Thursday, 17 April 2014

Entrepreneurial Leadership

I had discussed in an earlier post about knowledge sharing sessions of two hour duration  organized by us for the benefit of employees on various subjects.In respect of  a few of them which I felt was particularly noteworthy and  needed to reach  a wider audience,  I have taken notes and shared in our company intranet. This was in a sense a test on my writing  skills to capture the essence of a two hour presentation in a few words .

Here I am sharing a session given for our team leaders and above level executives in December 2012  by  Dr Srinivasa Raghavan,strategic advisor & professor of strategic management at the Loyola Institute of Business Administration (LIBA) Chennai and former Secretary to the Government of India of Posts(Retd).

Now the article as it acually unfolded.......

In order to succeed in today's scenario,it is necessary that an employee/manager/leader has a sense of the business as a whole.He or she needs to keep the eyes & ears open for every new possibility or opportunity to encash/do better, was the gist of the presentation.

At the outset Dr Srinivasa Raghavan spoke about the ten commandments of entrepreneurship:-

1)  Be a visionary like JRD Tata
2)  Be innovative like Steve Jobs
3)  Take advantage of opportunities like Dhirubai Ambani
4)  Dream & be creative like Ratan Tata
5)  Be a change agent & manage change like Kiran Mazumdar
6)  Be a problem solver like K.V.Kamath
7)  Take measured risks like Raghavendra Rao
8)  Be a leader and Lead from the front like Narayanamurthy
9)  Be a decision maker like T.V.S.Iyengar
10) Be achievement oriented & self actualize like Shiv Nadar

Dr Raghavan laced his presentation with stories from his personal experience of working in a government department in various senior level positions including that of the  Director General and Member Postal services board when he faced challenging situations- challenge of bringing entrepreneurial inputs in to a system that traditionally believed  that  in Service, there was no  business for business.

Yet, it was initiatives in this area and forays in to banking,logistics,selling commercial products through post offices ( Retail posts), tie up with the private sector,Western Union for money transfer,sale of government securities& fragrant stamps through post offices, opening of postal finance mart etc that helped the postal department to stay afloat and not become redundant & irrelevant in the changed world of Emails & chatting as forms of communication.The concept of 'Speed Posts' gave the courier services a run for their money.The speed post came to be trusted as more reliable & faster than the courier services. As Dr Srinivasan initiated most of these programs,he was in a position to give authentic details to the audience as to what actually happened.

While sharing the challenges encounterd by him the speaker also came out with some of the basic characteristics of an entrepreneur derived from his own personal experience & understanding:
  • Entrpreneurs ask questions all the time-  what is the problem?  Is this the problem?  Is it the only problem? On obtaining answers to his questions he lesds from the front.
  • Entrepreneural leadrers avoid excuses-  They do not say "I don't have the power/authority.People are not supportive. Bosses/subordinates are not OK. I do not have sufficiant budget" etc.
  • Entrepreneurs do not succumb to procrastination.They do things which are 'possible' yesterday and the 'impossible' things day before yesterday!
  • These leaders are likely to called "Crazy". All people who think originally are crazy.
  • An entrepreneural leader would be willing to speak his mind, stand by his conviction and come up with a solution.
  • In adversity the best comes out of a entrepreneur. He tends to be more open to new ideas.
  • The entrepreneural leader not only exhibits entrepreneural behaviour but encourages others also to do so.
  • An entrepreneur has the tenacity and does not get frustrated or give up.All good ideas need time to fructify.It will blossom in its time.
  • An entrepreneur does not wait until every thing is perfect.  He takes what he has got & starts working.As for example Dr Raghavan was to receive $30 million from a UN body for a project.Instead of waiting for the full amount, he started work when $3 million was sanctioned, showed progress and was able to get more money to complete the project.
  • Entrepreneurship is putting yourself upfront- risking your job, taking on your boss- everything.One does not make compromises.
  • Proof of the pudding is in the eating.At the end of the day,you have to contribute.Activities alone would not do.
  • An entrepreneur needs to be both flexible & upfront
  • The entrepreneurial leader continuously talks to his people on entrepreneurship and about his vision & dreams.This constant articulation gets his people commited to the cause.
Dr Raghavan narrated an incident.When he was visiting a branch none of the staff was available.It was a Friday & all of them had gone to the mosque,not because they were Muslims but because the department had decided to sell insurance policies and being fully commited to the cause they were looking for potential customers amongst the devotees attending the noon prayers.
  • Entrepreneurship/innovation is how you look for opportunities & how you encourage all your people to look for opportunities. 
The retail posts concept was developed as a result of this desire to look for opportunities.It provided the novel idea of post offices being a one stop shop for a range of utility services that included payment of electricity bill, telephone bill,insurance premium,collection of taxes/ fee for application forms of state public service commission/Armed forces medical college/universities etc leveraging the vast network of more than 150,000 post offices across India. In association with RMIL & WGC India posts sells gold coins of the denomination of 0.5gm. 1gm,8gms,10g,20gms and 50gms of 24 carat (99.9% pure) through select post offices.

Taking the concept further, the postal department offered to deliver to the doorsteps of devotees the prasadam of major temples in small packets (200gms)  making it convenient and affordable without actually travelling to the place. As a novelty the prasadam was delivered by the postman attired in the costume of a purohit.

Postal finance mart for selling mutual funds & offering free financial advice, first started by the department in Madurai and later in Pudukottai was an instant hit. Inovative features  like providing an ayah & toys in the next room fulfilling the needs of young working mothers contributed to the popularity of the marts.

Dr srinivasa Raghavan concluded his presentation with what he called the A B C D of being an entrepreneurial leader:

1)        A    - Aim High

If you aim for 100 marks there is a possibility of getting 90 marks.He cited the example of seventy year old Akkamma, a poor illiterate woman of Karnataka who has made planting trees her life's mission.She has already planted 10000 trees & continues the good work.If a poor villager can aim so high, why can't we?

2)       B  --     Believe

Have complete faith in the mission yourself- This will stand you in good stead till the end.It does'nt matter if only some people believe and some don't.Just have total belief yourself.

3)        C   --   Creativity / Cope ability

Be able to change with ever changing situations creatively. The accent in the future will not be on our capability but our cope ability.

4)         D  --     Determination

Whatever the mind can conceive, it can achieve.We only need to be determined to see things through till the end.