Nuggets from Nandan Nilekani
Infosys to UIDAI - a 3D transition
Leadership Transitions can be a period of significant anxiety for several executives who are transitioning across contexts and domains. Nandan shares his insights around what he kept and what he changed when he transitioned across 3 dimensions when he moved from Infosys to UIDAI. He also talks about the power of commitment in such situations.
Flexing leadership style at Omidyar Network
Roopa talks about how she had to adjust her leadership style when she moved from leading a team of 4000 plus people in CRISIL to Omidyar Network which had about 150 people globally and about 15-20 people in India. She discusses the power of listening, learning and tapping into the internal network to come upto speed and build credibility with the organization.
Transitioning from playing sport to commentating
Vijay reflects on how he transitioned to a new career as his family context changed and he approached the end of his active tennis career. He talks about how re-inventing yourself is often like throwing yourself in the deep end of the pool without knowing how to swim. Perspectives that could be relevant for leaders who are trying to re-invent themselves given significant shifts in the world of work and in personal circumstances.
Transitioning across Cultures
Having moved from the army setup to the corporate world then onto a government organization and back to the corporate world, Raghu has worn many hats in his professional life. All of these shifts have involved transitioning across cultures- some well established, others being established and yet others, desperately needing a change in culture! Hear Raghu talk about how he navigated these transitions to integrate into the organization he joined.
Transitioning from the Army to the Corporate world
Raghu talks about how we could think about leveraging the pool of leadership talent that the army produces. He compares India to markets such as US, where there have been generations of Corporate Leaders who spent their early years in the Armed Forces. This is not just about providing an education around some of the elements of business. It is a complete rewiring that needs to happen.
Transitioning from Advertising to the Tech world
KV Sridhar (Pops) talks about how he thought about the move from the world of Advertising to the world of Technology. He also speaks about the notion of staying relevant in the context of children and consumers and how one needs to be in sync with them to be able to connect with them.
Transitioning to solo-preneurship
Indranil talks about his challenges in transmitting some of the elements of the credo he had crafted as the head of Marketing and Strategy of his organization. He underscores the risks of abstraction when we craft values such as honesty, excellence, customer-delight etc. and adorn the walls. He takes the example of a story to illustrate the point “no room for ordinary” a value they were trying to live in his company. He goes on to share how he transitioned to the world of story-telling and reflects on some of his early lessons in solo-preneurship.
Rewiring the leadership approach
Falguni speaks about the key shifts that she has made to her leadership style as she moved from a Senior Leadership role in an institution like Kotak to starting Nykaa from the ground. She specifically refers to the poem Ithaka that had daughter had shared with her at that point. It talks about the criticality of focusing on the journey than the destination.
Plunging into Stand-Up
“If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat.” Hear how Papa CJ took the plunge into the gruelling yet satisfying world of stand-up comedy. A mix of conviction, grit, pragmatism, sacrifice and passion helped him make this journey. This nugget gives us an insight into planning and being prepared for transitions.
Leading in India versus other markets
How does being a business leader in India differ from leading in other international markets? Hear Ravi elaborate on what you need to succeed in India by sharing some personal experiences. Don’t miss the bit about Jack Welch of GE and the concept of a younger mentor.
Listening intently during Transitions
Ravi’s career trajectory has often taken him to sectors and organizations he did not know much about. The key to his successful transitioning, according to him, has been listening; but listening to what and whom? Get the details and some tips in this anecdotal nugget.
Integrating into a start-up
Culture is often seen as something that large organizations need to worry about. However, if a start up tackles the challenges of culture from the very beginning and clearly defines its competencies and values, it could be a significant competitive differentiator especially during the scaling up phase. Hear Abhijit elaborate on the startup ecosystem in this nugget.
Transition pitfalls - Banking/Consulting to VC
Transitioning from one industry to another are always fraught with uncertainty and risk. Leaders are straddling several sub-transitions - settling into a new organization, flourishing in a new space which requires a different set of skills and mindsets. Karthik talks about the common derailers that could come into play when Consultants or Bankers are transitioning into Venture Investing.
Settling effectively into Venture Investing
The first 30-60 days in any profession are often quite tricky. Hairline cracks can quickly turn into fractures if not handled carefully. Karthik talks about how he works with the incoming members and thinks about the early passage of play in the organization. He also talks about how he pre-empts the derailment risk by suggesting to interested individuals to seek certain prior experiences before venturing into Venture Investing.
Transitioning out of Consulting (including views on entrepreneurship)
A career in Management Consulting in a firm like McKinsey can be immensely rewarding but also inexorably intense. Pramath talks about how he thought about a career in McKinsey versus pursuing something else. He also discusses some of the common misconceptions people often have when they take the plunge into entrepreneurship.
