Rajiv Memani

RAJIV MEMANI took over as the Country Managing Partner of Ernst & Young in 2004 and is currently the Chairman of the Global Emerging Markets committee. The firm is currently India’s largest professional services organization with leadership across tax, transactions, risk, assurance and advisory. Rajiv has been associated with Ernst & Young for almost 20 years now. During these years he has successfully advised several leading multinational corporations on their entry in India and has also worked with some of India’s largest conglomerates/ companies, both in the private and public sector. His areas of expertise include M&A advisory, private equity, valuations and restructuring. A qualified Chartered Accountant, Rajiv started his career as an Auditor and moved on to Tax Advisory. Rajiv successfully established the Indian Firm’s Corporate Finance Practice in the late nineties. Rajiv has been selected on the World Economic Forum’s New Asian Leaders, a network of 100 young leaders in business and politics to develop programmes for the development of Asia.

Our Exclusive Interview:

What is your definition of a good leader?

Good leaders must lead by example. They must be conscious of earning respect, as opposed to commanding the respect which comes with position and stature. They must uphold organizational values and communicate these clearly to their teams. as values form the bedrock of any decision-making. Further, they should conceptualize and articulate a clear vision and purpose for the future, which motivates team-members to perform to the best of their abilities in achieving these goals.

Simply put, a good leader is someone who demonstrates confidence, clarity, courage and care. Clarity of purpose vis-a-vis long-term goals as well as short-term actions. Courage for standing by organizational values and taking bold business decisions, while also inspiring team-members’ efforts in this direction. And finally, care and empathy not just for people in the team, but also those who form part of the extended organization. Good leaders build high-performance teams that have a shared commitment to the organization.

What also sets apart fine leaders from the rest is the ability to remain calm in different situations, which enables high-quality decision-making and secondly, the realization that no one size fits all and hence the need to adapt to different people and changing situations.

How do you think organizations should evaluate/measure “quality of leadership”?

The real purpose of leadership is to facilitate growth and drive positive change. A good measure of the quality of leadership is obviously the success of the organization in achieving this purpose, but more specifically the leader’s ability to catalyze that success and the ability to develop high-performance teams.

Organizations today increasingly understand the importance of evaluating the quality of leadership talent at their disposal and work towards improving their development areas. Metrics such as success of the individual’s business portfolio (profitability, revenues, growth, etc.),engagement levels of the team, number of future leaders developed are commonly used by organizations to assess the quality of leadership. Increasingly, the social impact and sensitivity to environmental concerns that have a bearing on communities is also being considered when gauging quality of leadership.

How can one improve one’s leadership skills?

The first step towards improving one’s leadership skills lies in having a clear understanding of one’s leadership style, strengths and one’s development areas as a leader. Once identified, one needs to consciously undergo constant learning and experimenting, having role models, seeking coaching and mentoring, take on challenging roles, asking for continuous feedback from others to improve leadership skills.

Experiential learning is often considered the most effective form of learning. One can work on diverse projects, job functions and with different people to develop and strengthen one’s leadership style.

Listening to diverse opinions, an inclusive attitude, sound decision-making and ability to inspire high performances from the team are some qualities one must hone to be qualified as an effective team leader.

What are the three most important challenges in front of leaders in today’s times?

We have entered an era of increased complexity in the business environment. Leaders today not only have to defy volatility brought about by the accompanying forces of globalization, increased regulatory oversight and the war for talent, but also manage the rising expectations from communities.

The significant challenges in this environment are firstly to understand and effectively balance the expectations of multiple stakeholders such as the government, investors, people, communities and yet achieve both values-led and sustainable growth for the organization.

Secondly, managing change is emerging as a significant challenge, particularly with regard to taking people along and the ability to provide clear, concise and honest communication to address employee concerns and also motivating them with a strong vision and a sense of ownership to making change work.

Finally, the ability to catalyze innovation, which will lead to continuous improvements in products, processes, services and ways of doing things – which are essential for any organization to be competitive.

What in your views are most effective ways/ techniques for grooming future leaders?

An important prerequisite for sustainable growth of any organization is to build a steady pipeline of next generation leaders. In order to groom leaders, organizations need to identify potential leaders early on, provide them with exposure to challenging opportunities and empower them through proper delegation of authority while providing support, coaching and mentoring along the way. Continuous tracking and assessment of the performance of identified leaders is also essential to uncover possible development and improvement areas. That said, it is also important to strike a balance between having home-grown talent and inducting fresh talent from the market to bring in new perspectives and energy within the organisation.

When should a leader call it quits?

While the notion of quitting goes against the popular mantra of success, most experienced leaders recognize the importance of identifying when and how to quit. It is time to make way for a new leader when one finds oneself in a position where one perceives that the value that they are adding to the organization is inadequate, there is incongruence between one’s beliefs with that of the organization, or the role is not in line with one’s personal aspirations. In these situations, moving on can give you time and space and help you focus your energy on areas where you can make a more significant impact.