Sunday, July 31, 2016

Millennial Age - My Personal encounter

‘He is the most uncoolest guy I have ever seen. I wish he was she… he should have been a girl… he would have had more following.’

One of the girl told her friend when they were travelling towards Bangalore Airport in the public bus.

‘And she you know, she has lot of attitude, she shows of all, many times she brags and she knows she is doing wrong, she is hurting me, she still never says sorry. She has lot of ego. You know last time she told me she got KPMG job because of me, I felt good, I felt really nice, she is a good girl, but you know, kind of attitude she shows, I don’t like.’

The other girl who was listening to her was speaking in a very low voice. It was just a whisper, politely punctuated prose. The voice of her fingers on BBM keyboard were louder than her verbal cord. I couldn’t make out much what she spoke. I wished I had the sixth sense and skill of making it out from the keyboard punching what really she was typing. Anyways by now the other girl started again talking of her friends, school and college and kept giving her opinion on almost each dimension.

‘Oh She, she was so nice in studies, so serious yet could not get good placement. And he, you know once he told me that in friendship one has to be mutually active both intellectually and sexually not necessarily emotionally and I reacted to him’.

‘No all three are important for good friendship, intellectually, emotionally and sexually being active.’

‘You know he is very demanding. I came for him to this airport twice, just to see him off and receive him, I really like his company, at times it is good you know to have a demanding friend, I enjoy this. And you know, it has made me demanding as well.’

Again the other one whispered and told –

‘you know she is also following our bus, just now, she BBMed me, she is in white taxi’.

‘okay, that’s good’, the first one replied and continued.

‘Once we reach the airport I will tell her, see, we reached first, you know it shall give me a high’.

Just then, her mobile rang, and she started responding in pure hindi. In the whole conversation before she had not uttered a single word of hindi, and it was difficult for me to believe that she could speak such nice hindi. She was responding to call of her grandmother. The first salutation she used was ‘jai Jai shri dadi’, I followed the conversation of this young girl with her grandmother.

‘dadi, aap kaisi hain, dadi Kishore chacha ko kehna ki jo foto unhone pichli bar bheja tha usko duwara bhej deyn ya video bana kar mujhey mobile par bhej deyn, mujhe Thakur ji ki photo chahiye, Kishore chacha ko ya anshul ko keh dena, apni tabiyat ka dhyan rakhna, mujhe kal se aai bee em (IBM) me internship join karni hai, aai bee em ek computer company hai, O dadi Jaana padega, ngo me bhi jana hai – sab kar lungi, arey aapko pata nahin hai, main kitni smart ho gayi hoon, arey koi ulta palta nahin hoga, jai jai shri, haan haan theek hai, abhi aap khayal rakhna, davai samay par khana, theek hai, jai jai shree’.

(how are you, grand mom, tell Kishore uncle to send those pictures again, or else let me make a video and send it to me on my mobile, I need picture of ThakurJi, tell Kishore Uncle or Anshul, take care of your health, I have got internship in IBM, I would join tomorrow, IBM is a computer company, I have to go to that NGO also, don’t you worry I shall do all that , you don’t know how smart I have become, don’t worry, nothing wrong would happen, jai jai shri, OK, take care, take your medicine on time OK, jai jai shri)

As she stopped talking the bus was nearing Airport.

‘Mantri’, I read on a hoarding at the center of the road.

This girl started explaining to her friend in English about her mobile conversation that she had just a while back with her grandmother.

‘you know… she is so caring… she was missing me that’s why called me… you know these days for one week we do Thakur ji ki puja in our house… everybody is there and she is missing me… she was asking me not to go to NGO… she was saying… you know ulta pulta,’

Her friend said ‘I understand, something opposite opposite no’.

I heard the sound of their smile (wished I had an eye to see that smile) and could not control my own smile, though very low. I made sure they do not notice it. I was in the front row and they were just on the seat behind me.

She said, ‘ulta pulta means silly, she was saying don’t do any silly thing. See she is so concerned about me. I really love her.’

This was about her grandmother. I controlled myself.

Otherwise I was just about to say ‘almost all of us love our grandparents, that’s our DNA, that’s when they really become our friends, they start understanding us better’.

I kept listening to them, not really them, just one of them, the other one was hardly speaking and that too hardly she was audible. Only her fingers on the keypad of her mobile were giving me a feel of some nice dribbling sound.

I was busy reading the newspaper, Times of India and the interview of Phaneesh Murthy, an IIMA alumnus, erstwhile irate senior executive of Infosys (had sexual harassment charge in US and the company had to pay huge compensation to the complainant in order to have out-of-court settlement) and former CEO of iGate. His interview in the newspaper gave me some little insight into his family. For a moment I thought - how embarrassing it might have been for him to face the world and his own family. But this feel lasted just few nano seconds. Old habits die hard. He seems to be leading a comfortable life and mentoring his children from far and from within.

We were almost reaching the Airport.

I see Virat Kohli in BSF uniform on a hoarding on our left just before reaching Bangalore International Airport. He is youth icon of India and in his own way represents the millennials.

These two young girls, one hindi speaking and another one may be somewhere from southern India, who does not follow hindi, in their early 20s, staying as paying guests in Bangalore in a way represent Indian women mindset, their value system, their sense of adaptability, concern for friends and their attachment to their family members. I loved their rootedness and appreciate their sense of responsibility and commitment for their job, family, society and for self as well. They have just come to airport to meet one of their common friends and to see her off and to share their concern together, spending some time together on this Sunday.

These two girls were sitting in the bus, when I boarded it from Sivaram Circle. I overheard one of them asking the conductor, ‘at what time shall we reach Airport’.

The Driver responded, ‘before 8 30 am’.

