How can Indian CEOs become global CEO

April 20, 2018

20th April 2018, Mumbai | Speaker : Mr. Gopalkrishnan, Author & Corporate Advisor (ED, Tata Sons)

Perspective is a unique initiative by Sapphire Human Solutions, which is a CXO roundtable providing an opportunity to well placed and accomplished industry professional to come together and interact, brainstorm on contemporary topics and also meet luminaries of the industry. The idea of Perspective was the result of numerous debates and discussions with both internal members of Sapphire and members from the industry, and what emerged was a consensus on the fact that people need to know about what affects them and how, from the people who have pragmatic views on such matters. A regular interaction is needed for the people, to know what affects them all, besides giving insights into the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of management and leadership aspects. Its small foot-print, was to enable a close-quarter interaction amongst the people making the sessions that much impersonal and free-flowing.

With this in mind, Perspective rolled out the red carpet to their first speaker, Mr. R. Gopalkrishnan, a veteran from the industry known for rich experience in management and leadership for more than five decades now.

The session was hosted by Mr. Utkarsh Patel, a corporate-professional turned mythologist and author, and was attended by members from different industries, like pharmaceutical, investment firms, technology organisations, etc.

The session started with a brief on the genesis of Perspective and a round of introduction by the guests. Mr. Gopalkrishnan began with his epiphany moments as he called it in his journey and impressed upon the guests the significance of identifying them.

Mr. Gopalkrishnan differentiated between cognitive knowledge and emotional knowledge. Cognitive knowledge is all that one acquires by learning and emotional knowledge is that one acquires over time, with experience. He went on to define emotional knowledge as the ability to empathise with another’s point-of-view, a key ingredient in management. The first 20 years of one’s career is spent in the acquisition of cognitive knowledge; the next 20 is the time which one spends in the acquisition of emotional knowledge; and thereafter is the phase of wisdom, which he put in a formulae as

WISDOM = the development of knowledge capability + emotional capability.

Mr. Gopalkrishnan further defined ‘self-awareness’ as the impact that one has on other people and the same was very succinctly explained through anecdotes, which drove home the point; one of which was his interaction with a general from the navy, who impressed upon him the need to look after the ‘wake of the ship’, i.e. the effect the propeller of the ship has left behind in the waters, rather than look at the deck and the front of the ship. This was an important lesson, especially when people are influenced by leaders. Since this might not happen consciously, it is important to be self-aware of the impression, one is leaving behind, by ones words, behaviour, etc.

He then went on explain how such realisations led him to write the different books that he has written so far. An important observation made by him here was that ‘writing books was a good way to express ones experiences’. He also went on encourage business people to write books.

One of the important epiphanies of his generation was that the present generation was different and not quite like them, which he felt was trifle out of place. What he felt important was to drive home the point that if the present generation was privileged, then it was important for them to realise that privilege was just one side of the coin and the other side was obligation. This is critical for a balanced approach in ones carreer.

Mr. Gopalkrishnan then went on to explain why a successful CXO’s change to another organisation often resulted in not-so-successful ends. A change in environment and culture could lead to a not-so-successful outcome for a relatively successful leader. He has been working on this aspect and part of his ‘research’ is going to be the subject of his yet-to-be-published book. In another context he mentioned that power and sudden lack of it was equally detrimental and it was imperative for the leader or the power-wielder to realise when s/he doesn’t have the said power, which was vested in him/her by the sheer dint of the person being in the said position.

He concluded by saying that from all that one has learnt, he emphasised on the fact that corporate executives must write and write regularly. The objective of writing need not be for public consumption, but for self-satisfaction. Such self-reflection could lead to a lot of wisdom, which at some point of time could be a rich source of wisdom, for both self and others.

The lively and anecdotal session concluded by Q&A and Mr. Gopalkrishnan being felicitated by Ms. Suvra Sen, Partner, Sapphire HS.

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