My Leadership Agenda for 2015 – Part 2

Are we consciously establishing institutional legacy through definitive Leadership Practices?

In my previous post on this topic, I had posed specific issues that are plaguing Leadership across Boards / Corporations. Having understood the nature of issues confronting leaders, I now share the specific directives and steps leaders need to consciously take to bring sustainable, enduring change.

So what ails the current Leadership Framework and what can leaders consciously do to establish a strong institutional legacy and culture?

My Top 10 points that should define the agenda for Leaders and Corporations to focus on are as follows –

  1. Total Leadership – It is important for Leaders to first undergo “Mental Orbit Shift” to become successful change agents. Leaders will be better served by wearing different hats for different occasions – ‘Motivator’, ‘Manager’ and ‘Maker’. Each role brings different sets of competencies to the front and needs to be judiciously used. Leaders need to reinvent themselves and have to undergo several changes as required to deal with each situation and individual in a specific manner. Uni-dimensional leadership is history.
  2. Enduring Credibility – Biggest issue facing Leadership today is one of “Credibility” of its own actions. Leadership at the highest level is about demonstrating decisiveness, moral courage and integrity – it pays dividend to be morally upright every time, at all points in time, across all situations and across hierarchy. One cannot play favourites on this front. Leaders need to invest in personal equity through the harder, longer road. There are no shortcuts here
  3. Purpose Principles – Purpose is the fuel that drives our life engine, both as corporations and individuals – ‘Purpose is Life’. Purpose of Existence defines who we are, what’s our philosophy and what represents our core identity. An institution without Purpose is like an anchorless and rudderless ship that just floats around without meaning or substance. Leaders need to realize without purpose, they are just playing for luck.
  4. Go Long Go Deep – Today’s world is charaterised by myopic vision leading to short term orientation and decisions. This singular malaise has corroded our thinking cells to an extent wherein everyone expects instant gratification in terms of results, outcomes and benefits. To see enduring results and play for the high stakes, it is important to have a foundation that is deep and farsighted enough to make provisions for adjustments that are likely to come by during the course of a journey. Leadership needs to readjust their ‘scopes’ and sharpen focus on long term decisions and mental orientation.
  5. First Principles – Basic rule of any high quality ideation is – never make any assumptions. What appears to work today is already dated and be aware that it is functioning on borrowed time. Rate of obsolescence of an existing idea (however good it may appear) happens at a pace sharper and exponential than Moore’s Law. Leaders need to realize this basic rule and ensure they encourage disruptive thinking and ideation across all levels of corporation. First Principles represents this thinking and which has become main street courtesy Elon Musk who is a great exponent of this thinking practice.
  6. Exploration Mindset – One of the greatest test (acid test, if I may) of Leadership is how they treat and define failure. Ability to encourage and motivate teams to overcome fear of failure through a prescribed process is extremely crucial and priceless. It is this ability that sets up a culture of innovation and prepares individuals and corporations to be on the cutting edge of constant exploration. Leaders need to quickly learn and realize that they are only as good as their last credible exploration.
  7. Frugal Innovation – Innovation is a much bandied about term these days. It is assumed that innovation by definition involves deep resources and infinite capacities. I am afraid this could be not be any further from the truth. Frugality is the mother of all innovation. True innovation is about aligning competencies, existing resources, immense belief and a strong ‘can do’ mindset. Leaders need to cultivate a couture that seeks to judiciously and intelligently bring diverse competencies and resources together and create self-compression ecosystem that will disgorge invaluable ideas.
  8. Gamification Approach – Excellence is pursuit of internal motivations – passion and belief in making a positive difference. Current breed of high performers are looking for purposeful engagement beyond the standard trappings of a high paying job. This is where Gamification Thinking comes in. This is about applying game mechanics and game design technique to engage and motivate people to reach their objectives. Forward looking leaders globally are now increasingly turning towards Gamification techniques to motivate and fire up the passion of their teams.
  9. Holacracy Setup – Holacracy, an upcoming leadership paradigm, offers a comprehensive model for structuring, governing and running enterprises in a purposeful and meaningful manner. It moves away from the current command-and-control management system in a way that Purpose becomes the anchor point of corporation’s and leader’s objectives. Corporations such as Zappos have embraced this culture and are benefiting from it immensely. We need to encourage our leaders to start adopting this practice sooner than later.
  10. Open Collaboration – When was the last time you truly collaborated? This is not about getting a few individuals with diverse backgrounds into a room and expecting miracles. Collaboration happens only when we have deeply engaged people bound together by a common and shared set of objectives. And this collaboration does not happen in isolation in a garage – it happens when the Thinkers, Adopters, Makers and Users come together on a common platform. What we then have is sheer magic. It is this purposeful engagement that seems to be missing from our collaboration efforts. Leaders need to see this signal much earlier so that priceless time, efforts and resources can be channelised for superior outcomes.