Effective Leadership transitions across companies
Leaders during transitions often feel like trapeze artists as they go from one to another. It is the role of the hiring manager and the transitioning leader to think this through. Vedika shares her perspectives in the context of some of her transitions at a leadership level.
Transitioning to the Social Impact world
"How do I bring greater meaning in my life" is a question that people start grappling with as they approach mid-life and beyond. However, people struggle with making this happen. Vedika discusses her transition from heading Credit Suisse in India to Water.Org
Navigating the first 3-6 months
The first few months in a new organization can be a nervous passage of play for the incoming leader and for the hiring manager. If not handled carefully, the organizational antibodies could eject the new entrant. Vinita shares her insights on how the incoming leader and the hiring leader could navigate this phase effectively.
Transitioning back to India in a leadership role
Vinita transitioned from an American MNC in their Latin American division to Britannia in India. It was a transition across multiple dimensions. She talks about her reflections around settling into the new context. She also talks about the role of the hiring leader in setting the incoming individual for success.
Learning/Unlearning during transition
Anu discusses the transition from high intensity consulting projects with a tight feedback loop to a relatively open ended and longer cycle life at McKinsey Global Institute. She talks about how she adjusted to the new operating rhythm of the place.
Settling effectively in a new organization
KV Sridhar talks about his perspectives on settling into an organization and how leaders should think about what to maintain and what to change. He makes the case for imbibing the values of the organization and then interpreting it differently as you slowly build trust with the ecosystem.
Transitioning effectively to a new context
Suresh talks about his experiences in transitioning across companies and roles. He moved from HUL to Nestle and within Nestle, he moved across markets such as Egypt, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines and India. He talks about how he thinks about settling into a new context and also what it takes to build systems and processes so that even when you transition out, the organization continues to run effectively.
Transitioning to a General Management role
Roopa talks about the transition to the role of a Chief Rating Officer being the defining transition in her journey at CRISIL. She talks about how the profile of her responsibilities and stakeholders significantly changed when she moved into that role. She also talks at length about how she recalibrated the relationship with her peers when she got promoted, something that a lot of people struggle with.
Developing a sense of judgment
Roopa talks about she developed a sense of judgment in the new context when she moved to Omidyar Network. She talks about the fact that she now has to exercise judgment on entrepreneurs who in turn will exercise judgment on several topics that are relevant to them. She discusses how she went about acquiring that nuanced sense of judgment by understanding the world of the start-up entrepreneur and the world of technology.
Transitioning to the Social Impact world
Neera talks about the distinction between Needs and Wants as people think about a career in Social Impact as against the Corporate world (although the lines between the two are being blurred). She also discusses some of the real challenges when people with a long successful tenure in the Corporate world transition to the Social Impact world. She shares her perspectives on how could adapt well into the new context.
Distinctive leaders in the Social Impact space
Neera talks about some of the unique characteristics of the distinctive leaders that have made a lasting contribution in the Social Impact space. She talks about a combination of a desire for large-scale impact coupled with empathy for the consumer whose needs and wants they want to address.
Transitioning across contexts
Arun talks about how one can listen to build credibility in a new context, especially if you are in a situation where you feel you do not have the capabilities on Day 0\. He talks about how he learnt from Sumant Moolgaokar by watching him interact with people across hierarchies including how he would engage with the gardener. He shares that it is critical that we move from a “I will teach” to a “I will learn” mindset when you move to a new context.
Settling into a new context
Dr Guha speaks about the phase of transition when Gandhiji moved from South Africa to India. He talks about how Gandhiji was advised (by Gopal Krishna Gokhale) to spend about a year understanding the nuances of the country before embarking on a journey of change. He also speaks about Gandhiji’s open-mindedness and willingness to listen which enabled him to absorb the complexity of the country without bringing his biases.
Settling into Scandinavia
Rajat speaks about his stints as leader in Scandinavia and in Chicago and the key levers he focused on to drive the growth of each office. He also make the distinction between the approach in Scandinavia which was significantly underpenetrated and in Chicago which had an established practice.
The Transition timeline
Michael speaks about how the various elements of transition that get addressed over a 6-12 month period. He talks about the fact that even in well meaning organizations, there is a risk of overloading the leader’s calendar with “stuff” to do and not really solving for what the leader wants. He speaks about the criticality of elements such as communication, arrival posture and alliances and the timing of when these elements matter.
Fit for purpose feedback loop
Michael speaks about the sub-optimality in feedback loops when a new leader comes into an organization. He speaks about the relevance of early conversations with the stakeholders and Day 90/120 conversations to ensure that leaders get tailored constructive feedback to ensure that they are able to course correct early in their journeys.