And now it is just 8 20 am and we off board the bus. I take a trolley and watch these two girls waving to their friend, who is getting down from a Meru taxi some forty yards away.

There was no conversation between us. Yet it seems as if I knew them. I feel, I am going to miss their conversation while I board the flight. We were not really even platform friends.

I watch them waving still as I enter the Airport lobby. I collect my Photo ID and ticket from the uniformed personnel at the gate. The paper ticket reads my destination as Guwahati. But I have enjoyed my bus journey much more than what I expect of my journey towards Guwahati.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

On Ethical Leadership

Lexical semantics of ‘Ethical Leadership’ drives me to believe that the very activity of leading should be ethical. Ethics are generally accepted moral principles to be followed by individual/s. Leadership as such is a group activity but ethics have to be followed by individuals. The broader message that I get from these two words is that the leaders should follow moral principles and thereby expound their discourses through ethical practices. So ethics have an important role to play in the behavior of a leader and in the whole process of leadership. We need to look beyond just lexical semantics and explore as to the role of ethics in leadership.

Success or failure of an organization depend on the person who leads it. It is a general belief that an organization has three types of people working for it - 10% belong to the category of hard working group (highly committed employees) and 10% belong to hardly working group (laid-back employees) and remaining 80% follow the leader (Convertibles). These 80% employees move like a pendulum with the leader. And they make all the difference. So if the leader belongs to the first 10% group, the organization excels and if s/he belongs to the other 10%, the organization fails. 

It is the followers who make the leader. The choice between right and wrong, between moral and immoral, between legal and illegal leads to ethical or unethical decisions. The call has to come from the leader and that is where s/he becomes highly vulnerable. The most important aspect of ethical leadership is having honest intention. Surprisingly intentions cannot be just observed or gauged. This is the reason why one needs to work on developing strong credibility so that the intentions can at least be perceived and predicted by others. 

Credibility cannot be established in a day, hence the leader has to prove worth and pose with strong performance before the people to be led and the management. Intentions get reflected through general behavior during the course of earning credibility. This is loosely known as self-branding. 

Leaders are not made in a day. Ill intentions, dishonest behavior, immoral activities cannot leave a person in leading position for long. We have not forgotten Phaneesh Murthy of Infosys - bad habits die hard. Who does not know Ramalinga Raju of Satyam - greed is the opium that kills slowly. Subhinder Singh Prem of Reebok India might have got a place in Future group, but his acts as reported, have tarnished his image forever - one cannot carry heavier baggage than oneself. Vijay Mallya might have ruled like a king and must have had strong acceptance but his ill-intentioned acts have driven him out of the country. Though in politics it is believed that people memory is short but in the corporate world, one can never isolate oneself from his/her past. 

We also have exemplary business leaders like GD Birla, Jamnalal Bajaj, Jamsetji Tata, JRD Tata, Narayanmurthy and alike who have proven record of their ethical behavior. So a successful leader is one, who has followership on the basis of his ethical behavior and well perceived honest intentions. A sense of humility as advocated by Jim Collins would certainly add flavor to one’s acceptance and in enriching follower base.

Thursday, July 07, 2016


Traditional management practices believed in bureaucratic structure and strong hierarchies. The worker followed the instructions and orders and the owner through managers got things done in the interest of the organization. Management scientists borrowed strategy from army establishment like many other practices. Strategies were required to win over the enemy. For organizations competition, both from beyond and within was the greatest enemy. The hierarchal system was more dominated on the thinking of subordination and bossism. Organizations followed them and it resulted in improving effectiveness and great returns. Management started to believe in a preaching that - tighter the structure better the return. This was the time when workers were not that skilled and a culture of their exploitation was in practice. It was believed that the organizations are obliging the employees to have given them job. Employees were expected to perform as they agreed for a given monetary consideration. 

This could not last long as it was not sustainable. Behavior scientists started approaching work from another dimension which was human concern and for a sizeable part of the twentieth century dominated this thinking whereby though hierarchies were drawn and structures were made keeping in mind the role of individuals and job requirement, however flow of information and feedback got imbibed in the structure in such a way that employees started feeling empowered as their voices were heard, they were consulted in decision making and they felt a sense of involvement in the process of the strategies drawn in the boardrooms. 

Later part of twentieth century and the beginning of twenty first century marked team like structure where reporting became more informal and hierarchies got broken. Tall organizations started shifting towards flat structures. The process of reengineering and restructuring caught the eye of management strategists and top level decision makers. Western management thinkers started believing in William Ouchi’s Theory Z. Integration started happening on structures and innovative ways to get work done were evolved. 

A new model was required as employees became more aware, talent started becoming scarce, and retaining that talent became a challenge for the employer. This is when Hierarchy-less or flat structure was proposed and experimented. 

Hierarchy less structure results in cohesive work environment, cordial relationship and reduces delays in the process of decision making. In the fast changing business environment it is really a challenge to retain the best talent and effective employees wish to get involved in the decision making. They want to own up responsibilities and take risk. Organizations have to have such facilitating structure which allows its employees to spread their wings and dream big for the organization. This is where Hierarchy-less structure helps. 

There is a caution. It is not that hierarchies should be broken at all levels. Reporting channels have to be reduced and accountabilities have to be established at different levels in order to streamline effective functioning. When employees belong to Theory Y assumption, hierarchies would matter least. Further big manufacturing firms, heavy engineering firms, government departments etc may have to wait for long to get their hierarchies reduced or broken much unlike their counterparts working in services sector. 

Young boys and girls, if you aspire to work for a hierarchy less organization, you would have to make a choice depending on the sector you chose to work. It is not too bad to start with hierarchal organization, learn things and put forth effort to initiate conversion of tall into flat structure.