Sthitipragnya Dash

Preparing Future Ready Leaders

Sthitipragnya Dash

Future Ready_Web

“It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look further than you can see.”
– Winston Churchill
When Churchill said this in the first half of the 20th century, it could still be used as an excuse. In today’s world, difficult is the new normal and leaders are expected to do it on a regular basis. Not anticipating future trends and failure to address them today, is fast becoming untenable as the consequences of non action are getting grave with every passing day.
On December 18, 2011, when the Americans withdraw their forces from Iraq, it was near impossible to guess that they were leaving without terminating just a handful of battle hardened al-Qaida and Baath party loyalists, who would grow into ISIS and bring the gory violence right into the streets of Paris. However, history will remember it as the biggest failure of President Obama’s otherwise pristine tenure. In 2011, before the emergence of Aam Admi Party (AAP), it was rather safe for the leaders of Delhi unit of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) to win the 2013 assembly elections and form the government. Most of them are already dead politically and the party is only hoping to put its act together by the 2020 assembly elections. In 2012, the great Eastman Kodak Co. had to file for bankruptcy, years after it was too late for them to respond to the challenges digital era posed. For example, in 1975 they had invented the digital camera and put it back in the closet, and in 2005 they came out with world’s first WIFI-enabled photo sharing camera only to kill the line soon after. Contrast these with projects that Google’s Sergey Brinn is overseeing at Google X – self driven cars, flying vehicles to rapidly deliver products across a city, Google Glass that is the first step towards making a ubiquitous computer, and an internet network of balloons flying through the stratosphere which will bring internet access to everyone. Now every organisation would love to have a Sergey Brinn but it is just not possible. The next best thing to do is to prepare their leaders for the future.
We talked to the HR leaders of leading Indian organisations to find out what are they doing to prepare future ready leaders in their organisation and what we found only made us hopeful.

Creating Future Ready Leaders is a Business Need

We live in a world that is changing faster than ever before. Change has become swift, and its pace seems ever increasing. The need to foster growth, ability to be agile, being savvy to emerging customer needs, and having a global outlook are some of the abilities most organisations are trying to instill in their leaders to make them future ready.
With globalisation, organisations are increasingly finding their business interests spread across continents and need leaders with a global mindset. Take for example Vedanta Resources, which has primary interests in copper, zinc, silver, aluminium, oil and gas, iron ore and power segments, and through its various subsidiaries has operations in Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Liberia, Ireland and Australia apart from its native India. Suresh Bose, ‎Head – Group Human Resources, with Vedanta Resources says, “In today’s marketplace, the competition for good talent is intense and with our global operations, it is of utmost importance for us to develop a healthy talent pipeline.” TCS, a leading Indian software development organisation also invests heavily in building pools of leaders at strategic and tactical levels to take care of evolving capabilities of the highly fragmented and volatile global market demands. The main focus of their leadership development program is to develop individuals who can grow into leadership roles in India and across the globe.
Suresh Bose, ‎Head - Group Human Resources, with Vedanta Resources

Suresh Bose, ‎Head – Group Human Resources, with Vedanta Resources

Being savvy with the emerging customer needs and remaining competitive is another area in which organisations are trying to prepare their leaders. “With a primary business objective to become a leading economy hotel and  the brand of choice for customer, we are developing leaders who would be in sync with emerging customer needs,” says Ajit Dias, Head – Human Resources at Ginger hotels. Mahindra Group, an Indian conglomerate, has its eyes set on the goal to be in the top 50 most admired Global Brands by 2021, and to that end they are building a rigour in their talent management processes to strengthen the talent pipeline.
Interestingly, some organisations are being future ready by investing in creating future ready leaders at different levels in the organisation. For Viom Networks, a telecom infrastructure provider that has operations in over 200 towns and cities in India, local leadership that operations managers provide is critical to organisational performance. Therefore Viom is focusing on creating a pipeline of leaders trained for operational excellence, which in turn will help the organisation achieve its vision of ‘Viom Next’. At Mahindra & Mahindra, there exists a pipeline approach to leadership development. Prince Augustine, Executive Vice President Group Human Capital and Leadership Development, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd explains, “We have in place talent farms at each level in the leadership pipeline with designated talent owners where we develop future ready talent. The attempt is always to move good talent up to the talent farm at the next level.”