Onboarding a leader
Michael speaks about the criticality of assimilating into an organization without triggering the immune system that could easily start working against you. He goes on to say that even if you have been hired as a change agent, earn the right to drive change before you start moving things around (unless it is a turnaround and shock therapy is warranted) in the new organization.
ROI of transition support
Michael speaks about the business case for Transition Advisory support when leaders take on a new role (internal or external transition). While is it is understood that it is lonely at the top, it is worth recognizing that it is lonelier when you are settling into a new context when leaders do not have an asset of relationships to count on (yet) and don’t have meaningful feedback loops that gives them a sense of how they are doing.
Transitioning from Financial Services to Writing
So you have found your passion but undecided when and how to take the plunge? Hear Amish talk about how he transitioned to being a full time author from a banker. Discover how ‘pragmatism and positive vibes’ guided this transformation.
Son of a tea planter, Papa CJ took the predictable path through school and college. Hear him walk us through his early struggles which led to him maneuvering into the challenging and non trivial transition from Oxford, to consulting, to doing 250 standup comedy shows in his first 10 months! Look out for tips on leveraging the asset of relationships that we all have.
Playing hockey to MBA@ISB
We often find ourselves in situations where the circumstances at work and on the personal front have changed significantly over time and there is a need to move onto the next innings. These are uncomfortable phases where there are no easy answers or approaches. Viren talks about how he took stock of life when he was playing hockey for India and the circumstances which led him to pursue an MBA at ISB.
Transitioning from Cummins to Microsoft
Having worked in Cummins and moved up the ladder, Ravi took up the challenge of being the CEO of Microsoft India at just 40 years of age and against the advice of family and friends. This was an industry he knew nothing about and a culture his friends thought he wouldn’t adapt to. How did he make this transition successful? What did he pay attention to? Hint: The anecdote of his interview with Bill Gates is very interesting.
Re-inventing self and playing to potential
Given the VUCA world we live in, re-inventing oneself every now and then has become a necessity. Nandan talks about the mindset with which he has approached the various transitions he has had in his career and shares his perspective on what it takes for people to play to their potential.
Transitioning from Engineering to Photography
A lot of us "go with the flow" either because we want to conform to expectations, minimize risk or don’t listen to our inner voice. Atul talks about how he was an exceptional student in school and ended up in UDCT - one of the most prestigious places to study Chemical Engineering. He talks about the disconnect he experienced at that point and how he moved forward from there.
Being tenacious through the transition
Transitioning from one path to another is not easy. We often celebrate individuals after they have demonstrated success. But we often miss the iceberg that is below the sea surface. Atul talks about how he persisted through multiple hurdles when he transitioned from studying Chemical Engineering to pursue photography.
Entrepreneurial pursuits beyond photography
We often have to reinvent ourselves along the way as we go through our career. There are variuos trigger points where our priorities change and market opportunities change. Atul shares his perspectives around how he has managed to go beyond Photography to venture into new domains. He shares a piece of feedback that one of his friends provides which paved the way to a new possibility.
Successful Lawyer to Successful Entrepreneur
Zia talks about the journey from being a successful lawyer leading a small boutique with 15-20 people to heading a 400-person organization today. She talks about the trade-offs involved in terms of her time and cultural implications as the organization scales.
Shaping your playground
Rama talks about the notion of identifying and playing a game that only "you" know how to play, as espoused by Prof. Indira Parikh. She talks about how she has taken consumer insights and applied it to different contexts.
Transitioning from Healthcare to Mythology
Devdutt talks about his journey after graduating with a degree in medicine. He mentions that he didn’t have any childhood inclination in Mythology and he first used the word Mythology in a deliberate sense somewhere in the 1990s. He talks about how he started gravitating towards mythology in an organic fashion including writing several books and the TED talk in 2009. He mentions that he was in the Pharma industry till about 2007 after which he became the Chief Belief Officer at Future Group and possibly committed to Mythology as a career.
Transitioning from Banking to PE
Amit talks about how he thought about the transition from the world of Investment Banking to Private Equity. He talks about taking stock of life after reaching the heights of the Investment Banking profession and also seeking more time to devote to some of the other elements in his life such as Social Impact.
Choosing career direction post CRISIL
Roopa talks about how she took stock of options after her successful run in CRISIL. She talks about the process she went through to first eliminate what options may not make sense for her before she ended up choosing to join Omidyar Network. She talks about having informal discussions with ~45 people over a 9 month period to get directional clarity on what might make sense for her.
Early career choices - Law, Journalism, Teaching and Writing
Vinay talks about how he has thought about his career choices. He speaks about the fact that after his 12th, he could have possibly become an architect instead of a Lawyer. He also talks about his thinking at each of the transition points where he made critical choices (Law versus Architecture, Law to Journalism, Journalism to study PhD in Politics). He also talks about how he thinks more about the quality of the product he creates with his diverse backgrounds than sweat about the notion of his identity.
