You are on page 1of 13

Exploring Unique Corporate Leadership Styles in India


Exploring Unique Corporate Leadership Styles in India

Saibal K. Pal* Vijay Kapur**

A number of corporate organizations in India have been successful mainly due to their unique leadership style. Based on the study of existing leadership trends and primary data analysis, this paper explores specific leadership qualities and styles that would be useful for steering organizations rapidly towards growth and enabling motivation and satisfaction to their employees. Though directive leadership has been commonly practiced in the past, there is a shift to other styles due to the rapidly changing corporate environment. It was found that competence based leadership, participative leadership, innovative leadership, empowering leadership and high-tech leadership styles are emerging and promise to accelerate corporate India in the path of growth and prosperity. Keywords: Leadership qualities, styles, participation, innovation, technology, India

The study of leaders and leadership theories (Northouse, 2007; Bass & Bass, 2008) has been carried out in the social, political and corporate contexts since the last many decades. A leader, in general, has been defined as a person capable of influencing, inspiring and associating others with a dream. The other definition agreed by experts is that a leader is someone who has followers. One would require influence to gain followers but not by lack of integrity or trust. Focus of the leader should be towards results and not on gaining popularity. The leader should be highly visible, courageous, visionary, innovative, creative, willing to take risks, recognize and nurture talents of individuals and maintain high ethical standards. There are many general definitions of leadership: (a) The ability to get the work done from the followers without force.

(b) Organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal and getting the work done effectively. (c) Influencing people by providing purpose, direction and motivation while operating to accomplish the mission and improve the organization. (d) The process of influencing the behavior of other people toward group goals in a way that fully respects their freedom. (e) A function of knowing oneself, having a vision that is well communicated, building trust among colleagues, and taking effective action to realize ones own leadership potential. (f) Process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task. (g) Enabling a group to engage together in the process of developing, sharing and moving into vision and then living it out.

*Defence R&D Organization, Scientific Analysis Group, Metcalfe House Complex, Civil Lines, Delhi110 054, India **Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Maidan Garhi, New Delhi 110 068, India


Opinion-Volume 1, No. 1, December 2011

In general, a leader should have a set of qualities (Trump, 2004; Daniels & Daniels, 2006; Maxwell, 2007) irrespective of the domain in which he exercises his influence dedication, passion, confidence, inspiration, motivation, creativity, vision, trustworthiness, having positive attitude and effective communication skills. A comprehensive list of leadership qualities/traits has been compiled and is given in Appendix-I. Based on these qualities, the type of environment and the nature of employees or followers different leadership models have been proposed in the literature (Mills, 2005; Foti & Hauenstein, 2007). It is true that no leadership model is universal and different models or styles work well under different situations. An individual handling army personnel guarding the tough borders requires leadership qualities or traits quite different from one leading a team of researchers working on drug discovery or genetic engineering within a laboratory. For any organization leadership, management and administration are individually important activities and need different skills (Yukl, 2006) for successful realization and functioning of the organization. Management and leadership share many similarities but are different in principle (Kotter, 1996). The concept of management strengthened from the time of industrial revolution and insisted more on organizational control, planning, supervision, staffing and execution. A manager is responsible for efficiently delegating duties to the employees and getting the work done smoothly keeping the time, cost and resource constraints in mind. On the other hand, leadership is the power of influencing and creation of a vision for change (Bennis & Nanus, 1986) in the organization. The qualities of inspiration, passion, creativity, commitment, confidence, self-knowledge and humility along with long-term focus on organizational goals differentiate a leader from a manager of a company. Leaders have excellent communication skills, are good in building relationship and developing team spirit and have the capability of gracefully bringing the employees and the entire organization through a crisis. In the present corporate scenario, it is obvious that organizations require different types of people (Zaleznik, 1998) for management and leadership.

a desired level (above normal) in favor of the organization. The way companies conduct business locally and globally, are changing rapidly and hence there is a critical need for managers and leaders to change their style of functioning (Charan, 2007; Hamel, 2007). In order to be successful in the corporate world, a leader is required to be equipped with a set of specific skills and qualities. Some of these are: Passion for dynamism and entrepreneurship. Loyalty, integrity, honesty, accountability and trustworthiness. Capabilities of developing sustained growth strategies. Providing opportunities for expansion of domestic/ global operations. Providing scope for improving the organizational culture. Maintaining a healthy balance between organizational culture, values and ethics and growth and profitability. Having desire and adaptability for change, desire and capability of handling risks. Clear and consistent communication skills including good receptive skills. Empowerment, engagement and retention of employees. Emproving loyalty of employees towards the organization, particularly when there is no job guarantee. Keeping employees motivated and satisfied in order to improve effectiveness. Providing opportunities for employee development & growth training, career succession, mentoring. Respect for employees and concern for their well being. Creating space for leadership to grow at all levels. Understanding and practicing social responsibility. Improving brand image of the organization and customer loyalty.. Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric and also considered to be a great corporate leader is of the opinion (Welch, 2005) that good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision and relentlessly drive it to completion. It is

