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December - 2006 - issue > In My Opinion
The Future Leader GLOCAL
Uma Krishnamurthy
Monday, November 17, 2008
A Classic situation in the Indian IT industry. Mallika has a team of 400 people based in India across Chennai, Pune and Bangalore and 100 people in London. They are delivering IT Application Services to a client in the UK, who have users across UK and Continental Europe.

We are in the midst of an exciting work environment, at least in the IT Service Delivery industry—one of delivering to a global client-base using primarily local resources, far removed physically from the client. Leaders adopt a delivery style, which I take the liberty of calling, ‘Glocal’. They need to be aware of the clients’ culture and operating environments as well as the local cultural milieu that their teams are from. For a leader like Mallika to be effective, she would need to be aware of the cultural plurality within India as well as the differences within the English and European culture.

I once heard, ‘Decisions are based on values’. Extending this further, organizational decisions are defined by the values of its leaders. In light of this, it becomes extremely important to appoint leaders whose values are aligned with that of the organization—be it someone who is groomed internally or recruited externally.

Leadership values are probably universal in terms of geography and industry. It is just the application of those or the delivery style that may vary. There are many intrinsic values inherent in a leader. Let me touch upon a few values, that I believe are important, and how they translate into action - their delivery.

Trust and respect are not freebies. Nor can they be thrust upon. They are earned. This value becomes a premium asset when operating in a remote environment, where most communication with the client happens over the telephone or videoconference. Being up-front and honest in your communications with each and every stakeholder is what earns a leader comprehensive trust and respect. Encouraging people to share unpleasant news at the earliest may create short-term discomfort but has phenomenal long-term intangible gains. Trusting one’s team also enables more empowerment and delegation, thereby providing growth for the individual and the organization.

Leaders own their actions and the outcomes. Ownership and passion go hand in hand. Joy and passion are infectious. To rally the team, it is important for the leader to have and demonstrate the passion for what (s)he does. Innovation is also an outcome of passion. A team that is passionate about what it does, will certainly come up with novel methods and ideas to enhance their product or service. It is a culture of constant innovation. In a highly competitive world, where the uniqueness of a product or service is thinning, the organizations that are able to establish this culture of innovation and differentiate, ahead of their competitors, are the ones that will last the test of time and global consumers.

An important responsibility of a leader is to raise a next generation of competent leadership to take the organization into the future. Mentoring a leader has multiple benefits such as – availability of additional talented leaders translating to organizational growth, back-up plan in an unexpected circumstance, motivation and consequently increased performance and productivity, loyalty to the organization. Raising the next generation of leadership could be achieved using a two-pronged approach of grooming internal people who are already familiar with the system and by recruiting new people who can inject their fresh ideas into the system. Personal and professional growth are paramount in the ever-changing world that we operate in. Every new client and new culture brings with it immense learning. To operate effectively in that new environment, one needs to be open to change and learning.

Mallika is a successful leader well-respected by her clients, superiors, peers and her team.
She follows the ‘glocal’ style of delivery. She is a voracious reader on a variety of topics. She converses in English at work. But has learnt a few words in ‘Marathi’ and ‘Kannada’ to bond with her team, outside of work. Though the leaders on her team facilitate the ‘Project Review Meetings’, she makes surprise visits to get a pulse of the team and delivery. She travels within India frequently to meet with her team and to UK and Continental Europe to meet with her clients and their users. She participates in conferences and seminars that are held across the globe. She shares with her clients, articles and information that she gathered on their industry, outside of UK. She conducts cultural training programs, on the work culture in India, for her clients. She conducts classes on leadership for her organization. She has groomed a team of energetic and motivated leaders who share her values and have unique delivery styles.

To be a successful leader operating in such environments, it may be a good idea to be holistically ‘conscious’ and be prepared to operate using the ‘glocal’ style.

The author is Senior Program Manager at EDS. She can be reached at uma.krishnamurthy@eds.com

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