver – doing so might make a remarkable dent to your personal credibility and at the end of the day and as professionals, we work for earning the trust and credibility of our fellow professionals and if that doesn’t happen, then you continuously weaken the plank on which you build your entire professional career. And the third is personal to me; it is that as you rise up in the hierarchy, learn to not take yourself too seriously.

You have moved from HR to core business very gracefully. Would you recommend other HR leaders to take the same plunge as well?

It is a very personal thing and it is not a necessity to get into a core business role. I think one should be willing for it before one is ready. You have to ask yourself why do you want to look at it – is it for the title on the card or because these people are the primary drivers in the organization, if these are the elements, then I’d urge people to think again as one must understand that the demands of each role is different. 

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Topics: Leadership, Leadership Development

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