Corporate leadership
In the corporate world, leadership is the capability and practice of elevating the performance of employees to

Exploring Unique Corporate Leadership Styles in India


clear that apart from a clear vision, a leader should be able to communicate or propagate it to his followers, actively pursue it himself and inspire others to work towards the goal. A recent study conducted and published by IBM Corporation in 2010 revealed that the most sought after leadership traits are creativity, integrity, global thinking, influence and openness. The other important qualities are dedication, focus on sustainability, humility and fairness. Other recent literature (Ambler, 2010; Hulsmans, 2010; Jindal, 2010; vanVugt & Ahuja, 2010) indicate that there is a serious need for changing leadership styles in order to adapt to the rapidly changing corporate environment and business practices. Despite global commonalities, leadership styles have been found to vary from region to region. The Asian style of corporate leadership differs in many aspects from the American and European leadership styles (Mills, 2005). Blind replication of western leadership models in Asia is not a recommended solution. However, due to rapid economic development in Asia and particularly in India, many companies are seeking access to global capital markets and are therefore in need of capable and visionary leaders. A number of Indian companies have been highly successful due to their unique and innovative leadership styles. Based on the study of existing leadership trends in India and other parts of the world, this paper explores the unique qualities that would be useful for successfully steering organizations particularly with an Indian origin.

Indian Leadership
There is hardly any country in the world having social, economic, cultural and lingual diversity as complex as in India (Chattopadhyaya, 1975; Spencer Stuart, 2010). For any organization of large or moderate size in this country, the background, mental abilities and working capabilities of employees are quite heterogeneous. Influencing such a diverse profile of employees, members, partners, stakeholders and customers using specific style of leadership is a real challenge. In addition to this aspect, rapid economic developments in India and other parts of the globe are introducing changes in the corporate environment much faster than expected. From government controlled and family owned companies, corporate India is fast moving towards privatization, globalization and innovation. Emergence

of new business environments and customer segments, inflow of a large number of multinational companies, expansion, modernization and diversification of Indian companies, improvement in infrastructure and communication facilities in this country and acquisition and mergers have together generated an environment of dynamism, competition and corporate professionalism. Corporate India still benefits from availability of labor in abundance, experienced and qualified manpower, low cost of raw materials and liberal policies of the Indian Government for conducting business. With the current focus of attention of the entire world towards specific countries including India, its leadership should commensurate with its economic growth and unique style of functioning. India has mainly witnessed the directive style of leadership (Bennis & Nanus, 1986) in the business circles. The leader is in charge of the team or the organization and issues orders and gives instructions to subordinates to carry out specific tasks. His main motive is to get the work done that helps him to derive certain benefits, improve his image or win against his competitors. This style makes the entire workforce dependant on the leader. The employees normally do not think much beyond the order of the boss nor do they get motivated to outperform. The leader is busy with the most redundant and routine activities and does not get time for creativity or out-of-box decision making. This slows down the organizational response, strategic decision making and future developments in the organization (Chattopadhyay, 1975). Domination as a style of steering an organization is very common in India. Some of the other styles observed in the corporate circles are enlisted below: (a) Action-oriented leadership The leader is active, assertive, determined, hard task master, performance-oriented, energetic, demanding and possesses persuasive and coaching skills. He keeps the team members active and on their toes. (b) Dynamic leadership The leader is fast acting, self confident, inspiring and has quick grasping power. He has the ability to acquire


Opinion-Volume 1, No. 1, December 2011

knowledge rapidly, to understand the environment, to adapt himself and lead the team accordingly. (c) Transactional leadership The leader is clear about the objectives and goals of the organization. He decides what the employees are required to do for achieving these objectives. The main focus here is getting out the product / service in time. Such leaders have short or medium term goals and are bent upon achieving these within the deadlines. (d) Transformational leadership In addition to achieving certain organizational goals, the leader helps to transform the character of the organization. The leader is committed, dedicated, humane and motivating and develops organizational values for his employees. He also believes in long term success of the business. (e) Visionary leadership The leader is broad minded, inspirational, knowledgeable, conceptual, good communicator and listener, pragmatic, has presence of mind and is strategically sound. He leads by inspiration and can evoke emotional commitment for his employees. (f) Innovative leadership The leader is imaginative, creative, future oriented, empathetic, strategic thinker, a good communicator and listener. He is ready to take suggestions from employees at all levels and encourages them to debate on corporate issues. (g) Knowledge-based leadership The leader is conceptual, decisive, flexible and self confident. He believes in relationship/partnership for achieving the final goals. He empowers individuals, nurtures talents and uses cognitive and analytic skills. (h) Empowering leadership The leader is creative, flexible, emotional oriented, relationship oriented and a team builder. He encourages employees to think, take decisions and act independently. He believes in well being and fulfillment of the employee. He creates space for growth of leadership and encourages employees to feel and act like leaders themselves.

