15 Jul 2021 18:40 IST

Leadership is all about courage and empathy: Harish Bhat

He was speaking to ICFAI students on leadership, life lessons, and inspiration

Leadership is all about courage and it should be coupled with empathy towards fellow employees and community,” said Harish Bhat, Brand Custodian, Tata Sons. He was sharing three decades of his life experience with the Tata Group at the 12th WiseViews Interactive Webinar Series conducted on July 9 by ICFAI Foundation for Higher Education for the benefit of working professionals, research scholars and students.

Bhat spoke on the topic, leadership, life lessons and inspiration and emphasised the need for leadership today to be purposeful and driven by courage, humility, clear thinking and execution.

Bhat prefaced his talk by paying his respects to the late NJ Yasaswy, Founder of the ICFAI Group. Prof Yasaswy had taught him corporate Finance at IIM Ahmedabad, when Bhat was a student there in the 1980s.

In his inspirational speech, Bhat drew out the core values instilled in the group DNA by the three key leaders of Tata Group namely Jamshetji Tata, the founder, JRD Tata, who succeeded him and Ratan Tata.

• Leaders have a sense of purpose. They have an objective: Jamshedji Tata from early on placed the health and wellbeing of employees and community as the foundation of the Tata prosperity. As the group did well over the years he contributed to nation building in many ways, one of them being the establishment of the Indian Institute of Science. Welfare of the employees, community and the nation was at the core of his work.

• JRD Tata who succeeded him emphasised on the quest for excellence in all that he did. He also inculcated this value amongst his team members. This emphasis over decades led to the Tata brand being trusted. JRD created India’s first airline which was later nationalised and known as Air India.

• Great leadership comes with great courage: Ratan Tata who took over in the late 1990s, dreamt of building India’s first indigenous car. He wanted a car as large as an Ambassador, fuel efficiency of a Maruti and the styling of a Zen. A disused plant was traced in Australia, dissembled, shipped to India and reassembled. Trust in the engineers, continuous improvement and innovation has ensured significant improvements. Ratan Tata demonstrated great courage to do that which had never been done before.

Bhat further shared his own experience with the audience about life lessons and learning, “Do that which is right for your conscience. I was never asked to do anything incorrect during my stint of 34 years with the Tatas. Never got used to a zone of comfort. From moving from one division, Tata Chemicals to another- Tata Tea and later the jewellery business, I have taken risk and landed up with my good share of success. I have taken a sabbatical to write a book which helped me identify one of my life passions. It takes time to discover what you are passionate about; in my case it was Marketing, Consumer Behavior and writing. Put people first. While one needs to be worried about performance one has to be equally considerate to people. Tata tries the best that it can.”

Bhat took a number of questions about leadership, mindset, sustainability, the pandemic effects, the role of educational institutions, the emerging opportunities, the Tata brand, his distinctive journey with the Tatas and his role as Brand Custodian.

The webinar was moderated by Prof. R Prasad, Director, Academic Wing, ICFAI Group and Prof. Sudhakar Rao, Director – Branding, ICFAI Group.

About 250 participants including entrepreneurs, research scholars, prospective students from various parts of the country participated.