How to become a better leader

We’re teaming up with Dr. Gundu Rao - a leadership coach who trains executives at Fortune 500 companies like Honda, Microsoft, Cisco, Sony, Nestle to be better leaders.

In this episode, we talk about 

  • How you can identify your passion and choose a line of work that keeps you engaged, on 
  • How leadership has evolved over the past decades, what makes a good leader today and how you can become one.

Read the transcript

Intro: Enough time on self development is an important aspect. In fact, we are so busy driving we forget to fill petrol and you know what happens we are stranded on the highway. So exactly we get stranded in our mid career. I'm Shiva and welcome to A Job Well Done. A podcast where we dive into the journeys of successful business leaders to find out what it takes to rise to the top If you see clarity on choosing the carrier getting a promotion landing a dream job or simply being the best at what you do. This is the podcast for you. I met Dr. Gundu Rao at the Economic Times Young leadership Workshop a few weeks ago like most workshops. I thought this one was going to be more theoretical than practical. And I honestly didn't have a lot of expectations going in. However, I was taken by a pleasant surprise when Dr. Gundu Rao came to the stage and started speaking his advice on how to be a better leader and rise to the top was practical and could be easily implemented in our busy professional lives when he's not coaching professionals to become better leaders. Dr. Gundu Rao conducts workshops for organizations enabling them to build High performing teams while maintaining a culture that delights and retains employees. He's worked with the likes of Honda, Microsoft Cisco, Sony and other Fortune 500 companies. He comes with four decades of experience in leadership roles. And he's a treasure trove of insights on how all of us could be better at our jobs and lead better lives. In this episodewe're going to talk about how you can identify your passion and choose a line of work that keeps you engaged on how leadership has evolved over the past decades on what makes a good leader today and how you can become one as a bonus. We also speak about conflicts at work how they necessary and how you can deal with them.

Shiva: Doctor, Welcome to the studio.

Dr. Gundu Rao: Thank you.

Shiva: Could you please introduce yourself?

Dr. Gundu Rao: I am an organic chemist turned HR professional more than 40 Years of leadership experience in various Industries at different levels, and I'm a keen student of leadership the effectiveness of an organization the success of an organization depends solely on the effectiveness of a leader higher the leadership more successful is the organization. So if I can pass on my insights to others so that they can become better leaders and create wealth for their organization. I would consider it a good fortune of mine

Shiva: Thanks a lot for that. Mr. Gundu Rao. Doctor from my experience. I realized that the journey to the top to become a leader is more like running a marathon than a sprint, you know, it's about being passionate about your work and delivering consistent results over decades. Now, how can one identify their passions and choose a line of work that will enable them to deliver consistently over long periods of time and ultimately succeed

Dr. Gundu Rao: identify your passion what interests you most, in fact, there's a concept called flow that kind that was that came up around 1990 or so the concept of flow is nothing but when you do something of interest to you? You are more likely to have the highest productivity. The customer satisfaction will be the highest and the organizational satisfaction will be the highest. And you tend to kind of lose sense of your time and bodily requirement. So therefore when you get into the flow state. All the stakeholders are satisfied. But the key question is how and when you get into the flow state the whole concept is when you do something of interest you you are likely to get into the Flow State and when one gets into the slow state all the benefits that I mentioned accrue. So kind of realize how do I get into the flow state is to identify something that is of interest to me is something that I am passionate about and when I looked at my own life, I realized gardening was my passion. Obviously when I do something which is with respect to gardening lots of good things happen to me, but it's not going to pay my bills. So I decided to do something else that means how can I be within the realms of my passion and still make enough money to pay my bills. Then I thought of an idea. I cannot take gardening to my workplace. The next best thing was I asked a question to myself. Why am I passionate about gardening when asked that question the answer was very clear. I am passionate about gardening because I see the plants grow in front of me grow flower, fruits. So the growth are the nurturing aspect of the plant was giving me the high. And so therefore I thought okay. I cannot take gardening to my workplace. Can I take the Y of my passion which is the nurturing bit into the workplace and then I quickly realized. Yes I can because am passionate about training, I'm passionate about teaching. So therefore I realized I can take the Y of my passion into my workplace, which was paying me enough to pay my bills. So I linked my passion to my workplace. And remember what I said, if one is pursuing once passion the productivity will be the highest satisfaction will be the highest everybody around you will be happy

Shiva: Everybody now so confused about what they want to do and what makes them happier and they end up taking obs at don't really give them the satisfaction

