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July - 2007 - issue > Leadership
I equate leadership with gardening
Vivek Sharma
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Indians Stand Apart in Competence
There is a general notion among many that foreign companies come to India due to a cost competitive environment in this country. I disagree with this. The most important factor that attracts foreign companies to the country is the competence of our engineering personnel. Our engineers are in no way inferior to their global counterparts in taking up any challenge and coming out with success. We are noted for our outstanding level of competence. The second factor is the ability to communicate. We are proficient in conveying our ideas and communicating efficiently with the people abroad in the course of execution of a work.

Cost competitiveness comes third and not first, as is normally believed.

Convert Failures into Success, Limitations into Opportunities
I allow people to learn through failures; failure in any endeavor is a must for success. The potential for learning is tremendous when one struggles to accomplish something that was never done before. Learning through failures endows the individual with a capacity to convert failure into success and thus limitations open up opportunities to learn and grow.

Our center grew from a core of 40 people to be a company of 1700 today. As we grew, I have effectively engaged myself all along with team members and proved their worth convincingly. We demonstrated our competence to the management abroad and took up jobs to design and fabricate IP products here. Right from designing the product, verification, through validation we handle everything independently.

Facing the Challenge with Appropriate Talent
Designing products to suit the specific requirements of a customer is a challenge. We design, fabricate, and test our products here in India. This calls for high levels of talent and responsibility as the cost of chips is very high. For instance, to design a particular product for a customer a team of thirty people worked for a year. Then, the chip had to be tested in a foreign country and we sent some engineers there along with it. The cost involved was enormous. Success of a product solely depends on their competence and capability. It is at this point that the skills of our engineers come to the fore.

Leadership and Management are Basically Different
While management is to handle the infrastructure and human resources efficiently in execution of a plan, leadership consists of the method one applies to create a collective vision and strategy for the team to follow and achieve the goal. You have to determine the path, no one in the world can lay the road for you.

You must do what you expect the team members to do and thus propel them into working the way you think the best. I strive to instill a sense of closeness in the minds of the team members as this enables them to be at ease while moving with me and express their thoughts without fear or hesitation. This helps maximize their potential and come out with the appropriate technical output. I am open to criticism and comments, even if they are adverse.

We need to remove the feeling of insecurity in the mind of new workers. A sense of insecurity creeps in when one finds the going tough insofar as learning new technology and methods is concerned. The initial inability to get along makes the person stagnate at a lower level of abilities. The sense of apparent insecurity ensuing from one’s inability to learn is a vicious snare. If he is not attended to with greater care and concern he will never come up again. You lose him for ever and his potential goes unutilized. In my experience I have found that it is always possible to encourage such persons to stand up, take up the challenge and learn the new methodologies, and come out as brilliant as others in the team.

Aligning People’s Goal with that of the Organization
Everyone has his own goal, as does every company. It is important to align the individual’s aim for growth with that of the organization. I take it upon myself to make the individual feel assured that his growth opportunity here is as good as that he wishes to have since the organization also aims to grow in that very direction. Hope of a future filled with tasks of one’s liking is the best thing that convinces a person to remain as part of a team.

On the other hand, you cannot thrust competence on an unwilling person. If a person doesn’t evince interest in the job, there is no point in enhancing his abilities spending our valuable time and energy. If his aspirations do not match with the future plans of the organization it portends a problem. Allowed to persist, this will destroy the rapport between the individual and the organization. The earlier it is attended to, the better for both the individual and the organization. Similarly, if a person continuously fails to match our expectation in terms of growth it ruptures his relations with the team.

I feel like a gardener when I work with people. I want to see them grow into tall trees with branches laden heavily with bunches of blooms and fruits. I want people to learn and grow with the potential to take up higher responsibilities. I help them do away with negative attitude by understanding the difference between excellence and mediocrity and prosperity and misery.

Abundance Mentality
In both engaging with the competitors and managing our own team members I apply what is called “Abundance Mentality”. It is much more than having a positive and generous mental disposition. Having a positive mental attitude is very important. It helps me look at how to win over my competitor rather than how to destroy him. I look at the possibilities and opportunities and never at the hurdles that hinder my progress. A mindset conditioned by Abundance Mentality is important for success in any endeavor.

As a matter of principle I am very open and fair. Even our competitors in the field say that we are a nice company since we offer a healthy competition. It is like running a race without blocking the other contestants’ way. I have the mental strength and confidence in our technology and methods that there is no room for any kind of unnecessary alarm.

Vivek Sharma is the Vice President, Emerging Markets Region and Director - India Design Center of STMicroelectronics (ST; NYSE: STM; Market Cap: $17B). One of the world’s largest semiconductor makers, the company develops and delivers System-on-Chip (SoC) and semiconductor solutions across the spectrum of microelectronics.

Beginning his stint with ST in 1991, Sharma has grown up the ranks to steer the 1,700 strong center today. The teams under him specialize in VLSI design, embedded software development, application engineering, and company information systems. The center significantly contributes to almost all application segments of the company globally.

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