Tag Archives: team

Business Leadership vs Functional Leadership

One of the most important development areas of senior leaders in business is the transition into business leadership roles  after being in a functional role.

Enabling senior leaders with the mindset and paradigm change required for this role is a very common industry need.

In most typical organizations,technical expertise and the competencies required to execute around one’s immediate business area is always the key priority.


Development actions and new learning is also around the same. People are also measured and evaluated on their immediate KRA’s which too are usually linked to functional performance. Its therefore typical that at senior levels,most people are experts in their areas of work. The challenge that this throws up for the organization is that there is  a whole bunch of functional experts  who are extremely good with what they know  and yet there is no leadership talent that looks at the “big picture “ of the organization. As consultants and coaches for  Leadership development,we have consistently found this to be a recurrent gap across different sectors of business- Manufacturing, BPO, IT, Pharma etc.


The CEO doesn’t really have a team of business leaders to support him. He invariably has  an excellent team of functional leaders. This hurts the organization since there is a tendency to look at most issues from a functional perspective rather than a business angle. The approach to resolving also becomes very “my function/department-centric”.  This is also one of the main reasons why “silo-working “ and “silo-thinking” happens even at senior levels.

What can be done to mitigate this risk?

think tank

One of the ways is by identifying a Leadership Team whose sole responsibility is to look at the business of the company as a whole and come out with perspectives, approaches that cut across boundaries. This team must not look at what each department is doing but more at what the business is doing and what needs to be done to meet the business challenges. Developing this mind-set and paradigm change will take time but it can be done.

  1. The role of the CEO is very critical in this. He must ensure that he moderates the session in such a way that people stop thinking of their “turf” and look at the company instead.
  2. Building skills on business perspectives, commercial  acumen, strategic thinking would be critical. The team needs to be exposed to the external world and needs to go and study other businesses and learn from them.
  3. Networking and collaboration would help to make this happen. These are critical skills for being a good business leader.
  4. The members of the Leadership team need to be given opportunities to lead sessions on application of strategy to business, creating business plans for the company etc. Peer reviews can help.

Some of these would ensure that the CEO has a bankable team with him for the present and the future.

By Anu Wakhlu 


To become a Wholesome Leader, invoke the power of ‘Shakti’ within you!

These are complex times. Uncertainties abound and change has become a veritable norm. We’re swamped with data and analytics and yet, ironically, decision-making and hence leadership has become more complex. And complex times demand complete, Wholesome Leaders, don’t they? Gone are the days when a sharp mind that could access data, crunch numbers and decipher patterns from it, in order to make purportedly logical decisions, was considered a good leader. Today that same left-brained, logic-data driven leader, who was risk-averse, will be seen as a Partial Leader, unfit for these times!

Data - analyticsEnterprises of this era are caught in so much flux in terms of technological change, societal churn, changing attitudes and priorities, cross-cultural challenges et al. That’s why they demand more ‘Wholesome Leaders’ who can:

  • Lead from the front
  • Think out of the box easily
  • Take calculated risks when needed
  • Display emotional intelligence while building meaningful relationships AND
  • Continue to grow the business

wired brain

Now, that’s a tall order for most leaders, don’t you agree? We’re after all, wired differently and conditioned to stay on the left side of things, so to speak. The right side (pun intended) has pretty much remained dormant. No wonder then that most leaders find it difficult to rely on and utilize their Head-Heart-and-Guts* simultaneously while leading their functions/ teams/ organizations. Going by the definition of Dotlich-Cairo-and-Rhinesmith*, they are NOT the ‘Whole Leaders’ that today’s global enterprise desperately needs. Mind you, this applies to both men and women leaders who’ve not yet invoked the power of Shakti within!

Hindu mythology, Paganism and many ancient religions, backed now by Astro-physicists and Quantum Physicists, state that the primal source of all energy that gives life to our Universe is feminine in nature. By that we must understand that it is life-giving, emotional (if we may use that adjective) and instinctive.


