As N. Chandrasekaran readies for his new role as the Chairman of Tata Sons, what should group companies expect? Business Today interviewed Chandra, as he is popularly called, multiple times during his stint at the CEO of India's largest IT exporter TCS. His responses, often, underlined his leadership style. Here are a few excerpts.
Did Chandra know he would be TCS' CEO two-three years before 2009, when he was crowned? This writer popped a question, once.
Chandrasekaran: I am a person who genuinely tries to enjoy what I do every day. This is not to say that I don't think about the future. But I don't take the future in isolation in terms of a title or a role. It was not that I was putting up a goal that this year I should be a vice president and this year I should be something else. I have always believed that if you follow the work, rewards will come. How you do your work is more important than what you do. There are many things that need to be done in a company. Sometimes you are assigned what people think is sexy and sometimes you are assigned what people may not think is sexy. How you do it makes the difference.
TCS continues to lead the IT industry's pecking order. How was this achieved?
Chandrasekaran: The first and foremost thing is to have belief, which I think I have been effectively able to communicate. And we as a team have been collectively able to take up the challenge. The combination of belief, the right management teams in each unit, and working with them - as opposed to setting an artificial goal such as we will grow at the rate at X per cent - has worked. It is a process and that is what we have driven. The results come on their own.
TCS executives once told this writer that Chandra is never happy with the targets they set for themselves. He cites a cricketing analogy, from T20, to humour them. Why is that?
Chandrasekaran: Many times I feel that setting a target can be the most limiting thing. You go into a pitch in the morning and say this is a good pitch for 160 runs. But for all you know the pitch could be good for 220 runs. So once you set your mind on a target, you are kind of limited by that target.
Business Today once asked Chandra what is a good way of describing his style: There are leaders who set the broad vision and then there are those who micromanage. Does he blend both?
Chandrasekaran: The way to look at it is that I work with a lot of people. Everyone has strengths. Everyone has a style. Over the years, I have learnt that one way is to impose your style on people - tell them I am responsible, I like it done this way, etc, and everybody has to do it that way. But this puts a lot of pressure on people. People will not be themselves. Some will need you being in touch with them on a frequent basis. Some people will get very worked up if you are in touch with them frequently. So I balance it. Since I came from the ground up, I understand the business and am hands on. I am a technical guy, so I understand the business quite well and stay in touch with what is going on in the industry. But I agree on what needs to be done, the rules of the game and what is the path we want to take - I communicate that very clearly. After that, I let them be. But I am always available.
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