Business Today

Leaders for a new India

India faces significant challenges—leadership being the most important.

Print Edition: January 13, 2008

It’s fashionable in some circles to say, following Tom Friedman’s best selling book, that the world is flat. Some others have gone a step further and placed India (and China) at the centre of this flat world.

There is more than a kernel of truth in these assertions, but it is important to note that these extremely desirable outcomes are not a given. Yes, a linear extrapolation of India’s development since 1991 five, 10, 20 or 50 years into the future does point to such a possibility.

But even a cursory reading of history will show that countries and societies don’t always grow lineally. Any number of social, political, economic and international factors can intervene to cause a nation to veer off its empirical trajectory.

India faces significant challenges—leadership being the most important. By this, we don’t mean political leadership, although that does form a large part of it.

For all the parts of the humungous jigsaw that is India to fall in place, we will need a million big, small and tiny revolutions—not the bloody kind that disrupts society and divides people, but the kind that ushers in a virtuous cycle of growth and prosperity.

For this, India will need leaders, not necessarily high profile people who grab the headlines, but people who will bring about change ground up.

The existing mechanism for delivering necessities like healthcare, education, transparency, accountability, a scientific temper and cultural consciousness, among others, has obviously failed miserably. India needs new paradigms of development that break decisively with the past and deliver the benefits of development more equitably right down the spectrum to the bottom of the pyramid.

This will require fresh thinking, clear vision and huge management bandwidth. And most of all, this will need new leaders, who can think through the changes that are needed and to chart the roadmap that will get us to our destination of becoming a First World nation within the next quarter of a century.

Who are these leaders? We don’t yet know. What we do know is that India will need not one leader, or even one for each paradigm. Millions of leaders will have to emerge to make a difference to the lives of people living in the distant corners of this vast country. What qualities should he or she have? What strategies will they have to follow and what should their vision statement be? In this section, Business Today brings you the thoughts of some of the finest thinkers on the subject. We have chosen our columnists after careful deliberation. All of them are undisputed leaders in their chosen fields of activity.

And all of them share the vision of turning this country into a prosperous, educated and strong one.

So, what is it that makes a leader? Read on to find out.

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