This Shakti or the divine feminine force/ primal energy, exists in each one of us but it is conditioned to remain dormant or under-utilized. Our industrial evolution in recent centuries has necessitated it to be so, don’t you think? So what can we do as leaders to wake this Shakti from her slumber and goad her to unleash her full potential in her full blossom?

1)      Heart-first: Easier said than done isn’t it? From childhood, we’re trained, almost brain-washed into believing that ‘using the head’ meant improving and becoming a better achiever. Now we’re increasingly expected to suddenly ‘think from the heart’ and learn to ‘Manage and Lead’ people and teams ‘from this heart’! What if decisions are taken with a strong emotional foundation with full empathy? Isn’t that why and how meaningful bonds are made? Suddenly colleagues, peers and subordinates are all part of one big extended family that thinks and feels for one another.


Even though such relationships are volatile in nature, they’re more likely to last the distance than say a negotiation-based, head-first relationship, usually built in the corporate world. As leaders, we must, therefore, learn to be open about our feelings and transparent in our communication.

This change can happen only if leaders are encouraged, from a very early stage of their career path, to openly and confidently show emotions and demonstrate heart-based decision-making.

2)      Instinctively decisive: When was the last time you, as a leader, had an intuition about something occurring? Doesn’t happen often, right? More importantly, that intuition would have likely been brushed aside as a frivolous thought by that all-weather-ally, Mr. Rationale! Again, this is an after effect of academic and social conditioning. The Shakti-power inside is actually the force that gives us gut-feel, intuition, premonition, call it what you may. Believing in this manifestation of Shakti and honing this quality is becoming invaluable to leaders across sectors and levels, in today’s uncertain times. After all, we’re not always privy to robust and indicative data and analysis that will help us take apparently correct decisions from the head. We cannot wait for all info to arrive on our desk either, can we?


From an early stage, if leaders are encouraged to take gutsy, instinctive decisions, every now and then, it is bound to become a source of immense strength at a later stage when the stakes are high. Mind you, failures are bound to happen but the rewards in the long run are much higher because they’re likely to develop a keen eye to see opportunities that don’t seem to exist.

More importantly, by that time, these leaders will more likely get it right than wrong because taking gut-feel-decisions has become second-nature to them! Such leaders will not be risk-averse and will seem to find innovative ways out of sticky, almost impossible, emergency situations in business.

3)      Strength from Spiritual Awareness: You have a divine, infinite core within you that is the fountainhead of potential. This core is essentially Shakti in all her splendor and glory. As a leader, when you are truly aware of this potential, you have invoked Shakti to guide and lead on your behalf. Think about it. Traits that can never be taught or acquired through rote or sensual experiences are actually the ones that will step you up from a good leader to a great inspiration!


We’re often taught about developing mental strength. Most often this is mistaken for being stoic, logic-driven, sans-emotion and almost brutally realistic, to use a cliché. True leadership strength springs from an awakened spiritual core or Shakti in blossom. When one has the ability to really think and feel from the heart and be instinctively decisive, one has truly developed strength to take on any challenge in work and life. Sudden mishaps, dramatic changes, road-blocks, startling course-corrections et al will then seem a happy part of this leadership journey.

If you’re looking for examples of such leaders who’ve truly lead on behalf of the Shakti within them, two names come to mind immediately – Mr. Narayana Murthy – co-founder and Chairman Emeritus of Infosys AND Ms. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw – Chairman and MD of Biocon. Sample these facts/ traits about these two leaders:

  • Both saw an opportunity to start something new and jumped in head-long, driven purely by their gut-feel
  • Both faced tremendous challenges, many unforeseen, along their growth journey but overcame them all through sheer grit, ingenuity and strength of will
  • Both lead organizations that are globally amongst the largest employers of talent and are known for the care shown to nurturing their teams


The list can go on but you get the drift right? The standout takeaway in invoking ‘Shakti’ within each one of us is the removal of fear and pre-conceived notions. This state of being essentially manifests as entrepreneurship in the business world. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to lead an entrepreneurial team that is led by Shakti at all times?


