LEADING FROM THE FRONT


anujAnuj Mathur
HSBC Oriental Bank of Commerce Life Insurance

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?
I completely agree. The environment has become very dynamic and what is true today might become obsolete tomorrow. It is thus critical that the organization & the leaders remain agile and are cognizant of the evolving circumstances. The management team thus has to have the capability to alter course and respond with alacrity the moment there is a stimulus which demands a change. We in our organization always ensure that at the planning stage, multiple options are discussed and the “what if” scenarios plotted. This helps us steer in a structured manner as and when we have to respond to change.
From a management operating style, it keep us on our toes and does not allow us to slip into a “business as usual” mental state.

Do you see your role as more of a big-picture strategist or a hands-on manager?
The answer to this is very simple. You have to balance both. To run an organization in this competitive world, you have to find an equilibrium between meeting your yearly goals and at the same time laying the foundation for a robust growth over the next 3-5 years. The success mantra lies in how well you are able to manage both the short term and the long term objectives of the organization.
It is extremely important to feel the pulse of what is happening on the ground (for which I travel a lot & meet our distributors, customers & employees) and at the same time, sit with the management team & draw a plan for delivering the “vision” of the company. Both are interconnected and one cannot exist without the other.

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 Over a period of time and basis understanding of the market, environment, your team, culture and most importantly living the values that the organization stands for – you develop a very strong “sixth sense”. This emanates from a sound understanding of your business and hence you are guided by that “belief”. Having said so, there is a process of reaching that stage – which is consultative, taking opinions across levels to get a perspective and making up one’s mind towards a decision. The environment presents situations daily wherein there is no consensus on an issue and a decision has to be taken. A position taken at that point in time post considered evaluation leads to a situation wherein you might be right only half the times, but it is fine. That is life and outcomes cannot be predicted. It is just that the decision making process has to be robust & thought through. Specific examples – There are many, but best not to be put in print as there is no “right or wrong”. At the time when the decision was taken & post evaluation that was the best decision and that is how I & my team run business.

Do you have a formal mechanism for making sure you stay in touch with employees and customers on the organization’s front line?
It is very important that there is a high degree of focus on ensuring “connect” with all the stakeholders ie Customers & Employees. I travel a lot and meet a cross section of each of the segment which influences our business. The insight customers provide on your business is just phenomenal and you cannot get that while operating out of the head office. Similar for the employees. The nuances of operating a business has to be honed through user experience and I lay a huge focus on this critical element.
My travel plans, engagement & schedule is focused around this and is an important part of how I conduct business. I also take pride in the fact, that it is not just me but my entire leadership team which follows this practice. “Staying connected” is our value and live by it without any compromise.

How much of your time do you spend developing leaders within your organization?
Leadership is all about “exposure” and “leading from the front”. In our company, we encourage the “delegation” style of management and “evaluation” post the event to analyse “what could have been done better”. I can say with surety, that this approach has never failed. Each of the leaders in our organization are encouraged to “experiment and fail’. The operating environment has been so nurtured that we thrive in experiences so as to carve a better course next time. This matures the leadership team & their team members thus honing their professional skills.

Whom do you owe your successto?
The role that I have demands a lot in terms of “time”. In that context, I have my family to thank without any doubt. They understand and are empathetic to the situation thus allowing me sufficient liberty on investing my time in organizational matters. Apart from them, I have a wonderful team which contributes equally to building the company. We share a common passion – to build an organization which is admired and respected for what it does.

Your Favourite Book and Quote of all time?
My favourite book is “Out of my Comfort Zone” which is an autobiography by Steve Waugh the famous australian cricketer. This is an inspiring book which prods you to challenge yourself.

The best quote undoubtedly is –
“The woods are lovely dark & deep, But I have promises to keep & miles to go before I sleep” by Robert Frost.

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