(i) Participative leadership The leader is confident, magnanimous, compassionate, humble, supportive, open, flexible, delegative and people oriented. He is friendly, unprejudiced and a relationship builder. (j) Executive style leadership The leader is disciplined, professional, strong minded, rule driven, assertive, decisive, organized and goal oriented. He is also a strategist, demanding, cautious, formal, focused, fact-oriented and result oriented. He uses his authority and gives instructions to employees. He normally uses power and fear to get the work done. (k) Charismatic leadership The leader has unique personal style, has excellent communication skills, is motivating, jubilant, graceful/ charming and inspirational. He is trusted blindly by his followers due to his unique influencing style. (l) Sharing leadership The leader distributes power more evenly to his subordinates. He encourages employees to contribute to new ideas and develop necessary skills. He is hospitable, encourages team work and fosters better interaction between the team members. (m) Hi-tech leadership The leader is intelligent, dynamic and extensively uses IT, high-tech devices and the Internet for improving the work efficiency of the organization. He expects others to acquire these skills and follow the same trends. (n) Spiritual leadership The leader is ethical, morally principled, unprejudiced, simple minded, informal, a good orator, down to earth and cool minded. He uses spiritual values and ethical principles to lead the organization. (o) Green leadership The leader is humane, environment friendly and adopts greener practice for the organization. He has the courage to challenge and change existing practices that lead to environmental damage or degradation. Today, with the fast changing corporate environment, a leader in any part of the world should

Exploring Unique Corporate Leadership Styles in India


be able to understand this change and adapt himself and his team to cater to this change. The leader should continuously update his knowledge and skills in order to influence and confidently lead the team or the organization. It is also important for leaders to adopt global practices and follow international benchmarks to be globally competitive. The leader should be comfortable with global clients, partners, stakeholders and employees. Issues related to family control in business (Mills, 2005), spirituality (Hicks, 2003; Giacolone & Jurkiewicz, 2010), ethics and social responsibilities (Schreck, 2009) are also important aspects of this study. Women leaders and specific styles of women corporate leadership (Rosner, 1995; Kanter, 1997; Wachs, 2001; Coughlin et al, 2005; KPMG, 2009) in India have also been addressed. In addition, there is also an urgent need for leadership development for the younger taskforce, specifically the Generation Y (Martin & Tuglan, 2001; Gogoi, 2005; Krotz, 2006). Development of leadership skills for technologicallyoriented businesses, physically distributed organizations and virtual teams have also gained significance in the present business scenario. These issues have been addressed in brief in remaining part of the paper.

The main objectives of this study are: (a) To analyze existing corporate leadership qualities and styles in India. (b) To identify leadership styles that is gaining prominence due to changing corporate environments - mainly competition, globalization and the new generation of young employees. (c) To identify what the present day employees and other stakeholders expect from their organization and leaders.

Research Methodology
Our research involves tapping of relevant secondary sources and primary information collection using predesigned questionnaires. Secondary information on successful leadership models and styles has been collected from printed literature and the Internet. Prior reported interviews with corporate leaders regarding

their way of thinking and their style of functioning under different environments have been studied. Two questionnaires were prepared one from the leader point of view and the other one from employee and stakeholder point of view. Each questionnaire contained twelve questions with eight open-ended questions and four specific choice based questions. In addition, a list of observed / expected leadership qualities (AppendixI) was provided in the questionnaires and the respondents were requested to add entries to make the list more exhaustive. Opinions of leaders were collected to gather information regarding important corporate issues and their effective solutions. Employees and stakeholders were also interviewed for understanding what they expect from a leader in their industry. A sample of 48 senior executives and professionals from more than 20 organizations of different types (regions in India, nature of work and type of industry) was taken. They represented organizations related to public and private sector enterprises, hospitality, manufacturing, IT/ITeS, financial services, advertising, pharma, oil and gas, energy. 80 middle-level employees and fresh recruits responded and gave their opinion regarding their bosses and what they expect from leaders in their sectors. Interviews were held mainly by contacting senior managers / leaders from different parts of India and by discussing with them face to face. The questionnaires were provided to them in advance and sufficient time was provided to them before the interviews and discussions. In some cases due to large physical distances, the questionnaires were sent by couriers and e-mails and responses were collected by telecommunications or by reply e-mails. Senior managers, executives, directors, administrators, professors, scientists, engineers, doctors, government officials and self-owned professionals were consulted for their views and opinions. On the other side, professionals in companies and private organizations, government employees, executives in service industries and call-centre, industrial workers, university staff and students etc. were also consulted. Fresh recruits and Generation-Y employees were specifically interviewed regarding their opinion about the leadership qualities and styles they appreciate.


