Talents Are Always Recognized
According to research from St. Gallen University in Switzerland, Indian executives are inclined toward participative management and building meaningful relationships with subordinates. “The leadership style traditionally employed in India fostered an emotional bond between superiors and subordinates,” the 2004 study said. “The feeling that the company genuinely cares for its employees, provided a strong bond of loyalty that went beyond financial rewards.”
In the “Indian club,” there are no executives known for a dictatorial management style. Nooyi says: “You need to look at the employee and say, ‘I value you as a person. I know that you have a life beyond PepsiCo, and I’m going to respect you for your entire life, not just treat you as employee number 4,567.'”
When Nadella replaced Steve Ballmer at the helm of Microsoft, his high standing with the company’s rank-and-file was cited as a major reason for his promotion.
A 2007 study by researchers at Southern New Hampshire University, which compared Indian managers to U.S. ones, found the South Asians more humble. It is not by chance that Nadella started his first e-mail to Microsoft employees as chief executive by saying, “This is a very humbling day for me”.
The study also found Indians to be particularly future-oriented, focused on long-term strategies. Narayen of Adobe says: “If you can connect all the dots between what you see today and where you want to go, then it’s probably not ambitious enough or aspirational enough”.
In his email, Nadella paraphrased an Oscar Wilde quote on the same point: “We need to believe in the impossible and remove the improbable.”
Perhaps most importantly, the Indian managers get to the top because they persevere. Most of those I mentioned had the patience to rise through the ranks at their companies, learning their business thoroughly from every angle. Nooyi joined Pepsi in 1994, Jain took his first job at Deutsche Bank a year later, Menezes has been with Diageo since 1997, Narayen was hired by Adobe in 1998, and Nadella’s appointment crowns a 22-year career with Microsoft.
There is nothing specifically Indian about empathy, humility, patience and an ability to dream. Yet it is these qualities that appear to have created the “Indian club” of overachievers in global business.