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June - 2007 - issue > Leadership
Leadership and Wine making
Ninad Karpe
Friday, June 1, 2007
The process of fermentation takes three months for grape juice to turn into a sweet wine. Though it is frustrating for a person to wait so long to drink his favorite wine, he has to wait to receive a good taste. This can be related to the art of leading a group of people. A leader must prove himself within the first hundred days of his stay. A leader then continuously improves as he consolidates his position. Wine also tastes sweeter as it becomes older.

On leadership style
Leadership mostly involves motivating and sharing our dream with the employees. We believe in sharing our passion with our team members and imbibing our values. Once the team members identify themselves with the dreams, they realize the way ahead.Leadership should always be integrated with a value system. One can succeed in life by keeping his/her value system intact. Ethics always come first in any sort of management crisis. We consider business as creative experimentation. Thus, leadership involves sharing your passions with people and developing a workforce with similar aspirations. Once they identify the vision, they are capable of executing the tasks. I reassure my people that I am not more intelligent than them. Once we are on level ground, sharing becomes easier.

Customer Focus
One must talk to customers in a manner they understand. Each customer has a unique set of aspirations and expectations. Hence, it is wrong to straightjacket the customers in a single slot. We have sliced the customer band in various levels. It facilitates easy identification of an expected solution, speeding operation time. Speed of operations with high efficiency keeps us ahead of the competitors.

Managing customers primarily entails managing customer’s expectations. In India, customers are keen on the value for money they pay. As customers have different expectations we must cater to them, no matter how big or how small they are . In Indian markets, as a company grows from a start up to a giant, it becomes more bureaucratic. The response time elongates, resulting in customer dissatisfaction. Also, as the market worth of a company increases, it tends to ignore the smaller customers. We consider every customer to be equal and serve all with the same efficiency. So the larger a company grows, the smaller it needs to become to maintain its customers.

In this regard, we constantly speak with our previous customers. For us, every new client is as important as the present client. I make it a point to speak daily with six or eight present clients, and know their feedback. We believe in constantly being in touch with our colleagues as well as customers. The customer is at the center of our activities. To effectively satisfy customers, you need to know the pulse of the customers. This can only be achieved through constant customer communication. We regard every customer as an equal, and is the reason we could manage our large number of customers.

Motivating troops
Leadership is different from management. Leadership involves sharing a vision with fellow members and motivating them. Management is all about necessitating execution. Thus, for a leader, it is more important to identify motivating factors and maintain the level of motivation in the organization.

To identify true passion, I look into the eyes of team members. When these team members mature and start thinking in terms of the company, I know I have succeeded in motivating them. I trust my troops and motivate them through constant interaction. I strongly believe that listening is important, as it demonstrates your openness to new ideas. Any team member can call me at any time and tell me his view on any topic of the company’s concern. In Computer Associates we have an HR policy to bring out the creative energy. We try to enhance creative thinking skills of our people, and call this our creative experimentation policy.

Motivating oneself
I motivate myself with constant reading and thinking. Recently, I read a book Alexander: The Ends of the Earth by Italian author Valerio Massimo Manfredi. Alexander, a great strategist, fought monstrous opponents with a small but motivated army. I believe that business and war are fought with similar strategies, but different tools. In both cases, you must have people with desire to fight with the opponent. This requires passionate team members, a constant challenge and constant motivation.
I don’t believe in resting on my laurels. For me, each day is a new day . You have to keep yourself up to the mark every day. I believe there is no limit what one can achieve in business. Especially in today’s competitive world, the opportunities are humungous. To keep up with the current trend you really have to be paranoid. You have to approach each day as a new challenge and overcome it. I do yoga to keep myself physically and mentally fit, and also enjoy preparing wine.

Alternative Career if I had a chance
If I could go back in time, I would remain in IT. This field continuously keeps me young by the constant thinking. I am always on my toes, as I face tremendous competition. The alternative can be only in terms of customers. I would like to satiate the needs of common people, which give me immense gratification.

Most admired company
I admire ‘Apple Computer’ as it brings the right products at the right time. The company has recently launched iPod, which interests me . The trick lies in taking risks, which is useful for nascent Indian markets where there is a scope for innovation with a growing market size.

Avoidable Pitfalls
Though Indian professionals are business savvy, they lose their advantage to foreign counterparts in areas presentation, properly carrying oneself and being at right place at right time. They are gunning for money, labels and positions. Money is certainly an important aspect of career, but one should not lose the bigger picture in terms of long-term career prospects.

The road ahead
Unpredictable markets are this era’s real challenge. We must continue to upgrade the skills of our troops to survive in battlefield. If it was on yearly basis before, it has scaled to monthly or daily gradation now.

Taking India ahead
We all possess the ability to enter the elite class of developed nations. A large population endowed with superior skills is certainly an advantage. Basic infrastructure facilities are a large disappointment. We don’t have the proper road network. We lack large bandwidth computer connectivity. We don’t have enough numbers of capable educational institutes churning high quality professionals required for industry.

India still can hope to become a global superpower, if she obtains an ample number of leaders with the knowledge of a recipe for success. This is certainly a silver line, though the problems abound.

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