Success comes with good leadership
Naresh Wadhwa, President and Country Manager, Cisco India and SAARC
Historically, successful companies have had a clear vision and strong guidance from their leadership. When asked how to be a good leader, Jack Welch had answered, "Be yourself", this, to me, means being natural and cultivating an environment of openness at work.
Personally I think there are no 'standard templates' for being an effective leader. As a leader, one invariably has the most access and visibility into the larger picture of the organization. Exactly why, someone at that level must focus on the areas of vision and strategy and not get bogged down by the day-to-day transactional activities.
While execution, talent attraction, development and retention helps build successful companies, what makes a successful company a great company is the 'culture' that company imbibes. And a huge part of a leadership role is to drive the culture of the company. Along with culture comes the challenge of embracing change and change management.
Successful CEOs have helped their companies move out of silos. Cisco itself is a case in point here. When John Chambers took over as our CEO, he converted Cisco into a functional organization made of different groups (development, marketing, sales, manufacturing etc.), where each group pursues a new market opportunity.
We moved from command and control to collaboration and teamwork. And 'Collaborative leadership' according to me means, 'letting go', by involving others in decision making, listening to ideas, finding common ground, and striking compromises. This has helped us catch market transitions quickly and devise solutions to stay ahead of competition.
CEOs in a leadership role understand the power of getting closer to customers. This helps them get feedback to know what is working and adjust when something is not. They are astute when it comes to driving productivity to gain a competitive advantage and have disciplined processes that can deliver to customers while providing shareholders an adequate return on capital.
Focusing on market transition, not competitors, is a critical part of a CEO's vision and strategy according to me. Innovation must be top of the mind. While focusing on market transitions, CEOs must ensure that customer investments are protected. Applying technology to business adds to that benefit.
The most effective business leaders have focused on people and values spending a lot of time working with people, being transparent, getting more done with less, and linking back all the time to customer imperatives. They have been able to assess risks, returns and probabilities and have the analytical skills to understand industry structures - the regulatory environment, the nature of competitors and customer imperatives.
Within an organization, employees, shareholders and customers constantly look up to their leaders for answers to various problems that bother them. One way to address that issue is to convince them about 'exploring problems collectively.' Like Chambers had once said, "The hallmark of a great company is not that you don't hit potholes, because every good company does, but how quickly you adjust and move out of that so that you don't let the pothole consume you”.
At the end of the day, leadership is about reaching out to people. Communicating in a human voice, and having something interesting to say helps to collapse the perceived distance between leaders and the workforce. While staying focused on outcomes, the move from ‘me’ to ‘we’ is a good recipe for success.