Dr. Gundu Rao: Some people are able to identify that passion but many people struggle because what interests them today may not interest them the next day so they struggle to identify their passion. But it is important for one to put enough time and focus to identify what excites them what interests them. And if they can do that, they could take a month to arrive at that decision. And once you arrive at that point of time where you say, okay, this is my passion then you can think about can I take to your passion? Can you make enough money to pay your bills by exercising your passion or leaving your passion if the answer is yes. Perfectly fine go ahead and do it. But if the answer is no then you can look at my model where identify the Y of the passion and see if you can take the Y of your passion to the workplace

Shiva: So doctor you been working for over four decades now. How has the characteristics that make a good leader changed over this time what characteristics made a good leader then and what makes a good leader now? Can you shed more light on this?

Dr. Gundu Rao: Yes, even if you look at leadership. Leadership equals influence. Influence is making people do things that they would never have done left to themselves comma willingly. If you accept that as the definition of leadership. To me whether it is the past or the present the definition remains the same, so at a broad level I would say in response to your question the leadership qualities pretty much remain at the broad level, but I do kind of recognize at a subtle level there are differences. So in my view the differences come from two aspects. Aspect number one is the people the people that you lead now versus the people the leaders were leading earlier. Now the present generation is young the millennial and have very high aspirations the command and control that the leaders would exercise in the past is no longer applicable now. it's actually passive you can't actually use your command and control to make people do things. It' more about bridging relationship more about building relationships. Ship more about influencing people through non control and command mechanisms particularly the younger generation. So they aspiration part of it and the youngsters have a lot more opportunities as compared to what we had at our time, because of those opportunities they are more mobile. You see the attrition rate very high in organizations. And so therefore when you leading a set of youngsters one of the things you should be ready to respond to them is when they come up to you and ask you the question. Why should I work for you? In my days the answer was very simple. The leader would say I sign your paycheck. Therefore you have to work for me. Now those days are gone because those days the jobs were scarce. So you get into a job and probably you retire with that job, but here the opportunities are more. So people are looking at a leadership style, which is more participative in nature. You can retain people if you add value to them consciously. So the value addition bit has taken a major kind of important role today as compared to earlier days. And the second thing is about environment the environment itself is changing. We are living in a hookah world. Hookah stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. Everything is changing customer requirements are changing we are in a state of flux. So therefore the leader has to manage not only a different expectation from the people the leader is leading and also the manage the environment itself, which is extremely volatile and then in a state of flux

Shiva: Got it. I think it's a lot more tougher than before is safe to say that

Dr. Gundu Rao: the basic aspects of a leadership remains the same okay, but only thing that the leaders need to work on is in my view two things the pace of doing things the pace has to be faster and the second thing is they should be comfortable making decisions with the limited information. They should get comfortable with that in a fast-moving world

Shiva: Got it. Now this one's for are mid-career professionals and you spoke so much about what a leader of today needs to succeed. So, how can one become this leader?

Dr. Gundu Rao: One of the things I have observed in people is particularly when one gets the age of 40. That's the time when people take a pause in their life. They start their career around 25 and then move rapidly running from pillar to post to complete the jobs a day to day jobs. And then by the time they reach 40, they take a pass and look behind and see what have we achieved. They realize they have not achieved much. So I call it men menopause and in the men menopause period if they realize the 15 years of work that have put in there is nothing to show you either in the bank balance or in terms of success they have achieved and there are many of them get into that mid-career crisis. So what I recommend to people is from my own personal life is one of the first thing that they need to do is they have to identify their personal vision. What is there personal vision? what would they like to be 10 years 15 years from now. Which is in line with their passion, I already mentioned about the passion part of it, which is in line with that passion. What is their vision? Vision is as you know is the future state what they would like to be 10 years 15 years from now if they can identify the vision their vision, the next step is rather easy figuring out how to get there and spend enough time to develop themselves. In fact, we are so busy driving we forget to fill petrol and you know what happens we are stranded on the highway. So exactly we get stranded in our mid-career and then we really feel lost. We're unsure which direction to take. So these are some of the simple things identify the vision and spend enough time for self development so that you get there. There is say an important term aspect I tell to whoever I talk to when you walk into the office in the morning. Okay. There is a certain value that you have. Value equals experience, knowledge, skills that you have. Value in the morning when you walk into the office you have a certain value of experience knowledge and skills. And when you walk out in the evening, what is your value? It

Shiva: Should be higher. I guess.

Dr. Gundu Rao: What do you think? It should be higher lower or same?

