Born to lead

Source: Google Images

May I come in?” I knock the door as I am about to enter the CEO’s cabin for a final round of interview. Nervous, tense and a bit shaky I proceed to open the door on hearing a firm “Yes”.  I come face to face with a tall, well built person who is impeccably dressed in business formals. He is standing with an extended hand for an introduction, “Hi….Srinivasan*, please have a seat.” (* Name has been changed to protect identity)

This was my first meeting with the CEO of my company where I currently work as an investment banker. In my career spanning close to a decade I have worked with industry stalwarts including the who’s who of investment banking, but I am yet to meet a man like this who is so down to earth and yet so high in about everything starting from knowledge to demeanor.

Sometimes in life you meet people who take you under their wings and mentor you towards your own flight, some show you the path to walk upon, while few hold your hands as you take your first steps and then there are some who prove to be an example purely by leading their own life in an exemplary manner. 

Srinivasan is one such person. Coming from a very humble background education, hard work and firm determination were the three pillars on which he had based his way to the top. How else would you describe the journey of a boy from Kolkata to being the youngest CEO at 35 years! The way our company has become No.1 in just 5 years is truly commendable and the credit for this undoubtedly goes to leaders like Srinivasan or Sri, as he is lovingly referred to. 

From the processes to the products, from junior employees to senior most employees, from facts to figures and from could- be’s to will-be’s he is so much hands-on about every minute detail of the organization that it sometimes makes me wonder if he ever sleeps. But then perhaps it is rightly said, “Sometimes in life sleep eludes you because finally reality is better than the dreams.” He had not only dared to dream but also dared to make all of them come true setting an example for all us dreamers. 

He is a leader who emulates precision, timeliness, knowledge, panache and modesty all rolled into one who is completely unaware about the charisma his sheer presence generates. Though my first meeting with him was no short of a lesson learnt in humility throughout my tenure here I have learnt innumerable things from him. Some small some big, some important and some not-so-important but lessons are always a treasure as they help us grow in life and are cherished for a lifetime. Sharing with you some unforgettable lessons I learnt:
Lesson No.1: Everyone is your teacher

Source: Google Images
My first lesson from him was at the time of my induction. To give you a brief background our CEO and CMO were arch rivals in the previous organization. And in one contest Mr. CMO had beaten Mr. CEO hands down. Usually at this stage things like bitterness, negativity, grudge, hatred and jealousy step in. But then we are talking about Mr. Srinivasan here, a completely different species altogether. He invited Mr. CMO for dinner to celebrate his success.

His explanation, “He must have done something very different to have beaten me by such a huge number. I need to learn that from him.” With this one incident he taught us that there is no shame attached to learning. It could be from anyone – your junior, your senior, your best friend or your enemy.

Lesson No. 2 – Leave behind an idea and it will be thought upon, leave behind a decision and it will be rejected
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Financial services as an industry is known for its mis-selling and we, investment bankers are also called “goons in suits” by clients for they believe we hoodwink them of their hard earned money. Having said all of this, sales still thrive here; mis-selling still happens as people with half knowledge sell products to innocent clients disguising them as their need.

Leading organizations are aggressively sales driven and the only goal they have in mind for growth is to multiply sales numbers by hook or crook. Sri has a very different approach to it. Never for once have I seen him call or write an email pushing the numbers aggressively. Rather he is always the one who says never force sell a product to a client.

Explain the product to the client giving genuine reasons and then leave it him to decide whether to buy or not. For if you leave him with an idea you will always be respected and remembered every time he needs genuine advice. On the other hand if you force sell a product to the client he might buy it once from you but after a couple of such instances he will start avoiding you completely because of the pressure you built on him for buying. More often than not under pressure you might end up selling a wrong product to the client which is unethical.

Lesson No. 3 – The strive to be the best is endless
Source: Google Images

Given the current situation we could very well claim we are the best in the business and go to sleep peacefully every night knowing that we are far ahead of our competitors. But Sri has always reminded us about the hare and tortoise story where the slow and steady tortoise won the race as the hare was sleeping away to glory.

According to him, “Becoming the best is one thing and being the best is one. We might have become the best but we need to constantly remain one to lead the race or else very soon we will be tagged redundant and thrown out of the race in a jiffy.” Sri ensures the entire organization is on their toes through various training programmes, online courses for continuing education and exciting contests with awards for best performers. No prizes for guessing what the awards are – they are sponsored courses and degrees in some of the best B schools across the world. This ensures action so contagious that you are bound to get infected. 

Time and again he has inspired us to be the best that we can be simply by being the best that he is always. As Ronald Regan had said once,” The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” He is one of those few people who befit the description “Born to lead”. And lead he does, as he moves ahead in the forward direction best known to him leaving behind a trail of foot prints for us to witness and I continue to learn just by seeing where his footsteps fall.

I wish to get my story published in Chicken Soup for the Indian Entrepreneurs Soul in association with

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