‘Missionary before mercenary’ as a business leader

Using Your Setbacks As Learning Experiences And Making Them Stepping Stones To Future Success:

Uncertainty of outcome has always been a part of our lives, but recent events have perhaps shown us to what extent things can really be out of our control. Moving on from an event like this calls for humility and resilience. Humility, because we need to step away from our assumptions, our entitled state of mind and become more open to learning new things. Resilience because we need to be able to experience failure without getting defeated.

I discuss this in more detail in my book, but in times of stress or anxiety I strive to be present in the moment, zone out my doubts and negative thoughts, and focus on surviving the crisis at hand.When I landed in the US as a young student, there was an unfortunate misunderstanding with my sponsorship arrangement. I faced four years in university in a new country with no sponsorship, no funds to call my own, and no certainty of a job at the end of it all. Overwhelming as the odds were, I focused on making it through university one day at a time, picking up multiple jobs where I could. Eventually, of course, life worked out, as it usually does, and I learnt that opportunities will come if we manage to survive through the tough times.

 

Actions Businesses & Leaders Can Take In Order To Mitigate The Effects Of The Global Crisis And Ensure Suitability:

I think the primary goal and instinct of every leader in this crisis has, rightly, been to ensure the survival of their business and their organization. However, these are unprecedented times, and while the fundamental nature of leadership has not changed, some attributes or behaviours have become increasingly important. The book, in fact, has an entire chapter dedicated to these shifts.

The ability to empathize and collaborate in the new remote, digital mode of operating, whether with teams or business partners, is one example. Everyone is dealing with their own situational challenges, and empowering them with trust and flexibility have become critical for productivity. Even the mechanics of digital collaboration at this scale are something we’re all still figuring out. Being proactive in establishing acceptable and unacceptable behaviours, and leading by example are very important.

 

Digital Market Transformation From The Past Decade As We Head Into An Era Of Innovation & Growth:

I think it’s been a decade of empowerment for small and medium sized business owners – whom we call everyday heroes. The digital market has given them the opportunity to tell their own brand stories and create customer loyalty beyond geographical boundaries.

In India, we have seen this in the case of businesses from Tier 2 and 3 towns who have shown great hunger and enthusiasm to adopt digital and grow their enterprise. Even more heartening has been the fact that the drive to go online is greater in women than men. A significant number of women entrepreneurs in these cities operate from home, and see digital technology as a way to increase their network without needing to step out or travel.

The COVID-19 crisis of course has escalated digital adoption to a completely new level, and in this context, online presence and e-commerce served as critical survival mechanisms for most businesses.  

 

Your Personal Success Mantras:

One mantra I believe in firmly is to be ‘missionary before mercenary’ as a business leader. It’s very important to have a purpose that goes beyond the immediate bottom line, and to bring passion in impacting your customers for good.

Considering the rate of disruption in our world today, I also think it’s important for leaders to be able to collaborate with others, even competing businesses if required, to overcome obstacles and continue serving customers. We will see more and more ecosystems emerge to bring together businesses that can share resources to become more efficient. I also think the government will continue to play a bigger role in the private sector, even after the lockdowns end. These are important shifts and call for leaders to become comfortable with broader, multi-stakeholder strategies.

Lastly, I believe leaders need to know how to take decisions even where there are scanty or no data trends to follow (like in our current situation). Discovery-driven decision making is a model every new leader should focus on.

 

Your Mentor That Helped You Overcome Difficulties And Pushed You Into Becoming A Successful Leader/Person:

Our first set of mentors are always our parents, and the community we grow up in. Like they say, it takes a village to raise a child, and I believe your personal values and what you stand for is largely defined by these mentors.

But overall, I believe in going through life like a sponge, determined to soak in the best I can from everyone around me. From this perspective, I always feel surrounded by people who’re teaching me or inspiring me towards something new.

I also believe in having mentors who are younger than me. Given the fast-paced changes around us, and the premium being placed on unlearning and relearning, younger mentors can keep you connected with the disruptors’ way of thinking.