Importance of focus in Leadership (or…what’s wrong with Infosys, Wipro, and with India ?…)

I was reading the Economic Times, which had listed 13 ongoing rivalries, which will continue in 2013. Like Airtel and Reliance in telecoms (4G), Raj vs Uddhav, Apple vs Android and then, a bit shockingly, TCS vs Cognizant. That neither Wipro nor Infosys are mentioned as challengers to TCS (which itself was behind these two 5-6 years back) is testimony to the fact that the Big Two of Indian IT sector have been displaced firmly from the top 3 ranks.

I am a great fan of “the theory of focused leadership being very critical to the success of a cause”. The cause could be increasing your market share of a business, or leading a country itself & binding with the people, or leading a people’s movement against corruption. Let’s cover briefly each of these three here…

When Narayana Murthy and Nilekani were leading Infosys and the other 3 founders were supporting through efficient execution, everyone was focused on making Infy the best company in the world. Then NRN and Nilekani wanted to take up bigger challenges – giving back to society, giving back to the country. And Infosys missed their focus. Am guessing that they must be discussing their “new pursuits” with their close friends, including the other founders who took up the reins of Infy after them. Wouldn’t have left the others also with a pure focus on Infosys. Possibly, getting a Leader from outside with a single bet in his life – Infy – could have or still could redeem the company back to its glorious heights.

The reaction of Congress and UPA leaders to the various crises in the past 12-18 months has been so slow and so “politically correct” that this itself could cost them the next elections. Things are changing across the world…people are less amenable to take things lying down. Leaders need to reach out to people genuinely…and in real-time. Dismissing people as “small election blocs” is a grave mistake. That the “Youth bloc” won’t come out and vote is not a correct calculation. They could influence others who come out and vote…the effect of viral networks is not restricted to the Internet and to Twitter. 800 mn people in India have a mobile phone and chain messages can go on SMS also !!!! National Govt Leaders should be focused on their goals and not be thinking of how will their son succeed them or whether some regional leader within the party will become strong enough to challenge them. Such leaders should get their teams together within 60 mins of any crisis and plan their response, and execute it…and I don’t think that in today’s connected world, “no response” is a cool and calculated response…Chanakya and Machiavelli would have been dinner in today’s world…

Let’s talk about one of the greatest movements of recent times – one which could have got the support of the entire middle-class of India – the anti-corruption movement of Anna Hazare / Kejriwal / Baba RD. There are two types of people in India – one who give bribes and the other who take bribes. I think 80% of people are bribe-givers and rest 20% are bribe-takers. 4-5% of bribe-givers get disproportionate returns by giving the bribes. These are the private sector business owners who get contracts and orders in return for giving bribes to Govt babus, PSU owners, ministers or to power-brokers. The remaining 95-96% of bribe-givers give bribes to get to go scot-free after breaking a traffic signal or to get a passport/ration card/driving licence quicker or are some small shop-owners who get some irritating food inspector off their backs. The anti-corruption movement could have got the support of 95-96% of 70% of the country – almost 67% of the country – a huge “Election Block”. But such movements have to have sharp and coherent leadership. What did Anna stand for or what was Ramdev’s agenda or who was the core committee was never clear to the people. People DO NOT follow leaders who cannot show the end-to-end path to the goal. People don’t have time to experiment with leaders. People’s lives and time is too precious. Kejriwal and his new team have got some agenda going now and have had some initial success. They will have to demonstrate that their leadership team is focussed on the task ahead !!

Why do leaders fail in remaining focused ? Well, it’s hard work…has to be done every day – day in and day out… unglamorous…this is “Execution in leadership”…different from the sexier “Strategy or Vision in leadership”. Jack Welch, Ratan Tata, Mukesh Ambani or Yogi D, Aditya Puri, Manoj Kohli have not got it right BY CHANCE !!

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