Wednesday, January 04, 2006

IIM Calcuta: Cicero's Senate Debate

IOCL 'Cicero's Senate: Women Achievers Panel Discussion' Held at Intaglio 2005-06 at IIM Calcutta
The highlight of Day 2 at IIMC Intaglio was the Panel Discussion by Women Achievers. The six participants came from a rich variety of industry backgrounds and provided a pot-pourri of views on the aspect of leadership in today's rapidly changing world. Prof. Anup Sinha's expert guidance and moderation enabled the panel to integrate it's views and emerge with a clearer understanding of what it takes to be an effective leader.
Kalpana Morparia, Deputy Managing Director, ICICI Bank Ltd., opened the discussion. She emphasized the importance of empathy in a leader and added that ICICI encouraged their leaders to show empathy towards their team members. Ruthless market forces demand a "Quarter-se-quarter-tak" (from quarter to quarter) mentality wherein organizations and their leaders are under tremendous pressure to show profits in each quarter. Consequently, there is a tendency to compromise the work-life balance and discount non-work related activities. In such a scenario, it is very important for big leaders to show empathy.
Jessie Paul, Chief Marketing Officer, Wipro Technologies, asserted that one could be a leader in any field provided one is passionate and enthusiastic about working in that field. "Leaders must be experts," she said. They must have sufficient mastery over the specific subject area / activity so as to be credible. She also spoke about the importance of trust and delegation. Good leaders must place their trust in others; otherwise no one will be willing to work for them.
Shabnam Mallick, International Programme Officer, United Nations, brought in her unique experiences from working in the non-profit sector. Comparing leaders in the non-profit sector with their counterparts in the for-profit sector, she said that the former usually start with less authority and usually need to earn their authority. Deference to CEOs is minimal at the beginning. Moreover, she said non-profit sector leaders need to be adaptive to change and also comfortable working in contexts lacking a universal measure of success. Specifically, she emphasized the following: (1) Leaders should think of wider repercussions during decision-making (2) Corporate responsibility should become a way of life, and (3) Growth should be well-distributed. Nina Nagpal, Senior Vice President, Morgan Stanley, said that leadership is all about dreams and visions. Leaders must dare to dream and strategy is a by-product of vision. Furthermore, leaders must be able to see the need to create more leaders.
Farzana Haque, Global Decision Manager, TCS, clarified that leadership is all about execution and not about hierarchy or designation. One who can get the work done is the leader. Also, she compared leadership levels to the layers of an onion because leadership exists and is needed at all levels. She corroborated Jessie's point earlier that the leader must establish his/her credibility and that can only be done by way of a proven track record, expertise and hands-on skills in the given field or subject area. Her punch-line was that when everything goes wrong and plans fall apart, the one who shoulders the blame is ultimately the real leader.
Finally, Jayshree Mohanka, Senior General Manager, Eveready Industries, mentioned that leadership is no longer merely transactional but is becoming increasingly transformational. Leadership ability is reflected in the courage with which one fights for one's visions and dreams.
As summed up by Prof. Anup Sinha, it is difficult to teach leadership by way of lectures in a course and so the insights provided by the speakers are extremely useful to everyone when exercising leadership in their day-to-day lives.
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