Making/Not making key decisions
Vinay talks about how Narasimha Rao made decisions or chose not to make decisions strategically depending on the political context. He mentions that often people think of Narasimha Rao as an intellectual but Vinay argues that he was a man of action but also somebody who was acutely aware of his political ability to drive through change.
Running a start-up inside the Govt.
Nandan talks about how the Government is fundamentally different from the Private sector in terms of how financial and human capital decisions are made. He talks about he thought about navigating those constraints to drive to the outcomes he had committed. He also talks about a couple of mistakes leaders often make in transitions.
Maggi crisis and decoding resilience
Suresh talks about how he took charge when he came back to India during the Maggi crisis. He talks about how he prioritized the various elements of the business and how he spent time for the first 6-9 months. He also shares his views on where he got his strength and what it takes to build resilience in the organization while dealing with a shock.
Influencing an ecosystem
Jay discusses he thinks about picking ideas to champion and talks about how you could get a pulse of the acceptance of the idea. He goes on to talk about the criticality of setting up feedback loops for you to get a pulse of the real public sentiment.
Driving change when there is short term pain and long term gain
Vinay discusses Narasimha Rao’s strategy to usher in liberalization without too much fanfare given the fragile situation he was in. He shares his thoughts on how some other politicians have managed to drive tough change with the support of the public which involved long term gains (Park Chung-hee in South Korea, Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore) but short term pain.
Leadership inflection points
As organizations grow from being start ups to more established businesses, their leadership needs and demands also change and vary. In this nugget, Kartik traces this spectrum of leadership inflection points and maps it with funding cycles.
Scale-up and transitions at Infosys
As an entrepreneur, staying relevant as the company goes through turbo-charged growth can be a challenge. Nandan talks about how he had to reinvent himself and his style at various points as Infosys grew from a start up to IPO, to listing on the NASDAQ and when it hit USD 1 Billion in revenues.
Dealing with hyper-growth and scale-up
Organizations often outgrow the entrepreneur very quickly. Unless the entrepreneur is proactively thinking about scaling up himself/herself and proactively getting the right people who can drive scale, the start up can very quickly taper off. While 1 out of 10 startups succeed at a Venture stage, he talks about the patterns from the other 9 that don't "make it"
Growing as a player and inflection points
Vishy talks about how his approach to development has changed as he has grown as a player over time. He talks about his approach to picking Coaches that get the best out of him. He also discusses the impact of technology on what it takes to be a successful player while getting the most out of the machines. He talks about the trade-off between specialization and flexibility in this context.
Dealing with various life transitions
Devdutt talks about people transitioning from being a Parasuram (rule follower) to Ram (Role Model) to Krishna (Coach) as they go through their career. He discusses the distinction between the western model (that he says is substitutive) and an Indian model (that he says is cumulative). He refers to how sometimes children in family businesses aren’t exposed to adequate real-life experiences before they join the business.
Factors behind the rise at DSP Merrill Lynch
Amit reflects on the common misconceptions people have when they get into Banking. Amit talks about how he made the decision to join DSP Merrill Lynch despite it being the job with the lowest pay and title. He also talks about how he leveraged his style of building deep authentic relationships with clients to grow over time. He also talks about the role of early bosses and brutal developmental feedback coupled with mentorship from Hemendra Kothari which have played a key role in his growth as a Banker.
Moving to a 50% model at Bain Capital
Amit currently operates on a 50% model where he spends 2.5 days at Bain Capital and 2.5 days on Social Impact, Boards and other matters. He talks about how he and his wife gradually started spending more and more time on the Social sector and how he structured this arrangement when the last fund was being raised.
Playing the 1st half of career to win the 2nd half
Mouli discusses that a lot of the wins in the first half of the career are often on the back of low hanging fruit but the wins in the second half are often harder. He mentions that apart from solving for successes in the first half, we should all build the muscle and resilience to be able to go after the complex win or the high hanging fruit. And that sometimes might require us to go slow and learn than run fast and miss out on building this muscle.
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.
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.
Transitioning roles within Dasra
Neera talks about how she has thought about her role as Dasra has grown and her plans for governance as we look to the future. She talks about the interconnect between the personal and professional life and how the role she has played in Dasra has been in the context of her personal context.
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.
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.
Start up to scale up
Falguni speaks about the key shifts she has had to make as Nykaa moved from a start-up phase (where the proof of concept was still being established) to a scale up phase. She speaks about understanding the varying profile of the customer as the organization scales and speaks about how to get the organization ready for scale.
Aligning horizons with investors
Falguni speaks about how she thinks about managing Investors in the context of her desire to build a long term sustainable business at Nykaa. She talks about the need to be transparent in the communication with investors on not just the metrics of the business but the philosophy with which you are building the business.
Setting the goalpost when you are an industry leader
Falguni speaks about the criticality of being focused on what the consumer wants and using that as the guide for coming up with the vision and the aspiration as you grow. When you are often the leader in the market, you don’t have the option of looking at competition and setting the goalpost. She speaks about how she has tried to keep her focus on consumer needs as she has scaled up.
Choices during the McKinsey journey
Rajat speaks about how he evaluated opportunities outside of McKinsey through his journey. He also speaks about how he took stock of various options in front of him when he finished his third term as the Managing Partner at McKinsey.
Building good judgment
Sound judgment is a must have for any leader in any domain. Having a sense of what makes sense all things considered is hard and critical. Zia provides her perspective on what it takes to have good Judgment from a Lawyer's perspective.
