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Characteristics Of A Daring Leadership (Part-I) Essay

There are leaders who just sail the ship while there are others who sail through the tide. True leaders are those who can change the status quo and attempt the unexpected. Here are the biggest dares our Indian CEOs took under their leadership.

Increasing visibility and building trust

Taking advantage of visibility that India’s food regulator got after the Maggi episode last year, Pawan Agarwal, CEO, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), country’s food regulator moved rapidly to build trust and earn confidence of food businesses and the consumer organizations alike. Demystifying food standards, pragmatic approach to standard setting and his easy accessibility and openness to new ideas has earned him respect from all stakeholders.

This has provided a fillip to investment in the food processing sector in the country. Several initiatives under his leadership such as Project Clean Street Food, National Milk Survey has enhanced FSSAI’s visibility and brought new hope and energy in the food regulator as FSSAI embarks on its journey to work together with all its partners to ensure safe and wholesome food for the country’s 130 crore people day after day three times a day.

Rise Of The Phoenix

What can be more daring than taking over an airline that was on the verge of closure? In December of 2014, SpiceJet had cancelled hundreds of flights. Customers swore never to fly SpiceJet again. Aircraft lessors were taking back their planes. Vendors were chasing SpiceJet for amounts due. The government was trying to recover unpaid tax dues. Demoralized employees were leaving in droves. The airline had liabilities on Rs. 2400 crores and virtually no revenues. In short, there was a complete breakdown. 

The obituary of the airline had been written by the public and the media. SpiceJet was days away from a replay of the Kingfisher story. Taking over the airline under such circumstances was probably the most daring step in the amazing SpiceJet story.

History has not been kind to airlines reviving from the dead. There is barely any example in the world of an airline coming back from closure, and therefore, to have the courage to attempt what has never been done, was daring. Ajay Singh’s leadership style is open, democratic and inspirational. He keeps his door wide open and is ready to hear new ideas and constructive criticism. He believes in fostering creative thinking and constantly challenges and empowers the managers.

Sharing his plans to take the company ahead, he says, “Building trust and confidence in the brand. Focus on operating profitably by relentlessly driving an increase in revenue and lowering of costs. Constantly try and improve customer experience by bettering on time performance and reliability.

Introduce new and innovative products to ensure customer loyalty. Drive growth by buying new planes and operating new routes. And ensure an increasing sense of pride and ownership in each and every employee of SpiceJet.”

No Risk, No Fun

“Having worked in Puma for almost a decade and having met a lot of people who move with teams, the most daring thing I did was to hire a completely new team.

This may mean that initial team dynamics may not be perfect; the CEO may have to work harder to ensure that the engine runs well oiled. We started from scratch. No office, no team. No company. Registering the company, getting an office, hiring a team and building a business were the first steps taken. The team is 90 people strong. An effective leader is one who creates other leaders.

This is only possible when you empower the team. I am hands off when required and leading by example when required. I believe that the more responsibility is passed on to the next layer the quickly will the company grow. Of course checks and balances need to be in place. By nature, I am a risk-taking leader.”

Diagnosing It Right

Over the last 10 years, Om has successfully transformed and built Dr. Lal PathLabs as one of the leading Diagnostic Company in India. He has taken Dr. Lal PathLabs to a successful listing on National Stock Exchange in Dec’2015. Even in healthcare he took a bold step in building a consumer facing brand. “The pathology business is dependent on the medical prescriptions. This business has all the ingredients to be a B2B business.

However, I took a bold step of reaching out directly to patients, and built a consumer preference for the brand that is built on Quality, Accessibility and timely delivery of test reports. We changed the logo colors, built a wide collection network, made the brand visible and promoted value added services that made the brand extremely convenient,” shares Manchanda.

On investing and building a professional management team, he says, “One needs to invest in management team for the future. Initially, the cost of hiring was extremely high, and disproportionate to what the organization was accustomed to. I started hiring professionals with diverse FMCG background and started integrating them in the business that otherwise sound very technical in nature.”

This article first appeared in the Indian edition of Entrepreneur magazine (May 2016 Issue).

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