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7 Lessons For CEOs From Modi's Highs And Lows

15/08/2016 7:17 PM IST | Updated 08/09/2016 3:41 PM IST
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Adnan Abidi / Reuters

No single politician after Nehru has stirred the imagination of the nation as much as Narendra Modi has. With a mere 31% of the vote share, he rode his party to victory with more than absolute majority and continues to instill a degree of confidence in Indians. Never ever in the history of last 200 years has India played such dramatic role in the economic and intellectual landscape of the world.

Even before he was anointed the PM, his guest list was ready and the Pakistan PM was there on it. Shows strategy.

Modi must be the most loved and the most hated PM ever and his style of leadership and conduct leaves the corporate world with some valuable lessons on what to do and also what not to do.

1. The promise of acchhe din

Steve Jobs wanted to make the best and the most beautiful computers and gadgets in the world. There was no compromise in his vision and even at the cost of his job at the company he founded, he didn't budge from his vision and commitment. He had to be called back to save Apple and the rest as they say was history

Modi showed a vision of acchhe din. Good days. A simple powerful message that still resonates with the common citizen. He has promised acchhe din to 1.3 billion Indians and may god give him the ability to deliver on his vision and promise.

Lesson for CEOs: A superlative vision and intent are necessary for big success.

2. Performance and execution

How easy is it to imagine/promise a colony on the moon, or flying cars, or freeways and bridges like the ones in Switzerland. Anyone who has travelled or read a bit can imagine all this.

Vision must be backed by an ability to execute promises within a realistic time frame. We all know that in 100 years things will all be much better than they are today and also that in 100 years we will all be dead.

Modi has clearly demonstrated that he means business and that he wants to fulfil his promises fast, whether we talk of his ambitious road program, rural electrification or his push to forge ultra-strategic foreign relations. He is executing everything at a superfast speed. He has empowered ministers such as Gadkari and Sushma Swaraj and no one can take the credit away from him for what he is trying to execute.

Lesson for CEOs: A vision must be executable in a visible time frame. Also, CEOs must convince the boards and their teams of their inherent ability to execute.

3. Demonstration of clear intent

Fifty years ago one could spend an entire lifetime oblivious of one's global surroundings; back then, macro economic isolation wasn't a bane. However, in the ever-connected and interdependent world today, perfectly calculated relations with all global players are an absolute must. Strategic tie-ups with friends and enemies alike are necessary for survival and Modi excels at pulling this off.

Even before he was anointed the PM, his guest list was ready and the Pakistan PM was there on it. Shows strategy.

Obama's India visit to be the chief guest at the Republic day was a wonderful shot in the arm for Modi's foreign policy.

His flirtations with Nawaz Sharif (sudden stopover at Pakistan, wishing him well for his surgery and so on) are clear demonstrations of intent.

Lesson for CEOs: Optimal relations are necessary with everyone and intent should be visible in actions not words. As they say, keep friends close and enemies closer.

4. Reacting at the right time

Modi should have reacted and taken visible action following the Dadri lynching and during the JNU fiasco. He did whatever he had to do eventually – such as expressing regret and eventually firing Smriti Irani off to textiles -- but it was too little too late. It did erode a bit of Modi's sheen and global equity. And what happened because of that? Kanhaiya Kumar became a top adversary, rising from the abyss of nothingness.

Modi took a stand against the Gandhis and presented himself as a contrast to them... even if this meant overstepping the bounds of propriety at times.

Lesson for CEOs: When in a spot, you must act fast, decisively and should be ready to take seemingly unpopular decisions in the interest of the organization. It often helps to say sorry even if it's not strictly necessary.

5. Keeping one's promises

Black money (shadow economy) is a disease that's plaguing the nation. Modi promised to bring it all back in no time. But two years on, the matter is in a grey area? An average person believes that the entire drama was orchestrated for electoral gain.

Lesson for CEOs: It's important to remember that in an organization, even a peon with limited intelligence and education can have a strong opinion because common-sense is indeed common. Never make a promise that's hard or strategically difficult to keep. The world doesn't look favourably at people who can't keep their promises.

6. Maintaining neutrality in times of moral crisis

Dante said in 1200s: "The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality." Modi took a stand against the Gandhis during the election campaign and presented himself as a contrast to them. He showed the nation that he was the change they were seeking, even if this meant overstepping the bounds of propriety at times.

Lesson for CEOs: Have an opinion and take action. Inefficiency in the name of political correctness will never be condoned.

7. The chickens always come home to roost

When the BJP sat in the opposition, their stalling of Parliament was seriously debilitating for the nation. The Congress made sure to follow suit when it was their turn in opposition, though statistically they weren't as disruptive as the BJP. Nonetheless, Parliament logjams proved to be detrimental for the quick reforms that Modi is trying to usher in. The GST Bill, which is hallmarked as the single biggest economic reform since independence, was held hostage by the opposition for two years before finally being cleared recently.

Lesson for CEOs: Hubris can only take you so far, and what goes around comes around. Believe in your abilities, have attitude and confidence but don't ignore the law of Karma.

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