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March - 2012 - issue > In My Opinion
Changing Role of CEO
S.D. Shibulal
Sunday, March 4, 2012
The real change, which I have started to realize, is that the buck stops at me. When you gradually transition, one cannot really make out sudden changes.

We live in a world of contradictions. On one side you have the economic crisis, unemployment, European crisis, uncertainty in the U.S., and lack of growth. On the other side, there are tremendous opportunities. There are many emerging trends and in our case, it could be creating opportunities arising out of emergence of digital consumer, growth in emerging markets, new sustainable technologies, or change in urban demographics. The role of the CEO essentially is to see which of the opportunities to leverage to create growth for your corporation.

When I speak to CEOs of several global companies, I see a dichotomy. On one end is the lack of confidence or clarity. On the other end is the bunch of opportunities that they are thinking to leverage. This is the world in which most of the CEOs today operate.

Across the World, be it in developed or developing economies, the ability of Governments to create social wealth and enhance the quality of life is diminishing. The only entities other than Government, which can create social wellbeing, are large corporations. Going forward, Corporates have a much bigger role to play in the social wellbeing. It is not just about profits and growth. They (corporations) are the custodians of most of the social wealth and there is a responsibility to use it for social wellbeing.

We get impacted by events in the corporate world more than the events in the government world. Given this context, the most critical role of the CEO is to drive holistic performance. It is not just revenue and profit. It has different dimensions and it is about delivering performance to all stake holders - clients, employees, investors and society.

While driving performance, CEOs need to focus on building trust with all the stakeholders. We are in an environment where there is crisis of trust. Any conversation about corporations, it is all about lack of transparency, exorbitant compensation for CEOs, ethics of running business, driving profits in mindless pursuit. This needs to be changed. Given the fact that the direction of every corporation is set by its CEO, one of the most important reasonability with the CEO is to create an environment of trust between the corporation and the government, clients, investors, employees, and the society.

Pursuing the ultimate mission to deliver performance, CEOs also need to focus on innovation, strategy and execution. At Infosys, we believe that five percent is strategy and 95 percent is execution. Strategy and Execution are meant to differentiate you in the market, meant to create business value for your clients and are meant to create profit for your corporation. Innovations have to be relevant to the corporation deviating from which, it would be very difficult to materialize and to take it from an idea to execution. CEOs have a vital role to play in creating a framework for innovation which is relevant to the corporation and relevant for your clients. Innovations have to flow into the corporate strategy, it’s the part of a specific direction and then execution has to follow, that is the only way you can create value for your clients and for yourself.

Today’s corporate do have a very large responsibility to all the stakeholders. We all operate in an extremely challenging, extremely demanding and pretty lonely environment. We need to create hope, we need to raise the aspiration, we need to build trust and we need to instill confidents on the way.

Shibulal took over from Kris Gopalakrishnan as CEO of Infosys on August 21, 2011. Having been in Infosys for 31 years and handled the role of COO for 5 years, the transition to CEO for him was gradual rather than abrupt.
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