Article: What makes Indian leadership so unique?

Leadership

What makes Indian leadership so unique?

A leader is one who understands the dynamics of the situation and does not hesitate to become the shishya in demanding situations, says Dr. Bala V. Balachandran, J L Kellogg Distinguished Professor of Accounting and Information Sciences (Emeritus in Service), Kellogg School of Management
What makes Indian leadership so unique?
 

Monarchy is a thing of the past and these are times when sometimes the guru has to become the sishya

 

One of the most respected traits in a leader is that of ‘passion with compassion' and this I feel is a hallmark of any true leader

 

The Indian leader is one who understands the dynamics of the situation and does not hesitate to become the shishya in demanding situations, says Dr. Bala V. Balachandran, J L Kellogg Distinguished Professor of Accounting and Information Sciences (Emeritus in Service), Kellogg School of Management, Illinois

While the past couple of decades have seen India carve a space for itself as a technological and intellectual pow-erhouse in the global environ, the past decade, has the world standing up and taking notice of Indian Leadership. What with the Tata acquisition of Tetley, the famous Jaguar and Land Rover and Corus deals, the Mittal and Arcelor deal, the Mahindra group and their Chinese acquisitions, India Inc. is plowing unstoppably ahead -- and these examples are only a drop in the bucket.

The case is the same with the IT industry as well where the ‘terrific trio’ of Infosys, TCS and Wipro have together changed the way the IT industry operates as a whole. So much so, that the other global market leaders such as IBM, Dell and MS are exploring strategic opportunities to tie-up with and leverage the advantages of associating with the trio. This triad syndrome, this is applicable to other industries as well -- Bajaj, Venu and Munjal in the two-wheeler automotive space, Kamat- Aditya Puri -- Bhatt in banking, Sunil -- Anil -- Tata in Telecom etc. The interesting conclusion here, is that you are likely to find that in most industries, in India the bulk of market share is consolidated and shared between three major players, breeding healthy competition and by extension enabling delivery of products and services of highest quality. And for the titans who run the show in these top companies, leadership is not only an attitude, it is a way of life.

While one observes that a handful of organizations in the US have achieved phenomenal success and growth due to outstanding and commendable leadership, this is in the range of 5 to 7 percent such as GE, Microsoft, Dell etc. The converse is true of India, in that the range of 5 to 7 percent of the companies are doomed because of the leadership (or the lack of it) of the person at the helm of affairs, as the recent Satyam scandal has proven. What I am able to conceive as the basic difference between the Western and Indian way of leadership, is the deep-rootedness and steeping of an Indian in the concepts of ethics and moral responsibility. This is something that echoes in every fragment of the nation and I firmly believe that it is this moral leadership that has created great leaders and has allowed them to grow their businesses, organizations and Institutions beyond national horizons; to not only compete in the International markets but to also beat them at their game and emerge the world leader.

A closer look at the world order would reveal the slight degeneration in the quality and impact of leadership in the US and Western economies while at the same time the decisiveness and character demonstrated by Indian Leaders both in business and political circles. Intellect and acumen reigns supreme and we are witnessing a stage where the upper echelons of educated politicians are also seeking the advise of our corporate maharajahs, working in tandem in making strategic decisions charting the course of the nation in the days to come. Monarchy is a thing of the past and these are times when sometimes the guru has to become the sishya. The Indian leader is one who understands the dynamics of the situation and does not hesitate to become the shishya in demanding situations. The humility and graciousness he/she displays in trying times are exemplary. These are indications that India has entered an era of mature leadership.

What strikes me as a unique aspect of leadership in many of India’s business powerhouses is the importance given to succession planning. There is also an incredible amount of clarity in the matter that qualification and experience is what matters more than familial membership. Tradition dictated that the son followed the same profession as the father, and the Indian business houses have long ago realized the value in fusing the two elements. The wisdom of grooming the next generation to take up these key roles is not lost on them and we find that Tanya Dubash and Nadir Godrej, Lakshmi Srinivasan, Rohan Murthy, Aditya Mittal, Rishad Premji, Noel Tata etc. are all educated and groomed to take up key positions in their family businesses. While Ratan Tata and K M Birla have brilliantly outshone their predecessors I am confident that their successors who have been identified, nominated and mentored personally by them will do even better. They have not only grown up with the businesses and now also possess the requisite professional expertise to run them and it’s doesn’t take a genius to do the math and realize that they are poised to take their companies to even greater days of glory.

The other focal point that Indian leadership has been careful to adopt is that of corporate social responsibility and corporate governance. While transparency conforming has become a statutory requirement, there is a traditional link between the profitable institutions and the not-for-profit Institutions they support. Be it research, charity, hospitals, education, rehabilitation, you name it - Indian leaders are showing the way that profiteering is not the end, and is at best the means to attain societal and perhaps even economic equality and harmony. Here again, I am compelled to quote that our scriptures and spiritual texts have shown the way in conditioning us, Indians to be sensitive to the plight of others. One of the most respected traits in a leader is that of ‘passion with compassion’ and this is something that I feel is a hallmark of any true leader. It is this sensitivity to the need of the stakeholder and consumer that drives businesses to add value to customers (apart from making profits), deliver better products and services (as opposed to merely meeting top and bottom lines with sub-standard goods), take care of employees with excellent retention and motivation schemes (as opposed to exploitation of labour), put in place ethical practices and value systems (as opposed to an autocratic, dictatorial protocols) and above all contribute in a resounding way to the progress of the nation’s economy (as opposed to individual growth).

These are the key differentiators. These are the traits that leaders the world over are trying hard to emulate. These are the traits that sons of our soil are born with. These are our assets, standing the test of time and as I always say, with a global mindset and Indian roots, we can only succeed.

 

Topics: Leadership, Diversity, Culture

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