Opinion-Volume 1, No. 1, December 2011

Observations and Findings

Preferred Leadership Qualities Primary data analysis suggests that the most significant leadership qualities expected/desired for the specified categories are as follows: (a) Global Corporate Leadership visionary, innovative/creative, good communicator, goal/result oriented, good manager. (b) Indian Corporate Leadership visionary, passionate, good communicator, team builder, goal/ result oriented. (c) Leadership for Government / Public Sector Task oriented, honest/transparent, accessible, unbiased, organized. (d) Leadership for Service Industry performance oriented, assertive, proactive, good manager, disciplined. (e) Leadership for High Growth & Competitive Industry change oriented, fast acting/strategist, innovative, future oriented/foresighted, risk taker. (f) Administrative Leadership visionary, decisive/ strategist, honest/morally principled, humane, impartial/unbiased. (g) Leadership for Armed / Police Forces disciplined, hard task master, bold, influencing, attitudinal. (h) Leadership for Scientific / R&D Institutions innovative, inspirational, open minded, dedicated, good mentor. (i) Leadership for Education Sector knowledgeable, educated/qualified, good communicator/orator, updated, disciplined. (j) Woman Leadership mentally strong, creative, assertive, good mentor, tolerant. (k) Youth Leadership knowledgeable, dynamic, outof-box thinker, adaptable, unprejudiced. (l) Leadership for Generation Y Employees /Teams open minded, active, receptive, hospitable, risk taker. (m) Leadership for Aged / Elder Teams respectful, good communicator, receptive/ready to seek opinion or take suggestions, motivator, encourage training needs/prepare team for handling new technology.

Preferred Leadership Styles (a) Directive Leadership: Directive leadership that is still widely practiced in India has its own benefits and limitations. For regular activities and manual work, directive leadership results in adequate and consistent performance of employees. However, collaboration or creativity cannot be expected and members normally work as independent entities. For dynamic business environments, directive leadership helps to get the work done without any friction in the team. The leaders expertise and experience help the subordinates to learn and emulate. A substantial percentage of the workforce in any organization likes to be blind followers of a manager / leader and this style is the most suitable for getting the work done effectively. The limitation of this form of leadership is that creative participation of subordinates is minimal and prevents their fresh, innovative and out-of-the-box thinking. 60% of the respondents believe that directive leadership is good for our country in some sense and should be practiced to get the work done efficiently from the workforce. It is felt that this style works well for defence and paramilitary forces, police and security services and the manufacturing sector. This style of leadership is also prevalent in emerging China and people feel that the rapid growth of this country is due to practice of this style. (b) Family Control & Competence based leadership: A number of large and medium Indian family owned businesses are well known in the corporate world. For these business houses, succession has been passed on to children and other family members irrespective of their management skills or leadership qualities. Many of these companies have diversified business domains and are in need of competent and talented leaders who can handle the rapidly changing needs of these businesses. The chosen leader is expected to be an expert in his/her domain, has the ability to seize opportunities and take effective decisions even with partial and incomplete information. However, shift from strict family control in these businesses to competence based leadership is still minimal due to the social structure

Exploring Unique Corporate Leadership Styles in India


prevalent in this country. In order to grow and progress globally, an increasing number of these Indian companies are planning and would be seeking talents outside their homes. (c) Participative leadership: There has been a shift from directive to participative leadership. The leader is more involved, inculcates team spirit and culture and can hook employees and stakeholders emotionally to the company. Participation of employees in the decision making process is maximized and collective efforts are nurtured leading to better growth opportunities. 94% respondents believe that there is a gradual shift from directive to participative and empowering leadership styles in many Indian organizations due to rapid changes in business environment. Industries requiring innovative inputs and knowledge based industries are actively pursuing this style of leadership. However, for some businesses, participative leadership may lead to delay in decision making, conflict of interest among individuals and delays in implementation of policies. It may also result in chaos in unplanned situations or under dynamic business environments. (d) Empowering leadership: The leader delegates responsibilities to subordinates and gets the work done more efficiently. He possesses the skill to inspire and energize his subordinates and gives room to realize their full potential. The subordinates feel a sense of responsibility and are motivated to work harder towards the common goal of the organization. This type of leadership helps in the growth of the organization and also nurtures and develops future leaders for the organization. It is interesting to note that a number of Indian organizations are now practicing this style of leadership and have been successful in this endeavor. (e) Innovative leadership: The leader uses innovation and creativity in the business model, encourages experimentation and promotes R&D and product development. A large number of Indian companies are practicing this style that enables the leader to develop new and innovative products regularly and rapidly. The leader takes risk and uses his skills to

