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Leadership lessons from India

The leadership style of Indian executives is radically different from their American counterparts, reveals a study.

Print Edition: March 21, 2010

The rapid strides made by India Inc. in recent times has put the spotlight firmly on Indian CEOs and their effective leadership. Now, the senior faculty at the prestigious Wharton School has done an incisive study on what makes the Indian CEOs tick.

The research team interviewed senior executives at 98 of the largest India-based companies, including the likes of Infosys, Reliance Industries and Mahindra and Mahindra. The study reveals that the leaders of some of India's biggest and fastest-growing companies take an internally focussed, long-term view and put motivating and developing employees higher on the priority list than short-term shareholder interests.

While the US executives gave more attention to external demands—regulatory concerns, the board and shareholders—only a small proportion of Indian executives gave additional attention to these. Indeed, the majority of Indian executives spent more time on setting strategy. They focus on creating the incentives, organisational structures and culture that will enable an improvisational approach to strategy.

Interestingly, the study concludes that Western leaders should adapt this Indian managerial approach to their own circumstances, pursuing in particular two readily achievable goals: Investing in training and strengthening social mission.

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