Shiva: It should be much higher

Dr. Gundu Rao: So therefore one equation if I can put that equation in people's mind. VE VM should be greater than 0. VE value in the evening. I already defined the value. VM is value in the morning when you walked into the office. Is VE-VM greater than 0? now in some cases the VE is higher than VM. Because you do lots of projects take a projects tasks you learn but it's not an intentional learning. So what I'm recommending to people is be conscious about the value addition that is happening to your life. In fact, I make a suggestion to them before they swipe out of the office let them stand in front of that machine and ask themselves. This question is VE-VM greater than 0 today are not And if it is not 0 if it is not greater than 0 one of the things they didn't need to do is tomorrow they need to make special efforts extra efforts to fill the gap that was there yesterday. So therefore this value addition is a very important aspect value addition done consciously

Shiva: Yeah. I think that makes lot of sense. I'm always going to remember this simple equation or value in the morning in value in the evening and I think after this I'll probably pick up more books or read more blogs just so they can educate myself and fill in the petrol so that I don't run out of fuel on the highway

Dr. Gundu Rao: Yeah, I mean. It's VE-VM is greater than 0 this equation is not only for the leader but also far that the team that the leader leads. What about the team members? Yep, I mean team members are also as I said earlier, they are looking to the leader for value addition. Yeah, so the leader has to do not only value addition to himself or herself, but also to the team members so that they feel that market value has increased and they are more than happy to work for that leader

Shiva: Got it. So going into company culture. There's something that plagues a lot of startups and SMBs around the globe and this is sometimes bad culture or most times high attrition. So how can a startup right now build a high performing team and still maintain a good culture something that delights the employees and keeps them there

Dr. Gundu Rao: Yeah to me. It's a very challenging question, simply because this you mentioned startup the business model of the startup is rapid growth. They want results very very quickly. Now given that situation. It's important for us to recognize that the focus of the startup is on delivering quick results right. Now they do understand they have to get the results through people, but there is a tendency in Startups to focus more on task less on people and they do this for a simple good reason that is there is no survival without growth and the focus is only on task accomplishment. Now given this what do leaders do and what do the team members do is something that we need to look at now lead us to exercise better emotional control because you'll hear lots of screaming shouting and the mention the word culture. Culture is nothing but that touch and feel of the organization and you feel a kind of that oppressive culture in in a startup that is because the leader is under pressure from the owners. So therefore the leaders instead of acting as transformers the kind of pass on the pressure to the team members and when they pass on the pressure to the team members, they don't exercise emotional control on themselves. So it's important for the leaders to exercise that emotional control. If losing the emotional control is not going to give you the results. So the leader should recognize that it's important to keep control and still get work out of people. So certain amount of buffering action the leaders has to do so the amount of pressure that the team members feel is not exactly the same as the leader feels. So that's when the the leaders perspective now from the team members perspective when an individual joins a start up. The individual should recognize that is going to be the situation and culture in that organization. The choice for an individual is to join a stable organization or a start-up organization. In a stable organization it's much more classical kind of culture that you see. But in a start-up organization, the culture is likely to be very very different it's more high octane its high octane culture. So you will see people screaming, shouting in the corridors that is because of the pressure to deliver results as quickly as possible. So it's important when an individual joins a startup. The individual to himself or herself must set the expectations this is likely to be the culture and only those people who enjoy that culture must join the the startup . Having said that one of the things that the leaders of the startup should realize is what kind of people they recruit the recruitment itself is key here. All of us have different personalities some people enjoy a personality which is lot more stable. Some people enjoy if kind of a completely mobile active high octane culture. So identify those people who have lineage towards that kind of a high-octane culture and then hire those individual. So therefore the kind of people who join that organization if their personality can be matched to the culture of the organization you will see attrition coming down. The people within the organization being lot happier and working for the startup and the startups also will achieve the results much faster than their expectation. So the next question you might ask is how do I then identify the true personality of an individual before I hire. Now, there are many tools psychometric tools which are tested validated for years, which are being used to assess the true personality of an individual. So what we do is we assess the true personality of the role itself, which is kind of dictated on influenced by the culture of the organization. And also we assess the true personality of the individual and we match the truth the candidates personality and the roles personality and if there is a match we take that candidate further in the interview process so that when you know, the individual is happy organization is happy and there no cultural mismatch that happens. So you could look at using a psychometric tool even in a startup a situation

Shiva: So I think one of the mistakes that a lot of people doing the recruitment process as they evaluate for technical skills, and once the technical skills fit the bill they pass on them and give them the offer. Yeah. More often than not they never check the psychometric need of the role and as a person and the match. I think that's really good evaluation factor that a lot of companies should consider

Dr. Gundu Rao: Yeah. Sure. Sure.