present a product/service that is acceptable to customers. (f) High-tech leadership: The leader is dynamic, comfortable with modern technology and prefers the use of automated machines, IT and the internet for conducting business. He tries to improve the efficiency of the organization by use of technology. He also understands the psychology of the Ygeneration and is able to efficiently handle the younger staff and utilize their talents for the benefit of the organization.

Specific Issues
Women Leadership Our country is witnessing a significant increase in the number of women in boardrooms and senior positions. People prefer to have a better percentage of women employees in senior and managerial positions as they provide substantial diversity in the corporation in terms of skills or leadership qualities. Women are better team builders, flexile yet assertive and persuasive and have better interpersonal skills. Some of these gender specific qualities perceived by respondents and having value in the corporate world are: Build emotional intelligence in the organization. Better in interpersonal skills and are better listeners. Better in nurturing talents in the organization. More committed, principled and value based. Better team builders, organizers and collaborators. Often more determined and persuasive while chasing organizational goals. More willing to take risks. More effective in crisis management. ave long term focus. Treat financial aspects cautiously and more seriously. Provide a more balanced working environment. Provide motivation for women to grow without any gender bias.

The challenges that many women face in leading their organizations relate to problems in balancing their professional life with their personal or family life. Also existence of gender stereotypes in Indian organizations bar them to reveal their true leadership potential. Business


Opinion-Volume 1, No. 1, December 2011

trips during odd hours may also be a limiting factor for women in this country. Men have been considered to be more aggressive and competitive a set of qualities considered to be important for successfully conducting business. However, feminine traits of relationship building, generating harmony in the team and nurturing talents in the organization are equally important. More than 80% employees (except the labor intensive taskforce) would like to see women leaders and senior women executives in the boardrooms. They feel that a woman leader has unique traits that help to improve the corporate culture of an organization. Almost all the respondents believe that a mix of both these qualities (though mutually exclusive) would be required to build and sustain a healthy corporate environment. A good corporate leader has to be like a coconut strong minded from outside but soft from his heart.

number of organizations in India are preparing their leaders to effectively handle the GenY task force. Spiritual and Ethical Aspects of Leadership Though the corporate world believes more in materialistic and commercial values, spiritual and ethical aspects are becoming equally important aspects while conducting business. Spiritual wisdom and leadership qualities are well depicted in mythological epics and ancient stories of India. Our history and culture have also insisted on welfare of humans, animals, environment and nature. Though uncommon, leadership based on ideals, transparency and integrity, ethics, spiritual values and moral excellence is desirable for all organizations. While targeting global markets it has become very important for companies to balance profit and growth with human and environmental welfare. 80% of the respondents agreed that spiritual inclination of a leader makes him mentally strong and focused and also makes the organization a better place to work under his leadership. More and more companies in India and other parts of the globe are adopting ethical practices including corporate social responsibility (CSR) towards mankind and nature. It is interesting to find leaders working towards providing improved lifestyle to the underprivileged and local people. Facilitating education, health, better living facilities, special attention to women, old, physically challenged and underprivileged are some of the philanthropic activities taken up by many Indian corporate houses with motivation from specific individuals or their leaders. Others are working towards greener environment, clean mountains and rivers and protection of endangered species on earth. Such ethical practices have helped to improve the brand image of many organizations in this country. A few Indian corporate leaders have set examples to the world by providing huge financial assistance for noble causes towards improvement of primary or higher education, improving medical facilities and other basic needs in deprived regions. Work pressures due to severe competition in business are taking a toll on physical and mental health of employees that is reflected in their performance. Organizations are taking active steps to maintain a healthy work-life balance to boost employee

Leadership for the Generation Y

Generation Y (GenY) are individuals born around the interval 1977-1997 and are now entering the workplace in millions. They have had a dynamic lifestyle and have been involved in diverse and multitasking activities. They are often impatient, fun loving, have high expectations from themselves and like to achieve results immediately. They are also creative, confident, good communicators, informal, technology savvy and like to do things in their own way. Managing and leading GenY teams by senior people in India has been a challenge. Mentally engaging them and retaining them in one job are problems that most organizations are presently facing. GenY employees do not hesitate in taking risks. They love being challenged, trusted and held accountable. They demand personal growth and expect themselves to be well treated. They demand flexibility in their working and dislike a regular monotonous job with directive leadership. The leader of such a team should be dynamic, a good manager and communicator, honest, hospitable and optimistic. He should have frequent and regular interaction with the taskforce, motivate the employees and provide performance based incentives. He should also be able to understand their mentality and entrust them with the responsibilities they are supposed to handle despite their casual attitude towards work. It is interesting to note that a reasonable

