Where Leadership is also about Leaves falling from Trees

Date:   Monday , March 03, 2008

“I am sure all of you have seen a leaf fall from a tree. However can you tell me why it happens that way?” asks Rathi Dasgupta, Managing Director Intec India. Of course, due to gravity, you would answer. And that’s where the catch lay. The crux of being a leader, reveals Dasgupta, is in figuring out the different dimension to the phenomenon. For instance: The fact that it’s a leaf that’s falling from the tree makes it related to Biology, and the fact that it is dry might mean there is a bit of Chemistry involved in it too. Leaders essentially need to think on these lines; if some of his team members are interested in Chemistry he ought to represent the phenomenon of leaves falling from the tree from the Chemistry point of view; for somebody interested in Biology, the case must be represented from the respective point of view. In a nutshell, leaders ought to help team members focus on their strengths and through that window, also tackle weaknesses.

Says Dasgupta, “People tend to focus too much on trying to overcome weakness and end up not building their strengths at all. Approaching things this way helps one thrive on the strengths while not exactly sidelining the weaknesses.”

The inspiration for this philosophy comes from his life itself. He was poor performer in many subjects till about the sixth standard. Then he started looking at his strengths and approached subjects he was not interested in, through them. Today, he finds just about anything fascinating. He has his feet deep in the domains of geography, particle physics and a host of other subjects, all while being in charge of Intec.

Leader: A visionary

“I love doing all sorts of this,” he confesses. Yet, this multi-faced leaning, is this not sign of a confused person? Not at all, if Dasgupta is to be believed. “If you don’t know what’s happening around you, how will you deal with challenges?” he questions. “How will you lead people?” He recently bought around 35 books on supply chain management, all in a drive to being informed and thus be alert to future industry trends. That’s the only way, he notes, that one can lead from the front.

Not only does he have varied interests, Dasgupta has also published quite a few papers in international conferences in the last three years. He’s been participating in active research in management with a global outsourcing agency and is also an external faculty at the University of Westminster. Research, he claims is important in the profile of a leader. It makes him aware of issues at a very intimate level and helps him set the vision for the company he’s leading.

Also, a leader must set the vision for each one of his team members for there is no development that takes place without the development of those constituting the team.
“Especially a leader in the technology space; he ought to value his team more than anything else.”

Team and the individual
A leader must ensure and support an environment for employee development. This is something that Dasgupta believes in strongly. He was once offered a management position in a financial institution but he refused it owing to the fact that the company in question had rolled back its employee stock option plan after introducing it.

Any leader, believes Dasgupta, ought to be tuned into his team like a mother is tuned into her children. Elucidating, he talks of a mother taking her child in her lap and holding his hand to teach him to write the alphabet. Would the child have learnt as easily had the mother just given the child a book and told him how to write? Also, would learning have been such a pleasurable experience?

Similarly, a leader must be a mentor to his team and handhold his team members. “He must give a direction to the team members, guide them,” Dasgupta emphasizes, while adding that at any point, a leader must not give the solution. He must eke the team on towards the solution and let them find the solution on their own. This is what Dasgupta calls ‘third party perspective’; it ensures that the team is not resistant to the solution since it itself has devised it.

Disruption and deviation
A leader must, in Dasgupta’s view ensure positive disruptive change. “TI and Motorola do full-scale product development here, but they are exceptions. For most companies, India is a low-cost center. It’s an image that has embedded itself in the minds of technology professionals all over the world,” he says. In such case, the leader must be the change, and attempt to break the image. It doesn’t matter that the change can produce positive or negative impact; the point is the leader must, along with his team, attempt to change for the better. All leaders therefore need be revolution-consistent.

However, there comes a time for all leaders when they must break away from the flow that is step out. Says Dasgupta, “All leaders, whether he is a managing director, project leader or team leader, give something to the team and take something from it. Whatever his role, it contributes to a measured procedure in the organization. However once the leader’s perception of success is different from that of his team or his organization, he must step out.”

Slog, but intelligently
We’ve all heard stories of how leaders, especially ones who head companies, spend over 20 hours per day in office. Dasgupta however, does not believe in such practices. He believes in having a balance between work and family. He’s generally home by 7.30 pm and has dinner with his family, talking over things like GDP and the country’s growth with his children. This is not without reason.

“If a problem is not solved in three hours, it will never be solved,” he quips. A leader must, he stresses, identify the core problem when faced with a tough situation and concentrate on it and resolve it within three hours rather than concentrating on peripheral problems and spending hours and hours over trying to iron them out. Intelligent slogging is what Dasgupta swears by.

Also, he adds that someone who has not slogged for the initial decade in one’s career will end up slogging unintelligently once he reaches higher positions since he will not have the know-how and the observation to resolve problems.

Any organization wants its employees to add value and not necessarily spend hours in the office. After all, that’s not what organization pays one for.

Success, for whom?
For someone who has reached Dasgupta’s position and has the kind of mettle that he possesses—what with getting papers published in numerous international conferences—it comes as surprise when he says that he is not successful. So what defines success for him?

“Am I creating jobs for people, or providing a shelter for the 25 crore homeless in this country?” he questions. “I read books, write papers…what am I doing for them?” Does he have any ideas as to how he could go about it? “I intend to be successful,” is all Intec India’s head professes.


Rathi Dasgupta

My name is given by my 'dadu' (maternal grand father) with lots of love, it means "someone who drives his own chariot - his life".Born, raised and educated mostly in Calcutta and also in New York, I am a full fledged Bengali at heart. I went to Mitra Institution, Modern School and St. Xavier's Collegiate School (HS). I studied in St. Xavier's college for undergraduate studies. My graduate studies were in Institute of RadioPhysics and Electronics and Department of Physics, Calcutta University, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Trained as a Physicist with a PhD in the area of Quantum Mechanics, Field Theory and Nano technology, I work as a Software Engineering Professional, currently a Management person. I worked in George Soros - TCG Group, DCL Group (USA), Coopers & Lybrand, Techna, Xansa (UK), i2 Technologies, Sharp Labs, SUN Microsystems, Wipro, Office Tiger, First Apex, Target Corporation and INTEC Telecoms. I was instrumental in creating TCG Software in 1994 and was founding member and Director at Target Corporation in India. Currently I work as Managing Director at Intec, one of the largest OSS/BSS companies, listed in London. Other than my professional career, I am actively involved in research on Outsourcing, participate in national and internal seminar, work closley with universities in Europe and USA and teach in business schools. I am an active member of The Institute of Physics, London and a Chartered Physicist.