Staying relevant through transitions
Vinay talks about how Narasimha Rao stayed relevant through the various transitions that he went through in his journey. He also talks about how he learns and grows when he did not gets a transition wrong. He also talks about how Narasimha Rao re-invented himself when Congress moved from the Indira Gandhi phase to the Rajiv Gandhi where the core group had several people from an Oxbridge background (far from Narasimha Rao’s comfort zone).
Picking the first "mountain" to climb
Deepa talks about how she took charge of life and how she became a restauranteur and in seven years, had built a flourishing business giving her financial independence. She then talks about her passion for biking and how she wanted to create records on a bike to ensure that her voice is heard and for her to be able to have an impact on Society.
Making Directional Choices
Jayashri talks about how she made choices along the way, more specifically, the choice between going deep into Carnatic music versus collaborating with different art forms. She also speaks about how she has learnt from collaborating with other artists and how that has improved her core art form – Carnatic Music
Reinventing oneself at 45
Arun talks about how he was a cross-roads when he had to move from a successful stint as an executive in Tata Motors to a role as a consultant with Arthur D Little in the United States. He talks about the circumstances in which he took the decision (including a nudge from JRD Tata) and how he had to adjust his style to be effective in a new professional and cultural context. It is not very often that you see a leader transition from being a Business Leader to a Business Consultant.
Strategy and Careers
Tarun talks about developments in the field of Strategy and maps that to how individuals should think about their careers. He acknowledges the influence of Prof. Ben Jones (of Northwestern University) in shaping his thinking here. He talks about the fact that the world of knowledge is growing exponentially and we will know less and less (as a percentage) of what is to be known. He discusses how people should think about specialization and collaboration in this context and shares his perspective on the mind-set with which we should march into the future that can feel overwhelming.
Taking the entrepreneurial plunge
Falguni speaks about the phase of life when she decided to become and entrepreneur after 25+ years post IIMA and after a successful run at Kotak. She also speaks about other businesses she considered (Professionalizing Nursing Homes, Creating a Market for second homes to name a couple) before proceeding with building out Nykaa.
In order to be relevant in this digital age, leaders need to adapt to a digital mindset. What does this mindset look like? Abhijit discusses the digital mindset in this nugget and gives anecdotes of how extremely competent leaders of the analog era are struggling to adapt to this. He also shares two important core values which can help in acquiring skills to navigate this digital world. Look out for his views on the future being an ‘&’ world rather than an ‘Or’ world.
Authenticity is a word that is often used by people in different contexts. Pramath shares his perspectives on Authentic leadership and talks about what it takes to get there. He also talks about how he thinks about flexing his leadership style across diverse contexts.
Institution building - Leading Type As
Amit discusses how he thinks about hiring and creating a nurturing climate for his team to deliver performance. He also shares how he invests time with each of his colleagues and help build their capability. He also talks about how he handles exits from Bain Capital. He talks about the realities of a corporate pyramid and stresses the importance of handling the people that don’t go up the pyramid with empathy.
Leadership under extreme constraints - Lion, Fox and Mouse
Vinay talks about how Narasimha Rao combined the notion of intellectual agility (ability to fundamentally shift one’s beliefs when new data presents itself) and implementation agility (knowing how to drive change through a complex system). He talks about how Narasimha Rao could play Lion, Fox or Mouse and the criticality of timing in these situations.
Leadership Development in Social Impact space
Neera talks about some of the common challenges that entrepreneurs in the Social Impact space face. She talks about founders often being “too mission driven” and thereby coming in the way of systems and processes that could build the organization sustainably. She also talks about the Founders not spending enough time on what they are distinctive in leading to spreading themselves across too many areas.
Having deep conversations at scale
Arun talks about how the depth of insight and intimacy gets compromised when we start having conversations across a large number of people. However, he shares his insights around how we could still make such conversations enriching by moving from the layer of data to the layer of how people form their opinions on the data.
CEO connect with end consumer
Ambi talks about how leaders like Karsanbhai Patel of Nirma have an intuitive understanding of the customer need. He specifically talks about the “chaiwalla test”, a concept he discusses in his book, to talk about how some leaders find smart ways of getting a quick pulse from the real demographic rather than making misleading assumptions.
Leadership at McKinsey across 3 terms
Rajat speaks at length about how he led McKinsey over the 3 terms when he was the Managing Partner. He says that during the first term he co-created the future strategy of the firm and started executing on it. The second term, he says, was largely around driving expansion around the world while establishing key governance processes. The third term, he says, was largely around navigating the dot com crisis after the bubble had burst.