Thursday, July 16, 2015

Leadership@Infosys - (Edited by) Matt Barney

This book compiles leadership thoughts from Infosys Ltd. from inception till it became a huge success. It is a collection of thoughts and essays by the Infosys leaders and edited by Matt Barney, VP and Director of Infosys Leadership Institute.
Portfolio, Penguin, 225 p, Rs. 699

The book starts at the beginning - in 1981 when 7 promoters started the company with a capital of Rs. 10000. How did the founding promoters lead the company through those early and uncertain days? Interestingly the first thing the promoters focused on was to be the "most respected company". They specifically took the focus off revenue and profits. They wanted to do the right thing, however tough the path and never took a short cut.

The initial challenge as always was to attract smart people. The smart people also need to have a value system to work with. Hence the company developed the C - LIFE value system of core values. C - LIFE stands for C- Customer delight, L - Leadership by example, I - Integrity and transparency, F - Fairness, E - Excellence.
A key core value has always been - team above self. (This is something leaders understand the most.)

The value system is defined by Mr. Narayana Murthy - as having the ability to accept deferred gratification, working as per team rules, keeping interest of the team ahead of self and accepting leadership. It's important to subordinate your ego and celebrate the success of others. Wise words indeed. If we can let go of the ego we can go a long way!

The key attributes thus became - Sacrifice, Deferred gratification, Team work, Following accepted protocols, Enjoying others success, Subordinate ego, Accept leadership. The core team's way of working was to start from a zero base every time, agree to disagree and to make decisions based on data. This in turn led to a culture of - Openness, Meritocracy, Speed, Imagination and Excellence in execution.

Measuring Leaders Objectively
The company uses the Rausch family of psychometric tests including the 360 degree Multi Facet Rausch Model.
Leaders were measured by the Infosys Leadership Institute's leadership dimensions which are -

  • Strategic leadership (unique positioning, differentiation) 
  • Change/Transition/Adversity Leadership (anticipating and leading through resistance, managing crises and integrating new lines of business)
  • Operational leadership (flawless execution)
  • Talent leadership (individual and team performance)
  • Relationship and networking Leadership (social capital asset management)
  • Content leadership (triumphing as a thought leader) 
  • Entrepreneurial leadership (launching new businesses and innovative offerings).

Strategic leadership
Leaders must - create strategies ahead of competition, adapt vision in advance and devise approaches to create unique values.

Change leadership
The main causes of change are - External / Leadership / Mission and strategy / Culture / Management practices / Structure / Systems / Climate
The only data point to be considered for change was - what's good for Infosys.
(One contributor shared his thoughts on how he approached change.
Why the need to change, why and what needs to change, how to change and how to make it work.)

Operational leadership
The key themes to achieve Operational Leadership are - Attention to detail, Empowerment, Lead by example and Humility

Talent leadership
First recognise that building blocks are people (it's amazing how we miss this point). How people are managed is the competitive advantage any company gets. Disengaged employees are a sign that the leader has to change something. (A leader is defined as one who has followers.)
In this context, its worth watching this TED talk.

Talent leadership includes the following - Selection, Induction, Goal setting, Feedback, Developing people, Employee engagement.

1) Selection of people was on cognitive ability and work sample
2) Induction included stuff on company values, work culture, buddy and environment bonding
3) Employee engagement (defined as how well the employee feels connected to the organisation mission) includes making employees feel some amount of control over their destiny, empowering them and believing in them.

(Commitment comes from shared values. He mentions the Frey story of commitment - Frey looked for answers from his team and built the policies on their support - a good case for employee engagement.)

Lack of self confidence was seen as an outcome of - lack of knowing the big picture, lack of skills, not involved in goal setting, lack of resources, no culture of allowing for mistakes, reluctance coming from being punished for initiative earlier.

To empower people - get them to see the big picture, create ownership, provide resources, enable skills / knowledge and support mistakes

Shared objectives are a prerequisite for empowerment. Performance management - clearly defined expectations and variance with measures

Pitfalls of why leaders don't engage - pain versus gain, belief in people, fear of redundancy, fear of mistakes, win-win, walk the talk

4) Goal setting
The team sets goals that are difficult but achievable.
Feedback - listen and provide feedback that is positive and negative

Relationship and networking leadership
Ethical influence - Reciprocity, Liking, Authority, Consensus, Consistency and Scarcity

Web of influence - extends to Employees, Peers, Customers and Partners

Content leadership
Thought leadership - it is all about preparation, character, principles, personality, performance, experience, expression and influence

Entrepreneurial leadership
The Carpe diem 'seize the day' types and Intrapreneurs. Intrapreneurs are business executives who start their own business ventures within the corporate entity.

10 commandments of Intrapreneurs 1) Build your team 2) Share credit widely 3) Ask for advise before you ask for resources 4) Under promise and over deliver 5) Do all jobs needed to get things done regardless of job description 6) its easier to ask for forgiveness than permission 7) keep best interests of the company and its customers in mind 8) come to work each day willing to be fired 9) b true to your goals, be realistic about how to achieve them 10) Honor and educate your sponsors

Entrepreneurial aptitudes - neuroticism (self confidence, calm headed), extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness.

This book contains a lot of work that's been done and captured in in the leadership aspect in Indfosys and documents plenty of good thoughts and experiences. It is nicely compiled. If there is one problem, it is a bit too academic in tone but that must be deliberate - it is meant for serous reading anyway. That said, its a nice, easy read with much takeaway for aspiring leaders. Thanks Milind for sharing!

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