Azim Premji hardly needs an introduction. One of the world’s greatest business leaders, Premji has consistently exemplified ethics in business while maintaining sky rocket performance. Here are my takes on some of his key points.
Clearly and Consistently Articulated Company Vision.
The leader needs to produce a vision that is so clear that even the bottom rung of employees will be energized by the idea. That vision must focus on the customer. People will not rally behind the idea of the leader’s fame, they wont rally around record profits. What they will rally behind is providing excellent services and goods to their customers.
Any and all Success Needs to be Built on a Foundation of Values
Success is nothing without values and morals. Anyone can create unethical short term success, but to create real, lasting success requires an individual and organization of character supported by true virtue. Responsible business will always pay off in the long run. Azim Premji believes in absolute transparency, complete commitment to integrity and an undying passion for honesty.
Successful Leaders Must Have Self Confidence
Standing in front of his shareholders for the first time, the 21 year old scion of Wipro was challenged by another share holder: Perhaps you should sell your shares and resign. Leave the business to more mature men. Azim did not back down. He had the self confidence to know he could take the company to great things. People believed in him. When you stand up to make yourself heard, make sure you believe in every word that you say. Saying something is committing to it, or have you forgotten the previous tenant?
Superlative Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Energy
Being an entrepreneur is not an easy job. Running a company requires you to be on the move, processing information and putting your core values on the line every day. It can get tiring, physically, mentally and emotionally. Train yourself and develop the support networks necessary to maintain your momentum. If you burn out physically, your mind is soon to follow. If you run low on spiritual energy, your body wont stay mobile for long. Each represents part of a tri-pod, no two can stand without the third.
Constantly Adapt Standards of Excellence
Excellence is a constantly moving target. You need to constantly adapt to changing metrics, standards and technology to ensure you are at the top. The standard of excellence in cinema graphics 5 years ago is hardly relevant to those of 6 months ago which is still barely relevant to our current standards. Adapt constantly, grow constantly but always keep an eye to the horizon, not just the destination.
Strategy is Nothing Without Execution
Many people will prattle on about business strategies as if they were the new diet of the month from some tabloid magazine. The fact of the matter is that they will fall to the way-side without proper execution. Ideas are bricks. If there are no builders around, they’re just a pile of rubble.
Leaders are Optimistic
You will nearly never hear a leader say “I don’t think we can do it, let’s try it.” Leaders are the ones with a nearly blind belief in the future of their ideas. They believe in the ideas of others as well. In fact, it seems that a true leader will happily engage nearly any idea and once they’ve settled on one they seem to never waiver in their dedication.
Attract and Retain People of Quality
Perhaps my favourite quality in a leader is what the people around them represent. Any prison inmate can rally a number of inmates to his cause, but what of the student revolutionaries who rally intellectuals and scientists? What of the leader who draws moral, effective, skilled individuals to them. That, my friends, is a leader. Liu Bei, a historical but oft-fictionalized character from Chinese history was a leader who brought around him not only the most skilled individuals, but also individuals of immense personal merit. He cared not for Lu Bu – the greatest warrior in the land, renown for betraying those he worked for – for Liu Bei had Guan Yu, an immensely skilled warrior-general who was also a paragon of loyalty, honour and respect.
Play to Win
Azim Premji makes this point very clear: This does not mean you must play dirty. In fact, playing dirty and winning detracts from your pride in victory and removes any sense of true accomplishment. However, a leader is someone who is willing and able to go for the top. Anything other than victory is defeat. In the spirit of true sportsmanship, playing to win is more about expanding your personal boundaries, pushing yourself to improve and developing those around you. Victory comes with it, but the way you grow as a person is drastically more important.