Is India Inc fast-tracking young talent? Young leaders quiz 5 top CEOs

As a culture we place a high premium on experience, more than energy. When a young leader comes across a wall of experience, how does he or she overcome that?

NITIN PARANJPE …… We sometimes simplify things too much. We try to make it this or that, but it’s never so simple. Very often, young people with a different point of view go to their bosses and come back quickly, saying the boss is an old-fashioned man and doesn’t like their idea. But your idea has to be backed by conviction and belief. You should not give up at the first sign of resistance.

A young leader takes it all in from Harsh MariwalaSHIKHA SHARMA …… On the issue of experience versus youth, conflict is overrated and overexaggerated. If an experienced and young person work together, the magic that is created cannot be replicated by a team of only youngsters or only experienced people. There are many very intelligent youngsters; some succeed in making a difference, others don’t. There are four pillars of leadership: intellect, drive, influence and learning agility. At MBA schools, we are not taught about influence. We think it’s a waste of time. You need to hear what people are saying; where they are coming up with. If you are listening to them, and are focused on the outcomes, rather than your personal agenda, you’ll come up with a better outcome. That’s the key difference between youngsters who go a long way and those who get burnt out. The latter don’t spend the time to work on the influence factor.

HARSH MARIWALA…… It has to be a combination of a flat hierarchy with growth and talent.

Are managements agnostic to young leaders taking up key roles?

VINEET NAYAR …… I am a little biased. I was fast tracked when I was identified by my seniors to take up leadership roles within HCL. And within seven years (from being identified) I was the CEO. If you are young, the risk appetite is high, there’s less to lose, there’s no baggage of perception, and all elements are stacked in your favour.

Managements are not in the business of promoting young leaders but are more concerned about performance. So, do you have less questions and more answers to problems? Are you leveraging your IQ? The management is not in the business of playing God. They are in the business of identifying who can fix the problem. If any, the ceiling is in our minds.

Does a female professional have to be far more effi cient to be treated on par with men? Do we need more women young leaders?

Nitin Paranjpe passes on words of encouragementNITIN…… As a country, there is more lip service here about gender balance than action. We still haven’t found the conviction that there is a business case for doing this. The reality is that half the talent and brains are with women. In a world where we are saying there is a war for talent, how can we as an organisation not have practices, processes and ways of working that allow this half to work for us and create a culture that will recognise some of the special issues they face?

SHIKHA…… I’ve been lucky… we were given equal opportunities and rewards, and didn’t have to work harder. For many of us, the challenge was the social infrastructure. But we were all contributing in the same way at work. Maybe there is an issue of mindsets in some places. But organisations have to break those.

VINEET …… We have been trying to understand gender issues for long. Recently, an interesting idea came from a self-help group we formed: they need less from the organisation and more from each other. Three things emerged. First, the feeling of entitlement is harming. Second, people believe as there are quotas for women, they can easily get in. This is not the way. Finally, companies should encourage formation of self-help groups to understand women’s issues. Let women compete on par and not be seen as part of some quota.


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