The corporate world of today can be likened to an ocean, vast, impenetrable, and increasingly dynamic, susceptible to sudden squalls that can throw everything into flux. To successfully thrive in such an environment requires something special from the man at the helm. Nothing emphasises this better than the stories of two very different and yet, similarly successful men, embracing the leadership paradigm demanded by the world today.
The first is Ratan Tata, a man that needs no introduction. The head of one of the largest business conglomerates in the world, it takes something out of the ordinary for someone to have led the firm from out of the shadows of the legendary JRD into the world conquering behemoth of today. Credit it to his Harvard education, his experience, or simply his heritage; his is nonetheless the triumph of a charismatic and intellectual leader, one whose much proclaimed adherence to ethics, both business and moral, serve as an example to those within and without the boundaries of the firm.
On the other hand, we have one of India’s most successful entrepreneurs, Raghav Bahl, the Founder and Editor of the Network18 media group, whose tale of creating a billion dollar giant in the span of a decade is rapidly becoming the stuff of legend. A similarly charismatic and intellectual leader, his aim has been one that can be considered to be the opposite to that of the afore-mentioned Tata, that of bringing the world to India, a goal which he is increasingly seeing fulfilled.
But what is it that ties these two men together as leaders for the modern age? Is it their actions, a combine of strategic genius and a knack for seizing the moment? Or is it their thought, the product of a willingness to adapt, careful deliberations, on-the-spot brilliance and a tendency to keep an eye on the big picture? Or is their character as men of steel, built on foundations of integrity, ethics and self-effacing humility, along with an almost complete rejection of that which fells even the greatest of us all, hubris?
But more than their successes, one must learn from their failures, for it is then when the true strength of the leader is tested. Be it the fallout of the Tata Nano fiasco or the decision to hand over the reins to another, each has shown the strength of character to recognize their own shortcomings and act upon them accordingly. It is this that one believes is the hallmark of a true leader, for to acknowledge one’s own errors is a difficult thing, one which many that bear the mantle of leader often fail to do.
In addition, the subscription of both these men to the Open Source Leadership model, where people are nurtured across layers by opening them to power and authority associated with leadership, only serves to confirm their belief in empowering those that follow them, a practice that is reaping ever increasing benefits world over and is one that requires a not inconsiderable leap of faith in the strength of one’s own people.
Ultimately, these remain but stories of successes in the corporate world, and ones whose replication may be well nigh impossible for the coming decades. But they have a common thread, a core tale of leadership that unites them with each other and many other such tales of victory over the increasing dynamic business world of today. And it is this thread that each of us must seize and take to heart if we are to become leaders for the 21st Century.