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9 strokes of Mansingh
Harish Revanna
Tuesday, October 3, 2006
My connection with Gandhian principles
didn’t come from the pages of my school textbook. It was preached and followed by my family of freedom fighters.

By the time I was born, freedom had been achieved and Gandhi was already an icon mustering masses under his vision. His humility was held with high regard in my family. While I feel grateful to have started my early days practicing humility, it is not surprising that it is bedrock of great leaders. My parents are surely my first role models for preaching humility. And then came the others: Jack Welch for showing what leaders can do in the business world and Michael Dell for believing in oneself.

Humility for a leader is not a choice but must.

Leadership, according to me, is the ability to inspire teams towards achieving a goal, and motivating them to do their best even in adverse circumstances. It is about building leaders at various levels of an organization who eventually determine the success of that organization. But success isn’t so simple. I believe the core lies in identifying the pulse of the employees.

Luckily for me, when I relocated to India after 20-years in the U.S and Canada, the pulse of my employees lay in their most admired game of cricket. Although it meant rummaging for the wooden bat I used during my Fatehpur college days, I was sure I had found the wand that could open mouths and minds in India to interact. Once we began communicating the real work started. I have personally divided that into the 9-competencies of leadership.

1 Defining clear vision: Leaders have to build clear vision for their organization; one that galvanizes teams. At the start of my assignment in Dell, I had a vision to build Dell India R & D center into the center of excellence for enterprise products which could handle complex tasks in software development, testing, solutions and hardware design.

2 Inspiring and aligning the troops to the vision: I repeatedly tell myself and my employees about how vision is not achievable single-handedly. Aligning employees to a single vision is the mantra for success. I need to create the right competencies and support structure for them to achieve it.

That is how successful organizations are built. The pain taken to bring the alignment of the vision leads to inspiration, focus and commitment.

3 Being positive and passionate about the vision: Positive spirits emanate from the passion to succeed. The power of passion is amazing. It is contagious. One has to be passionate about whatever one does for company, family or country.

4 Creating short and long-term goals for the organization: Leaders need to lay out short and long-term goals for the organization. Evangelizing the team to take that extra mile in achieving each goal often needs communication. Consistency maintained overtime during communication will reflect on timeliness of reaching the goal. But also opportunities to better them.

5 Creating strategies to achieve these goals: Leaders need to define and develop strategies needed to achieve the goals of the organization. Although not always possible, one needs to work with their teams in creating the right strategy.

While the first five points are objectives to companies’ vision and goals, the next four are the ones where a leader forms his contour.

6 Empowering managers: I’ve always encouraged my managers to become leaders. I consider my job is to create leaders inside the organization. I call it leadership through inspiration and empowerment. Here I analyze my managers and categorize their work based on their strengths and weaknesses.

While I mentor them and emphasize what their strengths are, I try working on their weaknesses. My managers have often heard me say: “Guys, here is what you need to focus on.

Otherwise you will not be an effective leader and an effective manager.” I’ve often suggested self-help books to my managers to clear their roadblocks to success. Be it for effective communication or an attentive listener, my management style has been to offer them self-enhancement books. And discuss the subject matter in great details of our understanding to reach the desired goals at a higher pace. My conviction is any manager increases his effectiveness manifold by becoming effective leader. A group of successful leaders means nothing but a successful company in all. I have sincerely tried to lead my teams rather than managing them. A manager can tell his team what to do, but it is the leader who makes them want to do it.

7 Motivating, mentoring and coaching to achieve goals: I’ve encouraged employees to give their best in any given situation. I believe it is imperative of a leader to mentor, improve and make a difference to each and every person working with him. Although my first line of managers don’t directly report to me, we meet up on the first Friday of each month talking about the managerial and leadership issues.

They ask me questions on developing leadership competencies or how to manage attrition, and at times even poor performing employees. I believe in the process of transforming employees from average to good, and good to great. Average employees in my team not only need motivation and inspiration to be instilled in them, but also a real life role model they can compete with. I believe the only way to make the average best is to make him work with the best, coach, mentor and inspire them to walk the extra mile.

8 Building trust and connecting with people across the organization: Building trust is a key leadership competency, which is critical for the leader and the organization. However, it takes a lot of time and effort to create an environment of trust. To earn people’s trust, they have to know who you are, what you stand for. Therefore, connecting and communication with employees becomes a key. Leaders touch the heart before they offer for a hand. At Dell, every Friday I keep my doors open for any of my employees to walk in and converse with me about all the issues they have. Also we have Brownbag days when employees are randomly chosen to discuss issues that concern the organization.

Basic competency of connecting to people is having transparency, humility and sincere care for people. I’ve often missed employees who have been weeded out or candidates rejected during recruitments. Those who have known me always ask me if they could keep in touch with me even after they have moved on.

9 Execution and Perseverance: Once all of the above is in place one needs to keep working and persevere until the goals are realized. Success does not come easy; persevering through difficult times is the only way to succeed.

If the nine competencies are the fundamentals of leaders across the world, it only makes it more challenging to apply them on a global stage. Effective global leaders are the ones who have mastered the trick of applying these competencies with diverse work force spanning different cultures and countries. Indian executives and managers often lack the skills of leadership, which I believe needs to be developed as the country trudges its path to become the global super power.

Today, my essence of leadership lies in the eighth competency: building trust and connecting with people. I’m a total people’s person. And I believe humans are the same across, but will take their time to react.

Once you have built the trust and are connected with your team, they will always stand behind you and never let you down. They will walk the extra mile and take the organization to new heights. Contrary to general belief, I believe that at peak of success leaders are never alone, their teams are next to their shoulders.
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