Exploring Unique Corporate Leadership Styles in India


performance. Employees are normally instructed to plan and finish their office work on regular basis and avoid carrying their work at home. In many Indian organizations, one would find facilities for meditation, yoga, health and fitness along with stress management programs being provided to the employees. Organizations occasionally arrange informal get together meetings and social gatherings like parties and family picnics. These help as stress busters and provide scope for relaxation and socializing with other members of the organization. A healthy family life and a healthy work environment act as a tonic for employees and drastically improve their performance.

Some Unique Aspects of India Corporate Leadership

Following are some of the expectations from an Indian corporate leader: India being a multicultural country, the leader should be able to handle the diverse communication and functioning styles of the employees. He should be curious enough to understand, respect and embrace the cultural diversity of the workforce. The leader is expected to be more relationshiporiented with good communication and oration skills. He should be expressive as well as receptive. To take into account the changing business needs, the leader should promote a more open working environment even if directive style of functioning is required. The leader is expected to be friendly with the employees and have regard for them. He should exercise patience along with firmness while dealing with abnormal situations. Disrespect for employees, particularly elders, is taken seriously in this country. Indian leaders should plan about growth and expansion and forays into global markets by means of relevant acquisitions or by other effective means. Due to global expansion, leaders should be able to make the work environment friendly for foreign employees and connect them emotionally to the organization. They should also improve their communication skills to handle the international clients and users.

The leader should take appropriate measures for retaining and motivating the top talents in the organization. This is a critical challenge for the future and may require out-of-box skills and capabilities of the leader. The leader is expected to be more technology friendly as it eases the work process and makes things faster and simpler. The leader should encourage the company to provide quality yet value for money products and services. Leaders of profitable and rich organizations should be generous and encourage philanthropic activities towards critical problems requiring attention within the country. The leader should encourage standardization of processes and follow global quality standards for their processes and operations. Though Indian leaders look at their businesses in a more integrated, long-term and holistic manner, they should also take quicker and crispier decisions. They should also be more willing to take risks and handle them. One of the strength of this country is its intellectual capital. The leader should be able to formalize this aspect in favor of the organization. Carrying out innovative R&D work and filing of national and international patents and copyrights of intellectual property should be encouraged.

Other Notable Aspects

Whereas an individual may possess suitable leadership traits for influencing the subordinates or employees, the parent organization should provide grounds/freedom/opportunities to exercise the inherent leadership skills. Due to rigidity in the organizational structure of many Indian companies, it is difficult even for capable individuals (except the ultimate boss of the organization) to reveal their true leadership potential at their specific levels. Corporate India is in need of creative and innovative leaders, people having global business exposure and experience and those having the ability to anticipate and manage risks. 86% respondents


Opinion-Volume 1, No. 1, December 2011

believe that Indian leaders should take more risks in business in order to grow and beat global market competition. Leaders good in talent and employee management are in great demand. Leaders who are able to promote and nurture talents, who are people friendly and have good communication skills (both oration and reception) are critically required to retain key talents in the organization. Other than domination, leadership styles at lower levels are largely missing in the Indian corporate world. Leadership qualities suitable for effectively handling the lesser educated multilingual task force need to be nurtured by organizations. Though domination may be beneficial in many circumstances, developing soft skills may also help to improve performance of the team. Promoting unique leadership styles at lower levels should be given priority by organizations in India. Nine out of ten respondents agree that age plays a significant role in leading an organization and they expect younger leaders in their organizations. Contrary to the belief that people are uncomfortable with younger bosses, the same percentage of people agreed that they would be comfortable with a dynamic, adaptable and unprejudiced boss (younger) who has out of box thinking abilities. Today, products and services need to comply with international quality standards. Gone are the days when the Indian customers purchase decision was solely based on pricing. Development and manufacturing processes and other organizational activities need to follow international quality standards. This aspect has been catered by most of the large corporate houses but should be in the agenda of mid segment and small businesses in India. Senior foreign executives coming to India for leading teams should make themselves comfortable with the social complexities and cultural diversities of this country. He should learn to manage the multicultural and multilingual taskforce and lead the differences and diversity to achieve the common organizational goal. Tolerance for diverse opinion

is one of the important qualities that such leaders need to develop to be successful in India. Political influence, official corruption, unnecessary delays in official permissions/proceedings, problems due to labor unions and loss of efficiency due to poor infrastructure are some of the unique issues linked with corporate India. On the other hand, friendly nature and team spirit of people, willingness to work even in uncomfortable and adverse working conditions, willingness to deliver more than expected, dedication, sincerity and adaptability are some of the plus points of employees here. Out of 100 corporate bosses/heads/chiefs/ directors/senior managers in India, people feel that only 20 of them can be termed as leaders. It is therefore important for senior corporate professions to acquire and improve their leadership skills for better growth of the organization and its employees.

