Article: 'The least we can do is add value to the world around us'

Leadership

'The least we can do is add value to the world around us'

In a recent webinar hosted by SOIL Institute of Management, Sunil Kant Munjal, Chairman of Hero Enterprise, discussed value-driven self-improvement, celebrating failure and the role of ideation, technology and empathy in building robust business models.
'The least we can do is add value to the world around us'

What can we do to make ourselves better people? This is the question SOIL Institute of Management Founder & Chairman Anil Sachdev seeks to explore through conversations with global business leaders. In this edition of the Becoming the Best Version of Yourself webinar series, Sunil Kant Munjal, Chairman of Hero Enterprise, shares certain values and actions that he believes bring the greatest fulfilment and self-improvement to leaders in his position.

Give something of value back to the world

Those who have been blessed to achieve success have the great opportunity to pass that blessing on to others, shares Munjal, and this is also the approach that his family has taken with regard to the success of the business: giving back to the world.

"I don't think we are smarter than other people. We happened to be there at the right time, right place, had the right values from the people around us. So the least we can do is add value to the society, the systems, the communities around us."

In ordinary times, this might include working with the surrounding communities wherever a business operates, to provide the things that are most needed—whether schools, or hospitals, or even better roads. "There is a sense of urgency because we live in a time and a country where you still have great disparity," Munjal points out.

During this unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, there is even more that successful businesses and individuals can do to serve the greater good, especially if they have the reach to bring others together. Munjal himself describes reaching out through his own network to create multiple tiers of support systems: from an alliance of companies in relevant industries across India, to working with government departments to better organize the pandemic response, to supporting equipment manufacturers, to providing for displaced individuals, and even holding weekly sessions to disseminate high-quality and accurate information about the pandemic situation.

"To use the knowledge, reach, connections, expertise that we have, to the best possible means and manner that we can offer," he says. "It is the things we have done, rather than the money we have spent, that becomes meaningful."

Think forward, for the future

Today's crisis also presents an opportunity to plan for the future: asked for his insights on how leaders can better guide their organizations, Munjal advises using this time for ideation and the creation of a new, more robust, and more efficient business model that can harness today's new technology for better outcomes. "A wall of technology is coming at us. If we don't learn how to harness this, we will get bowled over," he warns.

This is also the time to upgrade one's skills, taking advantage of the research and knowledge that has become freely available from all around the world: knowledge, skills, and education are the best tools available to us today, he says.

More importantly, he feels that leaders must take this time to bring together all the important things in one's life—especially reconnecting with family. "The treadmills that many of us have gotten on in our business lives allow us to run in one unitary direction alone while forgetting other parts of our life," he says. "This is the time to gather everything together, because eventually, everything is about people."

Sometimes, planning for tomorrow may involve disrupting today's ideal situation. Munjal shared that the transition of leadership in his family's business went smoothly because of this: he had proposed restructuring early on, at a time when the business was doing well and the family was getting along. His relatives were not pleased with the idea as they did not see the need for change then: "But this is actually the right time to think about such things," he explains, because planning for a transition during a harmonious period will allow it to happen in a fair and equitable manner that benefits everyone and retains the good relationships within the family.

Change values and mindsets for the better

There are some ways of thinking and behavior that we need to change to become our better selves, Munjal believes. The first thing is how we design plans, products, business models, and even entire organizations: "One thing that needs to become second nature to all of us is that when we design a plan, we must institute the use of technology into this, and empathy needs to be built into design itself."

At the same time, he advocates putting a stop to the mindset of price competition: this, he says, is no longer a sustainable model anywhere in the world, because when a product or service is offered cheaply, that's simply because the costs are being shifted elsewhere and the burden placed on someone else, usually those who are already at a disadvantage.

The way people think about failure must also change. "One of the problems in India is that we have always looked down at failure. Those who fail are given a permanent black mark." But, he points out, famous centers of innovation such as Silicon Valley actually celebrate failure, and investors may even prefer to back people who have failed in the past, because it is considered a sign that someone has learned—not just what to do, but what not to do.

The solution, he suggests, is to equally recognize those who had succeeded and those who have tried and failed—to recognize the attempt rather than just the success. "When you start something, you have no idea whether you are going to be successful. But when you do something in right earnest, whether you fail or you don't, that outcome is not in your hands. What you can do is try, and if you fail, try again," he says.

Listen to the full conversation here.

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Topics: Leadership, #LeadTheWay

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