| work cut out for him
if a purpose already exists, a leader will revisit the purpose
to keep it in tune with the evolving needs of the organisation.
In the real world, however, leaders have to be a mix of manager
and visionary. Says Mr Bhat, "Unless you show extraordinary
performance in your journey to being a good leader and prove
your managerial capability, organisations don't throw you up
into leadership positions."
Leadership has to claim responsibility not only for the present
state of the organisation but also for its future. How that
task is performed is immaterial. In most cases the leader
is not even required to perform the task himself; he must
be able to get it done. Good leaders set the organisation's
interests above their own and ensure that all current actions
combine to create a desired future for the organisation. "But
you can align the organisation with the future only if you
deal with the present in an active and hands-on manner,"
says Mr Bhat. "The goal of a company may be to grow to
a certain extent in a certain manner within a few years, or
to improve profitability or to gain more respect. In seeking
to fulfil this goal, it has to effectively deal with its present
reality and ready the organisation for the future."
This can only happen if the leader does not shy away from
finding workable solutions to all problems. The leaders of
Titan Industries are an excellent example of the proactive
bent required to solve problems. Mr Bhat recalls a time when
the company survived an era of low growth, poor profitability
and high costs. "All these problems helped in bringing
the management together to solve them," he says.
One problem that Titan identified was its high wage bill.
The company addressed this by inviting employees to avail
of a voluntary retirement scheme and by negotiating a new
wage agreement with its trade union. Simultaneously, Titan,
with the help of an external consultant, crafted a new strategy
for the next five years. Getting stakeholders such as its
board of directors and the Tata Group to understand the situation
and its inherent problems was another necessary exercise.
"We went through a lot of pain, but the entire leadership
team felt we had to crack these problems in order to secure
our future," says Mr Bhat.
If Titan is now ready to accelerate, credit is due in large
measure to the honesty and determination with which senior
leaders embraced solutions that seemed difficult. Communication,
suffused with transparency and trust, helped involve stakeholders
in the process and reminded them that the senior leadership
and they were a team working towards a common goal. Says Mr
Bhat, "To me, working with a team and as a team player
is important. I think people generally feel comfortable in
a leadership team if the leader takes responsibility for underperformance
on critical issues."
The achievement of these objectives fulfils only part of
the leader's job. Leaders are also called on to produce more
leaders, as opposed to mere followers. They must have a well-articulated
succession plan in place so as to de-risk the organisation.
The corporate culture, too, must encourage leadership. "Wherever
leaders have not emerged," avers Mr Bhat, "it is
the organisational culture which is to blame. At the same
time, the leader has an important role in fostering that culture."
Mr Bhat speaks highly of the positive culture within Titan
Industries. "Most of the current behaviour of our employees
and the organisation was influenced by the behaviour of the
senior team in the early days. The initial culture was one
of encouraging innovation and creativity rather than regimentation
and bureaucratic behaviour." Leaders should actively
seek leadership potential in subordinates.
The human resources department is also responsible for putting
in processes to identify managerial and leadership performance.
It should also recruit people with the right profile, and
work towards training and retaining good people and growing
them into senior leadership positions.
Where expertise is not available, companies have no option
but to recruit from outside. Says Mr Bhat, "I would rather
risk giving an important assignment to a proven company employee
than bring in an outsider. Such people grow into those jobs
very quickly because they understand the organisational culture.
Wherever the culture is very strong, like in our company,
the rejection rate of externally recruited people is also
very high. If these recruits don't culturally match, they
become misfits. They are unable to perform or they face a
hard journey to be recognised by the organisation. Finally,
they get marginalised from the mainstream."
The importance of blending into the culture also emerges
when it comes to doing business overseas, a fact of life in
these times of globalisation. "Good Indian managers are
usually successful in overseas markets," explains Bhat.
"Since India is a complex and difficult environment in
which to operate, managers find themselves able to cope with
the problems that other markets throw up. This does not necessarily
mean that good Indian leaders will be able to lead a new set
of guys who are culturally very different." Grasping
this important difference will enable more managers to evolve
into leaders even as they seek to guide their organisations
into the ways of further productivity and growth.
This interview is courtsey of tata.com