Leadership is the ability to handle the job at the next level with comfort. Being able to perform your future role in the present
Chanda Kochhar explains what Leadership means at ICICI and why it is important for their business
You have come from the entry level to CEO. What, in your experi-ence, have ICICI done different from its competitors with respect of grooming leaders?
I believe that what is different in ICICI is firstly the kind of culture of the group and secondly the robust process that we use to identify and groom talent. ICICI, as a group, has gone through tremendous growth and diversification. We operate in a very enterprising environment where people are given opportunities to perform all the time. And we follow a very robust process of identifying and nurturing leaders that complements the opportunities available in the business with the best talent available.
Can you share with us the milestones that show that you were going higher than the rest?
For me, growth in ICICI has been a journey. It is difficult to mention the steps. What you constantly feel is that at every stage you are given a responsibility higher than the previous one and are given more freedom and empowerment.
Few examples that I can mention could be: I got confirmed after 9 months of joining as management trainee when the confirmation period is normally 12 months or when I was given the opportunity to be the first person to set up the commercial bank, or I was given the responsibility of setting up the infrastructure finance business or when I moved to retail to scale the business to a different level. Most of my journey can be described as opportunity after opportunity to build something from inception stage in the different businesses.
What does Leadership mean at ICICI? What do you look for in young talent as an indicator for leadership potential? Why is it important for the business?
Leadership is the ability to handle the job at the next level with comfort. Being able to perform your future role in the present. It is especially important in an industry like ours where people are our most important asset, and we depend on people for growth. When your business focuses on growth, grooming talent is crucial.
What role do you think HR should play in the identification and grooming of potential leaders?
HR plays a very important part in our business in general. They play the role of partners to the business. The reason is mainly because we are a service organization and success in our industry is dependent on people, their performance and alignment at all levels: from the person in the branch giving a demand draft to a customer, to the branch manager to the board of directors. Customer experience is achieved by people delivering outstanding service to the clients. So HR in general plays a crucial role in our business. Similarly, when it comes to the leadership program, again HR works in partnership with the business all through the process.
Do you believe that talent/leadership development can be encapsulated into a process?
The process is required, but that does not mean that it can all be digitized and computerized. In the process we follow at ICICI, there is an element of personal judgement at the stage of performance management and also at the stage of panel assessment.
Professional aptitude and ability to generate business and profit can be identified based on performance easily and it is transparent to everybody; How do you look for the soft aspects of leadership, like ethics, ability to groom others, retaining poise under severe stress?
These are all very important aspects for ICICI Leadership, we have defined them in the ICICI DNA anchors and they are an intrinsic part of our culture and ethos. Hence future leaders are profiled and assessed on those anchors.
There is a disparity in the proportion of woman in senior and board level position, do you think that is a problem for creating a sustainable organization? And if so, what are the measures to rectify the same?
At ICICI we have created a level playing field and we make all career-related decisions on the basis of meritocracy. We are a truly gender neutral organization, we have been for many years and it is part of our culture. That means women and men have the same opportunities and also have the same requirements from the business.
I believe that other organizations have a historical disadvantage as they had less women in the workforce either due to the type of industry or requirement of the job. Now, most of corporate India has understood the economic benefits of having women in leadership roles and on boards and are putting significant efforts into changing their demographics. My opinion is that you cannot change a culture overnight; these organizations will see the fruits of their efforts as women move up in roles.