One of the most appealing and interesting components in our course curriculum here at IIM Calcutta is the ‘Being a CEO’ leadership talk series. The objective of this series is to facilitate interaction of the students with top executives who have managed large organisations and have a zillion experiences to share on leadership, people management, policies and regulations, and numerous other real issues they deal with day in and day out.
During the past few months, we have had the privilege of hosting speakers from banking, retail, defense, and IT industries to name a few. One of the greatest benefits of having such interactions is to understand more clearly what we study in lets say, macroeconomics, corporate finance, marketing management or organisational behaviour, and be able to connect that with the ground realities. Another key objective of these sessions is to understand executive decision making under different business contexts.
I will try to summarise few of my key learnings from these interactions and hope that it will be useful to current and aspiring MBA students who are aiming for top leadership roles in large organisations.
1. Every person has a different leadership style. But what gets you to the top level is largely based on your ability to deal with people and your ability to solve complex issues and problems and take decisions, even if they are hard.
2. You don’t need to be an expert in everything – marketing, finance, strategy, and economics. But you need to be an expert in at least one field and have the best people in your team where you don’t have the expertise. You will need people who will complement you and magnify your strengths.
3. You must build trust with your teams. Communication is very important.
4. Things are not always rosy. There are personal sacrifices one has to make to enjoy being a CEO. There will be ups and downs and you have to learn to deal with them. And yes, its often feels lonely at the top.
5. Stay focused. Don’t be bogged down by criticism. Use it to improve your self and aid your decision making.
Last but not least, the most important learning:
6. You must be able to steer the organisation according to your vision and the values of the organisation. If you’re not able to do that, move on.