Active Engagement and Communication with stakeholder community will form the bulwark for the Leadership Agenda 2015

While it would my endeavour to encourage leaders to focus on the above 10 Point agenda, Leaders and Corporations will do well to focus on some basic issues as well. In the age and time that we live in, it is important to treat all constituents of our stakeholder community (not just shareholder, who to a large extent is very well taken care of) with compassion, respect and dignity. This means, putting stakeholder engagement back on the prime business table of the Leadership and ensuring they are not only doing good, but are seen / heard to be doing good.

This means apart from being decisive and action oriented, Leaders need to exhibit deep empathy and reflections for stakeholders. Further it is imperative they frequently communicate through myriad channels that are available (offline and online) these days on the specific forward looking engagements that have been taken by the Board. This makes for credible, accountable and communicative leadership that believes in empowering the constituency through active engagement.

It is clear that corporations and leaders who are committed to develop, design and execute an integrated, holistic and cross-level Leadership Ecosystem will make significant advancement and headway in establishing a Breakout Business paradigm. This is very much achievable and is waiting to be leveraged and exploited to unleash the true potential of people, processes and systems. This needs radical changes to our current approach and challenge the established paradigm and assumptions that form the basis of our decisions. In the VUCA environment that we live in, these 10 Points for Leadership Agenda will provide the necessary leadership strength to future ready our businesses.

May the force (and the Leadership) be with you.


Purpose Led Business Architecture

Global businesses are entering a critical evolutionary phase where the next steps of Board & Leadership will have profound impact and epochal effect on how fundamentally business is conducted. Far too many storied institutions have bitten the dust through conscious bad choices made at the leadership level.

The erstwhile idea that success principles and behaviour of the past will continue to drive value in future is a sad reflection of the myopic vision that seems to have afflicted corporations across the world. It is this short term approach of business leaders that has led to complex and turbulent situations, resulting in uncertainty and volatility for enterprises. This problem needs to be addressed on war footing.

Boards & Leadership need to establish ‘Purpose led Business Architecture‘ framework to future proof business. Institutions that are at the cutting edge of leading innovation and implementing ‘Purpose Led Business Architecture’ continue to add value to stakeholders and remain at the forefront of value creation.

The Board & Leadership needs to deeply introspect and litmus test business decisions on continuous basis for delivering priceless business insights through the following questions –

  1. What steps Leadership Team is taking to establish deep linkages to its identified, defined and articulated ‘Purpose of Existence’?
  2. Is the institution’s Purpose designed to future proof itself from market complexities and uncertainties through a robust business philosophy?
  3. What is the company doing to develop / deepen / nurture Inspired Leadership through defined structure & practices at the highest levels?
  4. Is the Leadership Team focused and committed on value creation through a Purpose led Business Architecture?
  5. Is the Leadership Team getting out of its perpetual “fire fighting to survive” mode to a “qualified decision making for potential realisation” mode?
  6. How are we building long term Business Models for a more holistic, sustainable and meaningful stakeholder (not just shareholder) value?
  7. Are we consciously identifying business priorities through the lens of Purpose to ensure alignment of objectives, resources and efforts for seamless / coherent / high impact execution?

The above examination will be useful to look at a firm’s vision through its purpose of existence. It will provide deep insights into the sustainability of the strategies as also creating long term stakeholder value. It is important Leadership & Management took stock of the above and reflect upon the impact of their decisions on businesses.

This is the essence of building Vanguard Leadership and through them, creating Enduring Business Enterprises for sustainable long term value creation.

Designing Enduring Institutions – Part 2

Continued from my earlier post – PART 1

Good corporations with strong, well defined business practices tend to deliver meaningful, enduring and purpose driven value to the entire stakeholder community. These institutions leave a lasting impression on the society and act as a lighthouse to inspire generations to look up to. These are not just good to have practices but make very strong economic sense and logic.

Great institution consistently reflects the following 4 Bs or the 4 key attributes of corporations –

  1. a) Belief – Reflects the philosophy of enterprises
  2. b) Behaviour – Defines the practices of enterprises
  3. c) Business – Establishes the objectives of enterprises
  4. d) Balance Sheet – Demonstrates the value of enterprises

These 4 attributes put together create the template for success and are the common threads that define breakout institutions. It is the unshakable belief of the business leadership in this approach through different economic cycles that marks out these companies for greater glory.

