Through its learning and development programs, the Pragati Leadership team works to instill the principles of Purpose, People, Planet, and Profit that form the crux of our vision of Wholesome Leadership. Having seen the scope and shape of leadership change over the past three decades, we believe that today’s corporate leaders need a more holistic approach that blends business, social, and ecological sensibilities. To encourage leaders already walking this path, we chose to institute the “Pragati Leadership Inspiring & Successful Leadership Awards 2022”.
Going by the principle of peers choosing peers, we tasked current and former industry luminaries with selecting this year’s inspiring and successful leaders. Those present on this august jury were Biji K. Kurien (Former MD – CPS Color India, Berger Paints, and Author), Satish Kumar Anavangot (Former MD, Henkel India Limited), Anu Wakhlu (Chairperson and Executive Director, Pragati Leadership), Raman Chadha (ex Head Oil & Gas, Gammon Engineers), Dr. Sayalee Gankar (Vice Chancellor, D. Y. Patil University), and S. Deenadayalan (Founder, Center for Excellence in Organization).
The jury members also chose as one of the 2022 awardees the Managing Director of CEAT, Mr. Anant Goenka, in recognition of the outstanding work he has helmed, not just in the company’s core business area but also across sustainability, diversity, and social impact. With Mr. Goenka at the wheel, CEAT won one of the most prestigious global quality awards, the Deming Prize, in 2017. The company is also working towards halving its carbon footprint by 2030 and is blazing a trail through its efforts to address gender imbalance. Women comprise 40% of CEAT’s workforce, many working in areas traditionally dominated by men.
Notwithstanding these achievements, Mr. Goenka spoke of his reluctance early in his career as a leader, which began just over a decade ago. He recalled how many senior people with 20-30 years of experience had to report to the then about-30-year-old him, and how he was unsure about taking decisions at that time. His doubts and personal fears also meant he wasn’t happy speaking in public. He attributes his success since then to two pieces of advice he received during those years. The first, from his predecessor, was about using common sense when making decisions and remembering the words of Voltaire that common sense itself is not so common.
The second bit of advice he received from his university professor who said that doing the right thing is more important than trying to get everything right. Apart from the fairly simple advice, he feels he also learned from making mistakes as a leader. He discovered along the journey that leadership was “a lot like peeling an onion”, clearly a learnable trait, one at which you get better with experience. He concluded that he was not born a leader but evolved into one over time.
A turning point for him personally as well as CEAT was his trip to Tokyo in 2010 for a 10-day training program. He spent five days in the classroom and five days visiting leading manufacturing companies such as Toyota, Hino Motors, and others. Seeing their practices, he understood that they were doing something right in terms of their systems and methods, which he found “absolutely incredible”. That trip was the beginning of CEAT’s Total Quality Management (TQM) journey, and it taught Mr. Goenka a lot more than, in his view, what he had learned during his MBA or undergraduate studies.
After more than 10 years of traversing the TQM path, he sees it advocating simple things like long-term thinking, putting the customer at the heart of the business, innovating on behalf of the customer, and building people capability. The most important lesson for him is being purposeful as an organization, which is proud that the CEAT lives through the purpose of “making mobility safer and smarter every day”.
Sharing some of the wisdom that inspires him, Mr. Goenka quoted the American author and consultant James C. Collins as saying (in his book Good to Great) that “you can accomplish anything in life provided that you don’t mind who gets the credit”, attributed to the former United States President Harry S. Truman. He also cited Multipliers by the leadership advisor Liz Wiseman, which mentions that “after meeting with the great British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone, you left feeling he was the smartest person in the world, but after meeting with his rival Benjamin Disraeli, you left thinking you were the smartest person”.
Mr. Anant Goenka is the Managing Director of CEAT and a Member of the Management Board at RPG Enterprises. He is also the former Chairman of the Automotive Tyre Manufacturers’ Association (ATMA). Mr. Goenka has over 20 years of experience during which he has worked in CEAT, KEC International, and Hindustan Unilever. He was recognized by Forbes as the “Next Generation Business Leader of the Year” in 2017 and as “India’s 40 under 40 Business Leaders” by Economic Times-Spencer Stuart.