Article: Growth needs to stem from a vision: Kris Gopalakrishnan

Leadership

Growth needs to stem from a vision: Kris Gopalakrishnan

Kris Gopalakrishnan shares how leadership development plays an important role in succession planning and how this activity cannot be accidental for growing organisations
 

We took a stand on not taking family members as part of the leadership team, if anyone wanted to apply could do so as per the normal process

 

Kris Gopalakrishnan shares how leadership development plays an important role in succession planning and how this activity cannot be accidental for growing organizations

What does Leadership mean at Infosys? Has this definition of leadership evolved since the inception of the company? What do you look for in young talent as an indicator for leadership potential?

Leadership at Infosys means taking on the next level of growth. That has 3 implications; firstly, this growth needs to happen at all levels of the business and at all levels of the organization, not just at the top level. Secondly, this growth needs to stem from a vision that is common across the organization and thirdly, employee, team and individual needs to go the extra mile to reach full potential.

It is important for Infosys because of business sustainability and long term growth. We look to create sufficient pipeline of leadership to cater to the needs of the business. Succession is not accidental but very much a planned activity.

In 1999, we realized that we did not have a robust process to identify and groom the leadership pipeline. The process was happening in ad hoc manner and even though it was working at that time, we took a conscious decision to look at best practices in the industry and adopt a new plan based on Infosys values and culture.

The process today is very mature. It has, of course, evolved over time — how we identify leaders, how we give feedback, how we mentor future leaders and how we use training and development to enhance their capabilities.

The first 3 CEOs of Infosys, including yourself, have been from the founding team. How do you create role models for managers who have have joined the company after it had reached a relative level of success?

The next level below the CEO primarily consists of people who joined the organization much later. The vision of having them as successors to the CEO level position has been clearly articulated and shared with them.
We also took a stand on not taking family members as part of the leadership team, if anybody wanted to apply could do so as per normal process. The underlying point here being that there is no favouritism at Infosys.

What role do you think HR should play in the identification and grooming of potential leaders?

HR plays a dual role in the Leadership Development program. On the one hand, the HR function facilitates the performance management process that is the pillar of talent identification. On the other hand, the Leadership Institute supports the process of identifying leadership within top performers, creates a platform for mentoring and feedback and finally focuses on leadership development. HR and Leadership Institute work together but they are independent teams reporting to the board function of HR.

I have noticed there are very few women in your management team and board. What obstacles have you encountered in identifying, grooming and retaining women leaders in your group?

We have moved from roughly 15% of women at the entry level to 33% in the last few years - so of course there was previously a historical and industry-specific challenge to groom leaders when your entry level is so low.

The historical problem is now solved, as many women are studying engineering. We are also focusing on creating ways to solve the barriers that our industry has, for example the need to work across time zones, relocation to other countries for projects etc... these are the kind of issues we have faced in retaining and grooming women leaders. This is, of course, evolving and we are seeing more and more women taking on higher roles, it is only a matter of time. We want to see this number being maintained proportionately at the top of the organization as well.

As a matter of commitment, there are many policies and practices to help women in the maternity phase of life when they need the organization’s support. And ultimately, 88% of women do come back from maternity.
 

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Topics: Leadership, Culture, Learning & Development, #BestPractices

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