In fact, wouldn’t it be wonderful to lead on behalf of Shakti by tapping into that fountainhead of divine feminine energy within?

Wait… did someone say the word ‘Man’ is contained inside the word ‘Woman’?


By Nandakishore Padmanabhan


Oh Captain! My Captain! Make me love my job!

Manager, Team Lead, VP, CXO – whatever the role of the captain in question, there’s only one thing that the team craves for irrespective of their roles and that is Job Satisfaction. Mind you, these are highly driven people we’re talking about. Professionals who have worked their way up to their current positions and are more than capable of excellence. Yet they crave for that new challenge, that ‘AHA moment’, that little excitement every now and then or that unexpected pat on the back – all contributing in some small way to their love for the job. Are you as a leader aware of this small but significant need to boost employee morale?

It is all about encouragement and inspiration more than simple direction. Especially so when managing knowledge workers – those who know more about a particular job than you do as their leader. In leading today’s knowledge workers, it is important to invert the pyramid and look at leadership vis-à-vis the wants and needs of the professional—as opposed to the skills of the leader. Sample this truth – leaders may be judged more by the gifts they provide than the gifts that they possess. That’s when you will lead teams that love their jobs and actually display genuine desire for excellence. Here are some tips for successfully managing knowledge workers:

•Encourage their passion

Gone are the days when professionals worked 35-40 hours per week and took four to five weeks of vacation – then it was not so important that they loved what they did. But when professionals are working as many hours as they do today, it’s crucial that they love their work. Professionals need to look forward to going to work in the morning. That’s why today’s leaders need to look for, support, and encourage passion in their professional employees. Leaders also need to “lead by example” and demonstrate this same passion.

•Enhance their ability

Help them update and refine their skills. Job security has decreased and global competition has increased so it is critical for your team members in maintaining professional careers. Help them look beyond the skills needed for today and learn the skills that will be needed for tomorrow. That is when they will feel that they have a leader who cares for their overall growth and not just about meeting deadlines and numbers. After all, top professionals will often be willing to accept less money for more growth and loyalty will be gained through learning—not just earning.

•Value their time

In today’ fast paced world, we as professionals have less disposable time and therefore the value of time increases. As leaders, it is imperative that we do not waste our team’s time and create bitterness or irritability. It is hard enough working 50-80 hours a week and doing what does matter but it is incredibly painful to work that much and then end up wasting time on things that don’t. Leaders will need to increase skills in protecting professionals from things that neither encourage their passion nor enhance their ability.

•Build their networks

Easier said than done you might think but leaders benefit from expanding their team members’ networks and ensuring a feeling of security. By enabling professionals to establish strong networks both inside and outside the company, organizations can gain a huge competitive advantage and the loyalty of their workers. Besides, professional networking enables people to expand their knowledge and bring back new knowledge to the organization. More importantly, their loyalty to former employees helps lead to loyalty from future customers.

•Support their dreams

The best professionals are working for far more than money. They have a dream of making a meaningful contribution in their field. Give them the support they need and you will have their unflinching support and loyalty. So ask yourself what you can do to help your team members achieve their dreams starting today.

•Expand their contributions

Two of the most important needs of hard-working professionals are happiness and meaning. Leaders need to encourage passion to create an environment where people are happy and want to come to work. Leaders will also need to show how the organization can help the professional make a larger contribution to the world. Remember that is the individuals that make a team, the team contributes to the organization, the organization shapes society and society transforms the nation. Many of us seek out opportunities to make a contribution outside of work. Why should this be the case? Why can’t professionals make a positive difference from inside of work?  No one wants to put in endless hours on trivia. That’s why wholesome and inclusive work systems are the need of the hour.

Before we sign off, here’s something every leader would love to see from his team members – until next time, happy leading by loving your job!