This approach is all about encouraging businesses to have a strong heart and a deep soul. It is about demonstrating courage of conviction against odds. It is about doing things the good old way and believing that what is good for heart is definitely good for mind – and therefore business.

One need not therefore get conditioned by the jungle rule or the Darwin theory – survival of the fittest. Jungle laws are all about “Primal Thinking” which establishes evolution through the lens of the survivor. As we have evolved, this is perhaps the right time and age to use the part of the brain that we human beings have so religiously developed – about reasoning, wisdom, affection and love.

We need to believe in and design institutions that befit humans and human characteristics – and not robots or animals that are programmed to react with only basal instincts – greed or fear.

So – time to revisit our institution design by undertaking a mental orbit shift for superior and enduring outcomes?


Designing Enduring Institutions – Part 1

What makes for a good Institution Design? Is there a definitive Success Template for business?

Often we have wondered how there are certain institutions that are designed for greatness and deliver enduring value to stakeholders. Such great institutions across markets reflect certain unifying factors that define their purpose of existence, which goes beyond just making profits. So are there common threads that define such institutions? What is their design construct that delivers outstanding results consistently and are timeless in value?

But before we come to that, quick recap of the present business environment – since the last decade, we are finding increasing instances of corporate frauds, companies going bust, leadership vacuum, and fracture in governance practices across global businesses. A lot of this has to do with the limited worldview that we carry on why businesses exist. We have reduced every aspect of corporate engagement to a Balance Sheet item where our only concern seems to be whether it appears “above the line” or “below the line“.

Enterprises have their own larger purpose of existence. In the absence of a well defined purpose, institutions tend to degenerate at a rapid pace, especially in the pursuit of mindless growth. This happens when individuals with strong biases tend to supplicant their personal desires and ambitions through the Balance Sheet of the enterprise.

It is important to understand that while there are obvious business objectives for an enterprise to exist, these will always be secondary to the larger impact they carry across the social ecosystem.


I will present the rationale and design attributes for building Enduring Institutions in PART 2 of this post.

Market Drivers for Industry & Community Platforms – Part 2

IFS Group Logo (Positioning Statement) - Final                                    Continued from my earlier Post 1

Understanding Industry Platform Vs Community Platform

  • Who does it serve?
  • What does it seek to achieve?
  • When does it become relevant?
  • Why is this needed and required?

“Integrating Market Community Into The Decision Making Process”

Industry Centric Platforms are inherently designed to invest significant portions of their time, resources and expertise in building private enterprises and businesses. While this approach is important to ensure creation of strong and viable enterprises, it falls short of capturing the aspirations and on-ground needs of a large section of the market community. This becomes decisive in deciding whether policies and regulations gain acceptance at ground level. While this model has served its immediate purpose and objectives, in a demanding and often less tolerant market system, the Industry Centric Platforms fail to rise to market expectations and standards.

On the other hand, Community Centric Platforms by their very definition fulfill the following important market objectives in a quick, efficient and purposeful manner –

  • Help in going beyond information access to information validation and relevance
  • Ensure effective decentralisation of collating market needs, insights and feedback
  • Enable access to market community opinions thru on-demand and frequent exchange
  • Assist in aligning business policies and regulations closest to real market requirements

For long term, sustainable and effective market ecosystem, it is vital to integrate the community into the decision making process. This ensures collective buy-in and involvement of all stakeholders for a robust marketplace. In the present environment, where access to information and expertise is all pervasive, an active community centric policy framework can deliver greater inclusion in decision formulation process. This is where Community Centric Platforms come in.

Market Drivers for Industry & Community Platforms – Part 1

IFS Group Logo (Positioning Statement) - Final

“Business Architecture Defining Industry Priorities Vs Community Priorities”

How meaningful and relevant can Community Platforms be in the larger scheme of things? Can Industry Platforms and Community Platforms co-exist or does one model end up replacing the other? What does it take to sustain long term and relevant Community Platform objectives?

As in every other business or industry, a model need not be defined based on it replacing or substituting any existing alternative. In this situation, we do believe that both the Industry Platform as well as the Community Platform need to co-exist for achieving market objectives.

It is important to closely examine the motivations and dimensions that are the success-drivers for each model and the objectives they seek to accomplish –


    Industry Centric Platform –IFS - Industry Centricity

  • Primary Focus on institution strengthening process
  • Product manufacturing takes priority & precedence
  • Promotes “Policy – Regulation – Industry” coupling
  • Building & retaining best practices for “self growth”

    Community Centric Platform – IFS - Community Centricity

  • Primary focus on the community strengthening process
  • Market needs & requirements take priority & precedence
  • Promotes “Community – Policy – Regulation – Industry” linkages
  • Building & sharing market best practices for “shared growth”