How India Inc. is Preparing Future Ready Leaders

The road to preparing future ready leaders starts at identifying individuals who can be groomed to take up leadership roles in the future. Most organisations look at high performing individuals to begin with and assess their potential through a series of assessments which includes psychometric profiling, 360 degree feedback and assessment centers among others. TCS has a mechanism in which high potential employees are selected on the basis of their performance in the TCS Leadership Practice (TLP) assessment and they get their results  on iProgress, a tool that measures potential for target leadership level.
Once identified, the high potentials individuals who would be groomed into future ready leaders, undergo leadership development programs in a group. Dr. Maninder Singh Khalsa, Head Talent Development at Vion Group tells me “This group at Viom Networks is called the CEO Club and all the expectations of its members with the organisation and vice-versa is recorded right in the beginning.” Something similar happens at Vedanta where a group of ‘Creamy STARS’ are selected out of a pool of 500 STARS by mapping individuals across stated competencies using the 9-box Performance-Potential Matrix. Then there are organisations which put together talented individuals for taking leadership roles in a particular function. For example, Ambassador Corps program at TCS aims to create global sales leaders. Branding these groups motivates the selected individuals on one hand, and on the other inspires other employees.
Prince Augustine, Executive Vice President Group Human Capital and Leadership Development, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd

Prince Augustine, Executive Vice President Group Human Capital and Leadership Development, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd

While some organisations still take the traditional route and design a common program for the members of this group of future leaders, many forward looking organisations prepared customised Individual Development Plans (IDPs) for each individual member. Most organisations I talked to execute these IDPs in the traditional approach of 10% education, 20% exposure, and 70% experience. “We provide them with excellent exposure to the bet benchmarks in the industry, education intervention in leading universities in India and overseas, and coaching from very senior leaders within the organisation,” says Prince Augustine of Mahindra & Mahindra. Suresh Bose of Vedanta informs that for their creamy STAR group they rolled out a combination of learning workshops, coaching and action learning projects mentored by business leaders and judged by top management, and learning labs. This involvement of senior leaders of the organisation is crucial in the success of these programs aiming to develop future ready leaders. Wipro started their Transcend program with a grand launch event where SBU Solutions Delivery Head and SBU HR Head set the context by outlining business and people priorities and aligning them with the objectives of the initiative. Priya Singh, Talent Head at Automotive Exchange Private Limited (CarWale) told me, “At Carwale, the average age of the employees is only 25 years and we hire lot of fresh graduates. Our approach to grooming them into future ready leaders is to get their BU Heads take responsibility of their development and mentor them. And it has worked wonders for us as many of the fresh hires have gone on to become function heads at Carwale.”
Priya Singh, Talent Head at Automotive Exchange Private Limited (CarWale)

Priya Singh, Talent Head at Automotive Exchange Private Limited (CarWale)

While most other organisations I talked to also do more of the same, some of them also have been leveraging technology in grooming their future leaders. During the leadership development program for high potentials, Transcend V2, leadership development team at Wipro Technologies created a dedicated page on Yammer, the internal social networking site. On this page, the participants of Transcend V2 could access and share ideas, experiences, articles, and best practices. Even their schedules and reading material was shared with them over Yammer. TCS’s social media platform Knome allows the high potentials to have live chats with industry experts, learn from the experiences of senior leaders, and collaborate with other high potentials. Dr. Singh of Viom Networks tells me that they have also developed an internal website of the CEO Club, which on one hand has all the resources and on the other provides for a discussion forum connecting all the members, current and alumni, of the club.


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