Concluding Remarks
This paper explored leadership qualities and styles that are emerging in India due to the rapidly changing corporate scenario in this region and around the world. The fast economic growth is demanding corporate leadership styles specific to this country that has diversity beyond imagination. However, we understood that a set of general qualities are required for any corporate leader and specific styles are effective as per the nature of business, market conditions and employee profile of the team or the organization. There are different ways in which we feel this research can be improved further. We are well aware of the limitations of the sample size for both types of respondents. Interviews with a larger group of corporate leaders would help to widen our understanding and obtain suggestions on specific issues with which they are directly involved. We are also interested in seeking opinion from corporate leaders outside India regarding how universal leadership styles may be borrowed to improve Indias position in the Asian and world economy. Deeper quantitative analysis is also required as this work focused mainly on qualitative analysis by discussing different issues related to leadership qualities and styles with leaders and employees. After this study,

Exploring Unique Corporate Leadership Styles in India


we are interested in further carrying out quantitative analysis to answer specific questions on Indian leadership styles. Exploring leadership aspects in ebusinesses, virtual organizations and geographically distributed companies are also areas of our interest. We

also feel there is a need to focus on leadership aspects related to specific industries, size of business, cultures, stages of corporate development and demographic profile of employees. We reserve some of these themes for our future work in this area.

References 1. Ambler, G. (2010), What will be the most important leadership qualities over the next 5 years, The Practice of Leadership, Accessed November 28, 2010 from www.thepracticeof 2. Bass, B. M. and Bass, R. (2008), The Bass Handbook of Leadership Theory, Research and Managerial Applications (Fourth Edition), Free Press. 3. Bennis, W. and Nanus, B. (1986), Leaders, Harper & Row. 4. Charan, R. (2007), Leaders at All Levels: Deepening your Talent Pool to Solve the S u c c e s s i o n Crisis, Jossey-Bass. 5. Chattopadhyaya, G. P. (1975), Dependence in Indian Culture - From Mud Huts to Company Boardrooms, Economic and Political Weekly, Review of Management, May, 30-39. 6. Coughlin, L., Wingard, E. and Hollihan, K. (eds) (2005), Enlightened Power: How Transforming the Practice of Leadership, Jossey-Bass. 7. Daniels, A.C. and Daniels, J.F. (2006), Measure of a Leader, McGraw-Hill. 8. Foti, R.J. and Hauenstein, N.M.A. (2007), Pattern and variable approaches in leadership emergence and effectiveness, Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 347-355. 9. Giacolone, R.A and Jurkiewicz, C.L. (2010), Handbook of Workplace Spirituality and Organizational Performance, (Second Edition), M.E. Sharp. 10. Gogoi, P. (2005), Welcome to the GenY Workplace, Businessweek. 11. Hamel, G. (2007), The Future of Management, Harvard Business School Press. 12. Hicks, D.A. (2003), Religion and the Workplace: Pluralism, Spirituality, Leadership, Cambridge University Press. 13. Hmieleski, K.M. and Ensley, M.D. (2007), A Contextual Examination of New Venture Performance: Entrepreneur Leadership Behavior, Top Management Team Heterogeneity and Environmental Dynamism, Journal of Organizational Behavior, 28(7), 865-889. 14. Hulsmans, L. Corporate Leadership: Are you up to the Challenge? The Banff Centre [Online] Available (October 10, 2010). 15. IBM Corporation (2010), Capitalizing on Complexity Insight from the Global Chief Executive Officer Study. [Online] Available (December 3, 2010). 16. Jindal, B. (2010), Leadership and Crisis, Regnery Press. 17. Kanter, R. (1977), Men and Women of the Corporation, Basic Books, New York, NY. 18. Kotter, J.P. (1996), Leading Change, Harvard Business Press. Women are


