Ganesh Natarajan is the Vice Chairman & CEO of Zensar Technologies, a NASSCOM Top 15 IT Services company, that transforms technology and processes for Fortune 500 companies. He is a Board member of the 3.6 billion US Dollar RPG Enterprises and the Vice President of the HBS Club of India. Ganesh chairs Innovation, Intellectual Property and Knowledge for the Confederation of Indian Industry and is a member of the Chairmens’ Council of industry association NASSCOM. He was Chairman of NASSCOM in 2008-09.
After completing his Mechanical Engineering with a gold medal in 1979 from BIT Mesra, Ganesh went on to be a gold medalist in Industrial Engineering from NITIE and later also did a PhD in Knowledge Management at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay and the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. Ganesh was conferred with the Asia Pac Entrepreneur Award by Enterprise Asia in 2010 and has also been recognized by Ernst & Young for exceptional leadership. He is the author of four McGraw Hill Books on Business Process Re-engineering and Knowledge Management and is also a regular columnist for IT industry and business papers and magazines.
What is your definition of a good leader?
A good leader is one who has good knowledge, the ability to build and manage teams, charisma and character and an impeccable track record of business and personal ethics. A leader is also one who does not overpower with his own style or strengths but enables team members to believe that they too can achieve and become the best they can be.
How do you think organizations should evaluate/measure “quality of leadership”?
Organisations should evaluate leadership quality through both hard and soft measures. The hard measures are of course the business or strategic results achieved and the actual performance of the team against set goals. The soft ones are the recognition of potential in people and the way in which this potential is being converted to performance. Finally, is there a climate being created where the leader-follower syndrome is being replaced by the emergence of leadership talent through mentoring and a supportive environment everywhere in the sphere of influence of the present leadership.
How can one improve one’s leadership skills?
One can improve one’s leadership skills by having an open mind and being receptive to inputs and ideas from the environment. Having a life coach or a mentor who can provide timely guidance and creating an environment where 360 degree feedback is solicited and welcomed also creates an environment where learning is continuous. Formal interventions like the world renowned Advanced Management Program of the Harvard Business School can also help in continuously honing leadership skills.
What are the three most important challenges in front of leaders in today’s times?
The three more important challenges in front of leaders are to be aware of the changing environment and the opportunities and challenges created by paradigm shifts in every industry, the ability to create an empowering vision of the future for an organisation or team and development of the skills and leadership attributes needed to translate that vision into robust action.
What in your views are most effective ways/techniques for grooming future leaders?
Formal training interventions at select points of time in a leader’s career and an environment of continuous constructive feedback are core tools to be used. In many organisations lateral movements within the organisation and opportunities to learn through punishment free risk taking opportunities are also seen as methods to sharpen the entrepreneurial capabilities of leaders.
When should a leader call it quits?
A leader should call it quits when the world and his environment says “Why” and not “Why not”. Once a strong team has been built and enough testing has been done to ensure the competence of the next level, the leader should stay on for some time in a mentoring role but resist the temptation to stay on because of a perceived notion of indispensability.
Which leader in the Corporate world do you admire and why?
I have always admired Anand Mahindra for his forthright leadership style and his excellent communication skills and the ability to make all who meet him feel included by his informality and warmth. Globally, leaders like Jack Welch have been inspirations in their no nonsense approach and the ability to push their teams and organisation to great heights.