Power Orientation and Result Orientation

Power-orientation can stand in the way of Result orientation in many cases. McClelland has made a distinction between the Need to achieve and the Need for power.

Power orientation makes the Entrepreneur give more importance to his/her Ego and treat the project as a means of satisfying his Ego. The project is a part of their ego. They can’t stand any rejection. Ego gives them energy, but can also make them unmindful of the reality. They push through the project without making course corrections and fine-tuning of details. They fail to realize that any rejection is not necessarily their personal rejection, but rejection of an action strategy. A carefully thought out change may very well bring about the desired results. But they may not always listen to the voice of reality, if they are emotionally committed to people, projects or business areas.

Result orientation on the other hand makes the Entrepreneur work for his venture and his or her Ego is at the service of the Venture. They put the project above their ego. They want to make a success of it. Their attention is drawn to all aspects of the working and they go to great lengths to make sure that every detail is taken care of. Such leaders are likely to do more reality checks and respect the response given by the world. Implicit in such checks is the belief that one is capable of learning and overcoming the obstacles. That is what Mr Sachdev has believed and practiced. E. Sreedharan, Chairman of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, retired from Indian Railways in 1990. He then completed the challenging project of Konkan Railway and is now spearheading the Delhi Metro at the age of 76. He has managed the Delhi Metro project from its inception. Though he is a revered figure in the bureaucratic corridors, he is an unassuming personality. “On his part, Sreedharan clocks in at work on the dot at 8.45 every morning, 15 minutes before his staff. For him,

In other words, Mr Sreedharan’s approach to the Delhi Metro project speaks of a certain sanctity that he has attached to the project, wherein his work becomes akin to a religious duty. This is in stark contrast to the modernist tendency among technocrat entrepreneurs, who set up a business venture only to be able to sell it in a few years.

Ability to Learn

Most entrepreneurs come to start-up ventures after gaining experience either in employment or in other ventures. Mr Sachdev came to SuKam after making a success of his cable operation business. Mr Sreedharan shouldered the responsibility of Delhi Metro after his stint in Konkan Railway. Mr Subroto Bagchi of Mindtree worked with WIPRO earlier before founding Mindtree alongwith Mr Ashok Soota.

Doing well in an established set-up is quite different from doing well in a start-up. For one, the start-up does not have an adequate, ready and well-oiled administrative apparatus or infra-structure. One has to build it. You have to not only get on with the operations but you also lay down processes. You not only procure resources but also develop systems to deploy them. You are training people while directing them at work. So you need patience and capacity. You need work habits that value timely action. You don’t have the luxury of long meetings and leisurely action. You also have to make trade-offs between time and perfection, being alive to the situation. You have to recognize the non-negotiable in the situation like safety and reliability and deal suitably with that which is negotiable. Sreedharan’s success lies in the fact that from one project to another, he accepted the challenges in every situation. But the challenges were not the same. His energy, integrity and leadership were the same.

The most transferable part of experience across domains consists of abstract expertise that we gather from concrete experience. The abstract or generic expertise consists of generic knowledge, conceptual skills, communication skills and personal competencies. There is also the concrete aspect of domain-specific expertise, which consists of specific knowledge, technical skills and specific likes and preferences. It is the ability to learn from experience that helps in evolving the domain-free abstract expertise, which is transferable across assignments in diverse domains.

If we see E Sreedharan’s track record, we note that he had two outstanding achievements to his credit before he came to Metro. First he got a railway bridge repaired in 46 days against the target of 3 months. Second, he completed the Konkan Railway project within time and budget limits. The concrete aspects were different in both the projects. What was common was Sreedharan’s meticulous planning and execution, apart from his values, beliefs and attitudes. These sterling qualities have made him the Metro Man of India. The significant point to note is that he has been able to distill or literally ‘abstract’ the important lessons from his varied experience to make for that abstract essence of competence. There are many who simply carry the templates of the past achievements into the present assignment, whereas the need really is to leave the templates behind and take with you the ability to design a new template for a new assignment. Carrying templates into new assignments is based on the assumption that assignments are not significantly different from each other. That assumption is not likely to hold in a fast changing world. Contextual variables do impinge significantly on any assignment.

Towards a conceptual framework

Personal competencies of the Entrepreneur that we have identified can be conceptualized in the form of a model.

The start-up Entrepreneur needs to persevere in the face of setbacks, analyze the failures and take action in pursuit of the desired results and in the process must be able to learn from experience to modify and create new templates for achieving success in the venture. The nature of a start-up venture is such that hiccups, teething troubles and initial setbacks are inevitable in that phase.


It would be useful to test this hypothesis in the Indian/Asian conditions.

(1) Timmons and Spinelli (2004) in their book New Venture Creation: Entrepreneurship for the 21st Century, McGraw Hill Professional, discuss the causes of trouble in the new ventures and mention the emotional attachment as one of the causes. See Chapter 18, The Entrepreneur and the Troubled Company.
(2) Straight Talk with E Sreedharan, Moinak Mitra, Economic Times, 26 Sept 2008.
(3) See James Atherton’s excellent website www.doceo.co.uk for elaboration.
(4) The Conceptual model is adapted from the Model of Managerial Performance proposed by the author along with coauthors in the article, “MBA’s : Swollen heads, Spindly limbs?” South Asian Journal of Management, AMDISA, July-Aug 1996, New Delhi. This model distinguishes between Competence, which is the accumulated fund of knowledge, skills and attitudes and Competencies, which link the actor to the situation through Judgment and Application of efforts. The accumulated fund of expertise is brought into contact with the situation at hand by the Actor through his competencies or personal attributes.


The author wishes to thank Dr Gour C Saha for providing the impetus to write this perspective paper and for comments on earlier drafts.