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.
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.
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”.
Reflections on Politics as a career
All of us have had situations where we step way out of our comfort zone. Nandan talks about his experience from contesting the elections in Bangalore and why he moved on from Politics after that experience.
Politics as a career option
Jay talks about the criticality of financial independence if somebody is considering a career in politics. He also talks about some of the fundamental disconnects between the world of business and politics and how that can lead to challenges in people from the world of business settling into the world of politics.
Lessons for business from politics
Jay discusses how the risk appetite is different in politics is different from that in the corporate world largely because, in politics, unlike in the business world, one has to secure loyalty first before going after performance and that can lead to a very different view on the kind of risks a politician might end up taking.
Assembling an effective team
Vinay talks about how Narasimha Rao picked his team members and think about the portfolio of capabilities in his team. He specifically alludes to the fact that he was self-aware about what he knew and didn’t know and was able to hire best in class talent without feeling insecure. He also talks about how Narasimha Rao brought in diversity of thought across various topics to ensure it was a balanced team.
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.
The reflection habit - decoding signal from the noise
Vinay talks about Narasimha Rao’s habit of reflection and journaling which helped him deal with the ecosystem he was in. Vinay talks about how Rao used the habit of journaling to develop a nuanced understanding of the context he was in which helped him deal with situations of grey effectively. He also talks about how he managed to gather intelligence around what was happening around him despite his lonely nature.
Art of asking good questions
Arun talks about how we could potentially move from understanding the data that somebody presents to us to going deeper in our understanding around why that data is important to the other person and how their experiences have led them to value what they value. He suggests that moving from the What to the Why and the How enables us to get to the next level of insight and intimacy with another person, especially if they are unlike us.
Steering by listening
Arun discusses his definition of a leader – “she or he who takes the first steps towards something that she or he deeply cares about and in ways that others wish to follow”. He talks about the criticality of listening to what other people care about as a key element of building engagement and followership.
Giving feedback by listening
Arun talks about insights from Dalai Lama (who also wrote the foreword for his book) who says that Listening is the first wisdom tool and it is a pre-requisite for reflection, compassion and self-knowledge. Arun discusses why it is important to create a space for the feedback to land on the other side and listening is the path to creating that space.
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.
The art of facilitation
Arun talks about how one must be clear about how one should think about structuring a meeting/conversation. He also suggests different formats depending on different depths to which we wish to go in the conversation. He makes the distinction between discussion, debate, deliberation and dialogue and urges us to be clear about what to use when.
Being heard in a noisier world
Arun talks about the downsides of being a good listener and says that sometimes, it might be harder for people to notice you given the noise around them. He also goes on to talk about how sometimes, we embark on a path of making some noise (through marketing, branding etc.) to be heard but he says that sometimes that path changes who we are in the process and by the time we get to the point where we are being heard, we may not be the same listeners any more that we were when we started out. He quotes Sir John Dalberg-Acton and says that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
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.
Listening as a leader
Ambi talks about how effective CEOs set a climate so that their teams feel comfortable presenting risky ideas to them. He talks about how if you don’t set the right atmosphere in the organization, the team below you can hedge their bets and focus on managing their image with the CEO than really solving for what is right for the organization. He discusses how you can create a culture where the team focuses on “winning in the market” rather than “winning in the system”.
Smoke Signals in a relationship
Ambi talks about what it takes to develop and maintain an account over a period of several years. He speaks about the criticality of having tentacles across the organization to get a pulse on the relationship. He also underscores the criticality of the role of the CEO in ensuring that he/she sets the right climate for the troops to share any potential cracks that are appearing in the relationship.
The art of story telling
Ambi talks about what he has learnt from individuals like Late Pradipto Mahapatra, Late Mr Rohinton Aga and Mr M. Damodaran when it comes to storytelling. He draws the connection between storytelling and listening and discusses how it is not a skill-set that can be suddenly implanted into a team or an individual but has to be an integral part of the culture in an organization.
Indranil talks about the criticality of story-listening and how it is critical to ask the right questions to elicit stories. He speaks about the fact that we often have a propensity to ask the How, Why and What questions because we are looking for a net-view but sometimes the rich data can be found by asking the When and the Where questions when you take people back to a moment in time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.