The Ultimate Formula to Become an Iconic Corporate Leader

As I was winding up a career webinar three months ago, a curious college student asked, “Is there a formula to be recognized as an iconic leader?”

“You have to exercise your choice to be formulaic or iconic”, I responded to her resolutely. 
Of course, there are recommended and established traits to be a good corporate leader. Corporate Icons who garner a huge fan following have been different. Their actions did not conform to an established equation.

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

You are sure to have come across Corporate leaders motivating people instantly with a reward, an appreciation letter, and Thank You Cards.

Can you imagine that Condolence Cards could become a source of motivation?

Feel the Pulse to Motivate

This happened in the late 1980s. The place was Bombay, the financial capital of India. The financial results from that Sales team had touched rock-bottom. Those sales guys were demotivated, drained and lost hope. They were angry about the competition. In that bustling city contoured by the Arabian Sea, HCL, their Technology company was struggling to create ripples.

If sales had to go up, the morale of the team required a boost. A young and creative leader who newly took charge of the team was in deep thought. He got an unconventional idea. He drove to a store in Churchgate and ordered 50 condolence cards. He kept all those condolence cards on an office table and addressed his team, “Every time you win a deal from the competition, write the name of the salesperson from the competing company on the card and send it to him. I know we can get all these cards dispatched this year”

Every salesperson who was angry with the competition started thinking out-of-the-box. They worked together with grit which was never seen before. When they won the deal against a big IT company, the entire office signed that first card. The sales team decided not to post it to the Sales Guy, but to the Head Honcho of that company. The competitors got alerted and got an adrenaline rush. Posting the condolence notes continued. The HCL sales team grew smarter and careful each time the competitors reworked their strategy to win back. They were forced to improve, work closely, and enjoyed working on every deal aggressively. Then came a time when this team was winning one in every 2 deals under Vineet Nayar, their young leader.

Accomplishment is important. But an attitude toward accomplishment is more important.
Father Of Your Team

Corporate leaders acting unconventionally had bailed out organizations from crisis too.

  1. Managing Crisis
  2. Managing Crisis
  3. Have you heard this saying , ‘Soldiers are never good or bad. There are only good and bad generals’?

How a leader handles a crisis situation with the team dictates the outcome.

Have you heard this saying , ‘Soldiers are never good or bad. There are only good and bad generals’?

How a leader handles a crisis situation with the team dictates the outcome.

Cadbury is synonymous with Chocolates in India. Cadbury appointed Bharat Puri as the Global Head of Sweets in 2008. Something unusual happened five years before. Bharat was celebrating the best year ever at Shangri La, in Bangkok. It was a high flying event. Bharat was receiving an award for leading the best performing unit in the region. His mobile phone rang then. Staff from his India office panicked, “CNBC is running this news that there is an infestation in our chocolates. We are worried”.

As he rushed to the Cadbury House in India the next day, vans from News channels were swarming the gate to offer sensational coverage. That wasn’t sweet news. It may have been the first time Cadbury was garnering media attention without paying for it.

A representative from a political party was waiting with a tin of black paint. He was rushing to smear it on Bharat’s face. The sensational drama started. Sales dropped immediately.

An old man from Gujarat tried to blackmail threatening that he was ready to report on the worms in a chocolate bar to the consumer court. “If you don’t want me to drag you to the court, you should cast my son in your chocolate ad”, he demanded. The brand confidence dropped from 90% to 40%. The crisis wasn’t just limited to his workplace. His sales head came to him worried saying that his wife and daughter were crying. Reason – His daughter’s school teacher had refused to let her distribute Cadbury chocolates she took to school on her Birthday.

Of many plans he executed to tide over the crisis, one strategy in uplifting the morale of his team worked.

Bharat asked his sales staff to buy Rs.1000 worth chocolates from their nearby stores. If they found infestation they had to send across samples to the company. Else, his team and their families can enjoy all the chocolates. This gesture from their leader brought conviction to his team on the product and a lot more on the leadership.

Bharat thought that sales will bounce back in 12 months. It actually did in 6 months!

Only 10% of CEOs are natural leaders who guide staff by example.
(Source: Inc and Harvard Business School)

Leaders can handle a crisis with extraordinary faith in their ability and insights. It will work. Yet leaders who also believe in taking their team along, respecting their sentiments, turn around the crisis much faster.

This approach of respecting emotions and making team feel comfortable enough with decisions taken is not a flash in the pan. Just like a road accident, a crisis can happen anytime. Seat belts save during accidents only when they are fastened before the accident and not during. Valuing the team’s ideas and feelings on an ongoing basis equips the leader to navigate through the crisis.

Can you believe that corporate leaders can leverage the power of teams that no longer work for them? This magic is possible when they don the perspective of ‘Father Manager’. Iconic leaders are unconventional. If you are looking for fresh approaches for handling workplace issues, a solution is available online.

The Best-selling book, ‘Father of your Team’ is referred globally by modern day leaders and the perspective is increasingly being adopted for this reason. This book has over 50 unconventional tips for leaders to leave a legacy.