Leading from the Front
Naresh Wadhwa, President and Country Manager, Cisco India & SAARC
Globally, there are many successful companies, although only a handful of them can sustain their success over a long period of time. Those who manage to do that are the ones who have a clear vision and strong guidance from their leadership. Given the complexities that exist in the 21st century, the quality of leaders helps determine how organizations utilize opportunities in order to succeed.
Leadership in the 21st century calls for a combination of some key attributes, each of which is closely interlinked with the other. Different leaders have different levels of these attributes but definitely possess all of them.
Business insight: A high degree of business acumen and an ability to create wealth so as to enhance both customer and shareholder value is key requirement for success. Companies that have demonstrated leadership competency and whose leaders come with an acute understanding of business processes, along with skills for business transformation, governance, talent management and communication are the ones who are most successful.
Global knowledge: Successful leaders possess a wealth of knowledge acquired over a period of time by working with various people in different capacities, across cultures and in varied geographies. As the world gets more integrated and highly complex, global leaders surround themselves with people having knowledge of local markets, and understanding of local cultures. Given the dynamics of an ever changing market, relying on the people around to provide local knowhow helps sustain business for longer.
Sensitivity to cultures: With globalization, organizations spread their wings across geographies and each of the countries they expand into comes with its unique cultural needs. Leaders of these organizations face multiple ethical dilemmas and conflicts because the “ethical” value of something that interests a few can offend hundreds of others. Leaders who strive to find answers to such dilemmas are the ones who succeed.
Change management: In today's global economy, it is important for companies to manage 'change' effectively. Leaders who understand how change affects behaviors and utilize technology to reduce anxiety and reassure their people are obviously more successful. Since change impacts business, these leaders work to restructure operations, improve productivity and consider alternative technology acquisition strategies to grow business through new revenue and operating models.
Commitment and partnership: Successful organizations exhibit a strong sense of commitment to their customers and employers. However as markets become increasingly diverse, organizations cannot single-handedly meet all customer needs and depend on partnerships to add value to their business. Understanding the partner ecosystem therefore becomes crucial and impacts business success in a big way. By articulating more explicitly using technology, having a forum for sharing ideas and engaging partners in the process of change, allows for consensus on strategic decisions.
Communicate effectively: As businesses grow and expand globally, their leaders tend to get distanced from people on the ground. Successful leaders are those who understand that everyone is an important team member and believe in communicating with rather than to people. Exhibiting 'Collaborative leadership', they involve their teams in decision making, listen to ideas and find common ground between business objectives and employee interests.
Globally, companies which are successful have strong value systems and cultures. Integrity, trust and reputation are top of the mind for the leaders of these organizations because these are durable assets which come with a financial payoff.
Innovation is a critical part of the vision and strategy of successful leaders who come with the additional capacity for speedy execution. In a market that is volatile and brings with it loads of uncertainties, complexities and ambiguities, it is this agility that helps companies stand firm and tall despite adversities, command respect from the industry and garner a 'fanatic' customer base.