Opinion-Volume 1, No. 1, December 2011

19. KPMG (2009), Creating Women Business Leaders: Differentiating Styles of Women Executives. [Online] Available (September 3, 2010). 20. Krotz, J.L. (2006), Tough Customers: How to Reach Gen Y. Microsoft. 21. Li, C. (2010), Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, JosseyBass. 22. Martin, C.A. and Tulgan, B. (2001), Managing Generation Y: Global Citizens Born in the Late Seventies and Early Eighties, HRD Press. 23. Maxwell, J.C. (2007), The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow them and People will Follow You, Thomas Nelson Publishers. 24. Mills, D.Q. (2005), Asian and American Leadership Styles: How are they Unique?, Harvard Business School, Working Knowledge. 25. Northouse, P. (2007), Leadership Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. 26. Rosner, J.B. (1995), Ways Women Lead, Harvard Business Review, 68, 119-125. 27. Schreck, P. (2009), The Business Case of Corporate Social Responsibility, Physica Verlag Heidelberg. 28. Spencer Stuart Inc., Building Corporate Leadership in India. [Online] Available research (December 3, 2010). 29. Trump, D.J. (2004), The Way to the Top: The Best Business Advice Ever Received, Crown Business. 30. Van Vugt, M. and Ahuja, A. (2010), Naturally Selected: The Evolutionary Science of Leadership, Harper Collins. 31. Wachs, E. (2001), Why the Best Man for the Job is a Woman: The Unique Female Qualities of Leadership, Harper Paperbacks. 32. Welch, J. (2005), Jack Welch and the 4Es of Leadership: How to put GEs Leadership Formula to Work in Your Organization, McGraw Hill. 33. Yukl, G.A. (2006), Leadership in Organizations, NJ:Prentice Hall. 34. Zaleznik, A. (1998), Managers and Leaders: Are they Different?, in Harvard Business Review on Leadership, Harvard Business School Publishing.

Exploring Unique Corporate Leadership Styles in India


Appendix I
Qualities / Traits of a Leader
A B C Accessible, Accountable, Action oriented, Active, Adaptable, Aggressive, Ambitious, Analytic, Assertive, Attitudinal, Attractive, Authoritative, Autocratic Bold, Broad minded, Bureaucratic Calm, Capable, Caring, Cautious, Change oriented, Charismatic, Charming, Clever, Collaborative, Collectivistic, Committed, Compassionate, Competent, Competitive, Comprehensive, Conceptual, Confident, Conscious, Conservative, Consistent, Constructive, Consultative, Cool minded, Courageous, Courteous, Creative, Credible, Culturally oriented, Curious, Customer-oriented Decent, Decisive, Dedicated, Deductive, Deep thinker, Delegative, Demanding, Democratic, Dependable, Determined, Dictator, Diplomatic, Directive, Disciplined, Diverse natured, Dominant, Down to earth, Dynamic Educated, Effective communicator, Efficient, Effort oriented, Elegant, Emotional, Emotionally tough, Empathetic, Empowering, Energetic, Enlightened, Enthusiastic, Entrepreneurial, Ethical, Exceptional character, Experienced Fact oriented, Fair minded, Fast acting, Flexible, Fluent, Focused, Formal, Foresighted, Forward looking, Friendly, Funny, Future oriented Generous, Global thinker, Goal oriented, Good communicator, Good listener, Good manager, Good mentor, Good orator, Graceful Handsome, Hard driving, Harmonious, Hard working, Honest, Hospitable, Humane, Humble, Humorous Ideological, Imaginative, Impersonal, Impartial, Incredible, Independent, Individualistic, Informal, Influential, Initiative taker, Innovative, Inspirational, Intelligent Jubilant, Joking, Jovial Knowledgeable, Keen listener Lateral thinker, Logical Magnanimous, Manipulative, Materialistic, Mentally strong, Merciful, Mindful, Morally principled, Motivating, Multi cultural, Multi tasker Noble Open minded, Opportunistic, Optimistic, Organized Participative, Passionate, People oriented, Performance oriented, Persistent, Personality oriented, Persuasive, Philanthropic attitude, Philosophical, Physically strong, Polite, Practical, Pragmatic, Predictable, Principled, Pro-active, Problem solver, Procedural, Professional Quick grasping Rational, Realistic, Receptive, Relationship builder, Religious, Resourceful, Respectful, Responsible, Result oriented, Rigid, Risk taking, Role model, Ruthless Secular minded, Self-absorbed, Self-aware, Self-confident, Self critical, Self-sacrificing, Self-esteemed, Selfless, Self-reflective, Shrewd, Simple minded, Skilled, Smart, Sincere, Soft spoken, Specialized, Spiritually inclined, Status conscious, Straight forward, Strategist, Strong character, Stylish, Supportive Tactful, Task oriented, Team builder, Technically competent, Timely, Tolerant, Traditional, Transformational, Transparent, Trustworthy Unbiased, Unprejudiced, Updated Visionary Well behaved, Well dressed, Well spoken, Willing, Winner, Wise Zealous