CEO Nation

first_imgWith at least 13 Indians heading global corporations in the West, Time magazine recently described CEOs as India’s leading “export” and even suggested that the subcontinent could well be “the ideal training ground for global bosses.” For the record, it is reckoned that the total size of businesses managed by just 10 Indian-origin CEOs globally exceeded the total exports from India, which stood at $300 billion last year.Okay, cut to the marquee-blazing star-cast, the Boardroom Badshah’s residing in the highest stratosphere of the corporate peak that lesser mortals can only dream of. The elite, blue-chip dazzlers of the exclusive India Club: Shantanu Narayan of Adobe, Satya Nadella of Microsoft, Prem Watsa of Fairfax financial, Anshu Jain of Deutsche, Indra Nooyi of Pepsi, Ajay Banga of Mastercard, Ivan Menezies of Diageo, Rakesh Kapoor of Reckitt Benckiser, Piyush Gupta of DBS Group Holdings, Sanjay Mehrotra of Sandisk, Rajeev Vasudeva of professional services firm Egon Zehnder and the latest Rajiv Suri of Nokia.Microsoft’s Satya NadellaWow! But what ignites this phenomenon and drives this startling hit-parade? Ask any group of business people about what makes iconic, effective leaders, and the answers are diverse. Leaders set strategy. They motivate. They create vision and mission. They build culture. Blah, blah, blah.To the next question, what should leaders really do, the answer, invariably is … get good results. How? This chilling mystery has spawned tons of leadership experts who have made an entire cottage industry of this challenging and indefinable calling mandated to translate objectives — strategic, financial, organizational — into reality. Regarding the Indian managers, observers believe it could well have been the hunger for a better lifestyle that their country could not offer; a blend of untapped talent looking desperately for the right opportunities and trigger to fire; the perfect setting of the ideal inspirational and motivational environment that is a conduit and catalyst to live the impossible dream. The brain drain was bound to happen due to the inadequate professional opportunities provided at home for driven, gifted and ambitious young corporate professionals, determined to push the envelope in their leap to the future.What is the secret behind this India-centric leadership burst in the West? At a simplistic level, the best selling author Chetan Bhagat, in his blockbuster book Five Point Someone (later made into a monster Bollywood superhit 3 Idiots) offers three simple rules to lead a sane and contented life: Whatever the hassle, problem or roadblock in life, always remember to comfort yourself by saying “Aal iz well!” Two, chase excellence, not money and success will follow. Three, life is not about going crazy hounding marks or grades. It is about pursuing your dreams.Pepsi’s Indra Nooyi.To some extent India’s head honchos may have just tuned in when Bhagat was doing his number. A 2004 study suggests that Indian corporate chiefs are partial to participative management and building meaningful relationships with their subordinates. Pepsi’s Indra Nooyi said, “You need to look at the employee and say I value you as a person and not just treat you as employee no. 4,567!”Another study found Indian managers, compared to their US counterparts, more humble. Yet another study indicated that Indian managers were future-oriented focusing on long-term strategies, something solidly backed by their stars. Narayan of Adobe is reported to have once famously said, “If you can connect all the dots between what you see today and where you want to go, then it’s not ambitious or aspirational enough.” Nadella of Microsoft quoted Oscar Wilde, “We need to believe in the impossible and remove the improbable!”Finally, the perseverance factor is also just another major attribute to powering Indians on top of the West. Learning the ropes, going through the paces with utmost seriousness, diligence and discipline, without attitude or tantrums and moving up slowly, but steadily, in the corporate hierarchy, while demonstrating both loyalty and acumen all along, are qualities that have obviously paid off. Nooyi, Jain, Menezes, Narayan and Nadella have all done time and served their organization with dedication, commitment and unmatched loyalty. They didn’t happen overnight!So, at the end of the day, it has to boil down to: Empathy, inclusiveness, humility and patience re-enforced by daring to dream, the hunger to achieve and finally, the confidence & ability to succeed. Related Itemslast_img read more