Director – Human Resource at Metlife
Tell us about the leadership styles or tenets that are most effective, especially with regards to the service industry.
Yes, the services industry indeed has a very different leadership style. Things have changed in the last few years and the quality of talent is becoming more and more critical than it was before. If you have the right talents, they will take your company to a different level.
From a leadership style standpoint, one has to be very clear that you have to change the ways according to the circumstances and needs. Suppose there is a team that has four equally experienced people, then transactional leadership will be valuable, and other styles may not work. You have to be clear about how you are delegating work, what you are expecting from them, and what you are articulating to them. These things become critical.
When you have people on the team who are maybe more experienced than you are, then a servant-leadership or transformational style will come into play. If you talk about an autocratic leadership style, I have not seen that as being effective or necessary. If I have to stack ranks from leadership styles, servant-leadership and authenticity would be on top as they have helped me to shape my learning and unlearning. I have learned from my career to become the kind of leader that I am today.
We must look at creating more leaders, as it is like sending the elevator back down when you reach the top. When someone has given you the opportunity to prove your worth, you must pay them back and help to grow. If you are not doing it, you are not doing your duty.
Continued Learning, after the main professional degree, has become essential now. What are the reasons for this trend?
If you ask whether a good pedigree in terms of the educational institution from where you belong will hold importance later? Yes, it will always be there, because you will have the level of network and ethics that it provides.
Now that learning has become so accessible to everyone, it is essential to keep upskilling. A person who stops learning will die an early death in terms of his corporate career. You have to keep learning new skills and technologies. The whole trend has changed all the more during the pandemic as digitisation has fast-tracked like anything. How it works and what it impacts have increased rapidly.
In the past, no one focused on the technologies that we will need to enable people to work. But that suddenly is very important that you enable talent so that they can work from anywhere. From a learning standpoint, it becomes more important to see what you bring to the table. This will be continuous learning, as knowledge has become very accessible. For instance, after we got a gold medal in javelin, people have been searching on YouTube and trying to learn how to throw a javelin. That is the new trend.
The ability for people to learn will grow significantly. An article said that in the next 15 years or so, you may just need to pop a pill to learn a particular subject. Some people are thinking and researching such aspects. So, learning-unlearning-relearning will attract greater attention. Once you finish your formal education, you need to understand what the workplace skills are, how to acquire them, and move ahead. So, the journey starts once you finish college and start working.
Do you see any significant changes in hiring and training/ development domains over the last decade? Is it more inclusive now?
Organisations will understand the need and importance of being inclusive. One has to be on the ground to hear people and know what employees need. Companies are hiring across the world, and not being limited to one location or workplace. So the ability as an organisation to understand the talent needs has significantly gone up.
Earlier, there was a straight-jacketed approach and it was a fixed process. Over the past year, many people have joined an organisation virtually and do not know what the company culture is, because it only grows on you when you collaborate with people and come to a workplace. In India, not many companies had the culture of working from home. So, many companies do not understand how they will help a new person to perform from home, how you will enable him to know the culture. Offices were the places for collaboration and exchange of thoughts, ethos, and work styles. But today it has changed significantly. Organisations will have to understand that and build up each employee individually. The jobs that were critical a decade back are not so important now, and more evolution will be more pronounced in the future.
What are the key skills that students need to develop in the present scenario?
The ability to understand the new technology and digitization in a new era will be critical. Plus, the speed at which people execute is extremely high, especially when they join the workforce as a fresher. Third, you have to observe the organisational directions and goals, to see where it is heading towards. Many times, people who join don’t pay adequate attention to understanding where the organisation aims to reach, what are my skills, and whether they match with the skills needed for such growth. This is vital to learn on your own.
The ability to adapt quickly has become crucial, as people had to transition overnight to remote working situations. Earlier, for a brainstorming session, you needed a boardroom, use a presenter or whiteboard. Now, you must be aware of how to do it virtually. That is a skill, and knowing the tools on different platforms is important. Adaptability to new technologies and new ways of doing things must be high, and if you don’t have it you will be left behind in the growth process.
Which are the 5 books on top of your reading list, and why?
There are a lot of books that I appreciate. One that is on top is ‘The Psychology of Money’ by Morgan Housel. A lot of times, people want to reach the top of the workforce, earn a lot of money, and make a fortune. This book changes the perspective. It makes you think about what you need to do, as people are blindly chasing money without thinking about what you are actually doing with that. It helped me to develop a new perspective.
The next one is ‘Atomic Habits’, which is about which habits you need to focus on and grow. It’s a critical thing to know. The third one is related to one’s individuality and is named ‘Think like a Monk’ by Jay Shetty. It talks about what we need to do to grow holistically, and things we need to understand even in the corporate career.
The fourth one will be ‘Start with Why’ by Simon Sinek. It’s an important book to read for everyone, to understand where you are heading. Another book that I’m currently reading is ‘Ikigai’, which is about the Japanese philosophy of loving some work and building a profession in that field. There are a lot of management books which are all very valuable.