Shiva: So Dr. Gundu Rao moving on from a high-octane culture to conflicts there always conflicts between different teams or individuals in an organization. What I've noticed is that more often than not a few teams are supposed to work together end up with conflicting nature's. Let's say sales and marketing

Dr. Gundu Rao: My own view about conflicts is very simple, which is conflict is really not bad for an organization. The traditional view of conflict is conflict is bad for the organization and must be avoided at all costs. But nowadays conflict is seen as a good thing for organization because there is a nice piece of research done on conflict and productivity and this research clearly talks about how the productivity increases as conflict increases and it increases up till a certain point and then any further increase in conflict the productivity drops. So the idea is if the leader can identify what is that peak level of conflict which gives the maximum amount of productivity and operate within that range. It is good for the organization and good for the leader. Now the employees need to be trained on how to manage conflict. There are two types of conflict one type comes from differences in ideas. You're method versus my method you're idea versus my idea. The other type of conflict comes from the personality clash between you and me. Let's say we are working together in a team. My personality is fast-moving personality and your personality let us assume a slow-moving personality. Now when both of us work together the first thing that I see in you is the slow movement of you. You take time to analyze things before you try to solve the problem. I try to jump at the problem try and solve the problem without even understanding what the problem is. That's my nature right? So therefore when the two personalities come together and if we are not aware of it now the first level of conflict happens there even the idea itself is not discussed. But moment I see you working. I really get upset with you because of your slowness. I knew vice versa you get upset with me because you feel I'm not spending enough time to think about the problem. It's like an onion. So if anyone when you want to use an onion, you remove the first layer, right? And only when you remove the first layer, you see the core of the onion which is useful for us so similarly at the workplace. So first level of conflict is at the personality and if we can make people aware of these personality differences people are different. You cannot expect the same behavior from the other person. So therefore if we understand people at the personality level, so the first initial conflict situation is removed and then we come to talking about the idea itself ones would like to take the solve the problem. Then team members employees must be taught about how to manage conflict. There are wonderful models available to manage conflicts different approaches people can take and it's a skill by itself managing conflict is a skill by itself. And then you mentioned about the possible classical conflict between marketing and sales. It's always was there it's going to be there and you also mentioned about the high-octane culture, which is the the startup etc. And higher the octane more possibility of conflict happening between two different functions. The leader should not attempt to suppress conflict should make conflict kind of come up in open so that people can debate and dialogue and then identify the best possible solution to that problem

Shiva: Make sense. One of the things that stood out for me is personalities here. Yeah, whenever two leaders are supposed to work together. Yeah, you mentioned that the personalities don't match. Ultimately. It might lead to conflict. Yeah. So how do you think organizations can solve this proactively?

Dr. Gundu Rao: Oh, yeah, when I work with organizations where they handle this aspect very well first they train people on the personality model the basic idea is to kind of make people aware that people have different kinds of personalities. Okay, one of the unfortunate things in human beings is we like variety in everything that we do we don't want to eat the same food everyday, right? But while dealing with people we expect the other person to behave exactly like the way I would have behaved. Okay, so we don't like differences in behavior and personality. So therefore it's important for us to kind of make people aware about the differences in personality and the value each personality brings to the table

Shiva: Got it. Thanks a lot for that. This marks the end of part 1 of a conversation with Dr. Gundu Rao, when we first recorded the episode with Dr. Gundu Rao, it was longer than usual and we thought we'd edited down to a shorter time, but we just couldn't get ourselves to do this because there are so many insights and cutting them out would be doing you our listeners an injustice. So we decided to split it into two part series. You've just finished part 1 you can hit next and listen in to part two of a conversation where we speak about how to turn reactive employees into productive ones on staying relevant, balancing work with life and much more. If you want to reach, Dr. Gundu Rao, you can write to him on and you can find them on LinkedIn as well. I hope you found today's episode helpful. I like to thank Dr. Gundu Rao for joining me today and to vtiger for partnering with us to make the show possible. If you like what we're doing, please subscribe to our podcast so that you're notified when we launched a new episode. Also, it would be awesome. If you could support us by sharing this episode with a friend or colleague who might find this useful. See you soon. This is Shiva signing off from A Job Well Done.