Building good business judgment
Suresh talks about the trade-off between long-term considerations like consumer trust and the short-term cash flow pressures. He specifically talks about the considerations that went into them proactively destroying about 35000 tonnes of food (that was arguably of good quality). He also breaks down what it takes create a climate where the people under the take the right decisions even when under duress.
Focus vs Perspective
Devdutt talks about the distinction between Focus (Rana-bhoomi) and Perspective (Ranga-bhoomi). He talks about how when you adopt focus, you see the world from your perspective while when you have perspective you see it as a whole without boundaries. He links this to the business context and talks about the distinction between the healthy side and the dark side of capitalism where companies often over-emphasizing adding value to shareholders (often at the exlusion of some of the other stakeholders that could be impacted).
Building perspective and judgment
Devdutt talks about the distinction between sarpa drishti (focus, short-term) and garuda drishti (perspective, long-term). He talks about how there is merit in having a certain rhythm with which one wears each lens. He talks about the churn that happens between the two when you toggle between them rather than looking at them sequentially. He also talks about the merits of having clarity of the role you are in (CEO, Board, Owner –etc.). He mentions that often, a lot of confusion ensues because people aren’t clear about the role they have been entrusted with.
Balancing the macro and micro views
Jay talks about how he thinks about the macro discussions he has when he is in Delhi or with an international delegation (which is often about solving for the future) and balances it with the concerns of the here and now that people in his constituency are facing. He talks about he manages to combine the bird’s eye view and the worm’s eye view.
Perspectives on Prioritization
Jay talks about the criticality of creating the leverage as a leader to find a mechanism to process the volumes the data that comes to you to be thoughtful about your decisions. He goes on to talk about how he has to balance the need to go after legislative priorities with crises that might erupt in your constituency from time to time.
Building better business judgment
Amit discusses how people get better at judgment calls over time. In an industry where the lead time to feedback is long, this is a significant differentiator over the long-term. He also discusses how, in order to drive disproportionate returns, it is critical to walk the tight-rope between seeking all the inputs required for a decision but at the same time have the courage of conviction to stick your neck out to avoid a consensus evaluation.
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.
Delivering good judgments
Vinay talks about how the same judgment can have a different journey of implementation depending on the ecosystem in which the judgment is pronounced. He talks about the distinction between barking and biting when he looks at a Judgment. He urges the leaders (Judges, Lawyers, CEOs) to think hard about the ecosystem they are in and the control they have over implementation before they go for a certain verdict.
In Summary - Playing to Potential
Vinay talks about how Narasimha Rao was a fusion of Don Quixote (somebody who acted without too much thinking) and Hamlet (somebody who thought a lot but didn’t act as much) and how he brought the various shades of gray in his personality to bear as a leader. He talk about how we need to be cognizant of our environment when we think about what we do and how we implement it.
Judgment and values
Arun talks about how values play an important role in how we build a sense of judgment on situations. He specifically presents the opposing perspectives of two views. 1) Utilitarian view 2) Individual rights view. He goes on to talk about the importance of tailoring our approach to the specific context rather than being binary about it.
Listening & "Thinking fast and slow"
Arun talks how we might not be feeding our “thinking slow” part of the brain enough (using the phrase made popular by Nobel Prize winning Economist - Daniel Kahneman). He talks about how people now have greater reach in connections but with often diminishing levels of richness. He quotes some recent studies where brains of children have shown to be influenced by this and how this is impacting several areas including how we feel about ourselves, our attitudes and empathy. He re-emphasizes the power of having reading as a habit to further build the muscle of “Thinking Slow”.
Trusting the expert
In the book – Sponge – Ambi shares an illustration. Let us say, you have an architect who designs a house for you with 5 pillars. You feel that this doesn’t look good aesthetically and you want her to design it with 3 pillars. She does so and builds a house for you. A few months later, the house collapses. Whose fault is it? Architect’s or yours? Ambi talks about how clients with varying styles (ranging from Dr Varghese Kurien to Mr Rohintan Aga) work effectively with experts to get the most out of them.
Judgment - Balancing head and heart
Ambi discusses how some of the leaders he has worked with combine science and art in making good judgments. He talks about how some of these leaders walk the fine line between following process and using well-informed gut to make superior decisions over time. This is specifically relevant in the world of Marketing and Advertising where the production values can vary by orders of magnitude.
Making good Board decisions
Mr OP Bhatt talks about the role of a Chairperson in ensuring that good decisions are made. He talks about the situations where sometimes not making a decision and seeking more information is better than suboptimal decisions. He also discusses how he would handle divergent opinions on the Board by facilitating a more nuanced conversation that embellishes the issue and the nuances come out.
How Gandhiji made decisions
Dr. Guha speaks about Gandhiji went about making complex decisions. He talks about how he was able to combine the need to be democratic and to listen to the various people around him with the ability to be decisive and back his instincts given the overall context.
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 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.
Unanticipated consequences and "Cobra effect"
Kartik speaks about how, if we are not watchful, algorithms might end up creating outcomes that we hadn’t really pictured when we started using them. He speaks about one particular example of an instance with Amazon where using algorithms to screen resumes led to the gender bias being further amplified before Amazon noticed it and addressed it.
Exercising consumer choice - balancing efficiency and diversity
Kartik uses the example of music (Pandora, Last.FM and Spotify) and speaks about the different approaches to algorithm design and the implications on the kind of content we are likely to see as consumers. He also speaks about how the designers of algorithms need to have a holistic approach to developing metrics to evaluate the efficacy of the algorithms.