30 June 2016 10:33:59 IST

The means — and the end

Gaurav and Payal had their own leadership styles, but one style trumped the other

The two of them were a study in contrasts.

He believed in taking no prisoners and winning at any cost. She believed that means mattered as much as the end.

He believed that life was all about free will. She believed life was part destiny and part free will. He saw her as a competitor. She saw him as a colleague.

He was highly driven: an alumnus of IIT Delhi and IIM Ahmedabad. He considered himself the crème-del-a-crème. She was equally driven: an alumnus of Jodhpur National University and FMS, Delhi. She had no pretensions about her academic pedigree.

Gaurav and Payal were both assistant vice presidents (AVPs) heading different business development groups in India’s largest telecom software company. Both reported into Rakesh Mohanty, the Chief Operating Officer.

Annual reviews were coming up and Mohanty had already announced that he would soon promote someone from within to be the VP of Business Development.

Highly driven

Gaurav had joined the company three years ago, one year after Payal came onboard. During this period, he exceeded his targets every year and was rated as ‘Best Performer’ for the last two consecutive years.

Every year, he and his team made the maximum bonuses. He was known to be ruthless with himself and believed that it bestowed on him the right to push his team to the extremes. His favourite quote was from General Patton: ‘Anyone in any walk of life who is content with mediocrity is untrue to himself.’

Whenever a team member was found to be slipping up, he would first make an example of them. Then, he would then step in, take over their task and ensure its success. Failure was not an option for him.

Some of his best managers had resigned in the last two years. Gaurav, on his part, branded them as ‘ungrateful and self-serving people’, totally lacking in commitment. He was also proud of the fact that in spite of this attrition, he had always met his numbers.

Team comes first

Payal had been rated best performer twice during her last four years.

There was also that one year, when she and her team achieved just 90 per cent of their targets. But that was not to say that she was soft on her team. She let them know that they, as a team, could have read the market signals better and made appropriate course corrections.

Payal had her share of attrition within her team, but these were mostly with the lower rungs — people with two to three years’ experience. Her managers stayed with her for longer periods. She was of the firm belief that it was the motivated managers who were the real bedrock of any organisation. They were the ones who would continuously convert fresh talent into productive, and engage assets for the company.

Her favourite quote was that of Eliza Doolittle: “The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated.”

Commitment was never something Payal unilaterally demanded from her team because she knew that commitment was reciprocated.

Day of reckoning

Finally, the moment of reckoning arrived for Mohanty. Hard choices had to be made and announced. As the VP level was a leadership position, Mohanty had to get the MD and the Board’s approval as well. Presentations were made, discussions held and finally, the decision arrived at.

Payal was promoted as the new VP-Business Development.

Gaurav immediately sought a meeting with the MD — he no longer trusted Mohanty.

“You know how I have been performing, sir. I have done better better than Payal on every parameter. I knew all along that Mohanty was biased, but I had more faith in you,” said Gaurav.

“I don’t want to go into all the details of how this decision was made, Gaurav. But I can assure you that the Board and I examined all aspects before deciding the name. And I know we made the right decision,” the MD replied.

Gaurav sensed the door being shut on him and gave it a last shot. “Okay, sir. But can you give me one reason as to why she scored over me?”

“Sure, Gaurav. In fact, this one aspect of her style of management is something the Board and I learnt for ourselves.”

He continued, “It’s all about how we treat our subordinates when they fail us. If we treat them badly and humiliate them, they leave our room swearing ‘at’ us. They become dysfunctional and later, leave the company.

“If we treat them with dignity when they fail us, they leave the room swearing ‘by’ us. They make a promise to themselves never to let the organisation or us down ever again. This is what builds great teams and great organisations. I am sure you can clearly see the difference between Payal and you.”

Gaurav resigned the next day. He changed seven jobs in the next nine years.

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