July 28, 2018

Lalit Kumar Gupta on Leadership

Lalit Kumar Gupta has over 30 years of extensive business leadership experience and has led strategy formulation, execution and change initiatives across countries in Asia  Pacific. Currently serving the Iclif Leadership and Governance Centre as the Chief Marketing Officer, Mr. Gupta brings real world experience to leadership development and corporate governance, and is a well-respected thought leader.

Mr. Gupta has held regional leadership positions in Oracle as well as Unisys Corporation. In his last role, Mr. Gupta was Vice President at Oracle Corporation, leading their Public Sector and Education Business for Asia Pacific and Japan. In 2012, Mr. Gupta was identified as one of the top leadership talents within Global Industry Business Unit at Oracle Corporation, and participated in a custom program, “Leadership in Action”, designed to prepare high achieving talent for future leadership roles.

Lalit Kumar Gupta was a keynote speaker at the “Leadership Summit 2018” where he shared a wealth of knowledge and wisdom to the audience present. In this interview, Mr. Gupta talks about his leadership flair and some must-do’s for leaders.

BBF: How do you define leadership?
Lalit Kumar Gupta:
So, traditionally people have related leadership with title, position or power while some say leaders are born. Our contention is that leadership has nothing to do with title, position or power. Leadership is all about having this burning desire to create a better future i.e. creating a tomorrow that is better than today and that, in my view is what leadership is all about.

In your opinion which characteristics should leaders possess and why?
Leadership is all about not giving up and the reason why leaders don’t give up is because they have discovered their own sources of leadership energy which allows them to go on in the face of resistance and in the face of overwhelming odds. So, in my view, the leaders who have identified their source of leadership energy that is around deep clarity about values and purposes, are the leaders who will do well.

As an executive coach, how do you inspire your team?
Our view is that as a leader or a manager, you cannot inspire your people unless you find the intrinsic factors that drive them – then try and link those intrinsic factors with the overall values and purpose of the organization. The idea is to create an overlap between people’s value and purpose with those of the organization, and that is how you inspire or motivate people.

How do you approach challenges and conflicts within your team?
You have got to look at what the source of challenge is and conflict is. Our view to conflict is that there is a way to find the win-win situation in every scenario. So, number one, you have got to figure out what the win-win situation could be. Number two, if it is a conflict of values, then you need to be very clear about what your values are. Not only do you have to clear about what your top four or five values are, but also about the prioritization of what those values. In the case of conflicts, you have to make decisions based on your values and that will guide you through those conflicts and those situations.

You have 25 years of extensive business leadership experience. What are some of the defining leadership moments in your life?
Typically, what happens is that when you are growing up in your career, you start by the simple formula that you work hard to deliver results and get rewarded based on that. At some stage, you reach a level of leadership in an organization where that is not enough. Instead of delivering results, you need to create conditions for others to deliver results and that is where you need to let go, take a step back. Your job becomes that of a, “Chief Gardening Officer,” you need to create conditions for other people to excel. This is the main transition and that is the key shift that every leader needs to make and I made that halfway through my career and that was a huge achievement in my career.

For leaders to sustain, what are some of the key strategies?
Long term sustainability for leadership and businesses, comes from focus. We believe that there are three main levers of growth and leaders of any organization need to manage these three levers on a regular basis. That is where 90% of the leader’s time needs to be spent. These three levers, as far as we are concerned, are: Brains, Bones, and Nerves. Brains are the vision, mission, and strategy. Bones is the people, structure, and processes. Nerves are the culture of the organization. So, the leaders that create long-term sustainable success for their organization spend considerable time managing these three levers of growth.

To attain the SDGs, how important is it to have visionary business leaders?
In today’s times, the way we define leadership is that it is about a better future. So, it is not just about profitability and shareholder’s value. If a leader is taking that holistic view, in terms of impact creation for the society, people, and community, that is what makes a true leader.

You are a well-respected thought leader, what advice would you provide to aspiring young leaders?
My only advice to aspiring young leaders would be to try out as many things as possible, don’t be afraid, have confidence, try everything passionately and then you will figure out your purpose to do what you want to do.

Interviewed by Aqueb Safwan
Transcribed by Syed Ahnaf Bakht

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