It’s often said that leaders these days must operate in an environment of extreme volatility. Do you agree? How does that affect the way you lead?
Let us first replace the term ‘volatility’ with ‘persistent change’ to make it more affable. Change is a constant and any leader needs to be prepared for it at all times. With globalization, technological advancements and proliferation of networks, no single business operates in isolation anymore. A small change in one area almost certainly reverberates across. It is clear that volatility is the reality of today and is bound to stay tomorrow. For leaders, it primarily begins with embracing this reality and focusing on the long term. One has to strike the right balance between near term efficiency and long term goal achievement. As a leader one has to stay open, honest and transparent at all times and nurture integrity within his/ her team to stay on the right track and achieve success in spite of the times.
Do you see your role as more of a big-picture strategist or a hands-on manager?
I would call myself a Hands-on Strategic Manager since I see that as the best combination. As a leader you can’t confine yourself to either one as it can have dangerous repercussions. Even as you draw the big picture, you need to be aware of the ground realities. Only the bearer knows where the shoe pinches – so unless you get into those shoes every now and then, your big picture will stay an unaccomplished mission.
How do you have the confidence to know the right choice is to zig when everyone around you is telling you to zag? If I may ask you to share an incident
Being with the majority is often the easiest choice and it takes more than courage to sail against the flow. When you do that you know you are taking on a risk and it almost certainly can never be an easy decision. Yet, at times you need to put your foot down and steer the ship in the other direction. I believe this conviction comes from experience combined with your intuition guided by the subconscious mind, and when that conviction is grounded as faith you can stand up against all odds and take your standalone decisions.
Do you have a formal mechanism for making sure you stay in touch with employees and customers on the organization’s front line?
For the top management to stay in touch with its front-line is imperative. When you operate from the corner office, it is easy to forget what’s going on beneath you. When leaders fall out of touch with the front-line experience, negative consequences can result. By stepping out of the executive suite often enough to ensure you understand what’s happening on the front line—since that’s the heartbeat of the organization—you can keep your finger on the pulse of what employees need to be successful, see how they perceive your product or service, and discover the often hidden but most impactful opportunities for your organization to grow and prosper. Yes, we do have a formal mechanism of staying in touch with the frontline employees and customers. We enjoy an open culture where any employee irrespective of their position or designation can walk in and talk to the management. We host conferences where we invite our key clientele and front-line employees and they interact with the top management. For employees we additionally have meetings whereby they share their experiences, pain areas and suggestions to bring about improvement in processes and increase our competitive advantage.
How much of your time do you spend developing leaders within your organization?
Leadership development is one of the core principles of Human Resource Development at Emkay and we focus a lot of our energies and time towards the same. The process involves both formal and informal forms of mentoring for potential leaders. We align our efforts to build pivotal capabilities in our people to drive key imperatives required for success as leaders. Potential leaders are challenged to think strategically and move from their set moulds as executers. Addressing identity shifts is one of the key factors towards leadership development. While there is focus on formal routes of training towards this, a lot of emphasis is given to integrating learning into work processes which leads to successful completion of the whole cycle.
Whom do you owe your success to?
I personally believe that success is a factor of cumulative effort directed towards a common goal. I owe my success to every individual who believed in and shared the vision of making Emkay one of the most respected and trusted brands in the country. It is their perseverance and dedication that has led Emkay to where it stands today.
Your Favourite Book or Quote of all time?
My favorite book stays “Built to Last: Successful habits of Visionary Companies” by Jim Collins & Jerry Porras. The book shatters myths while offering insights into building admirable companies. A must read for managers and leaders alike.