A visionary economist who failed to deliver. Manmohan Singh's tenure is a lesson for corporate India, say brand gurus.
In the aftermath of their decimation, several Congress leaders - especially the Gandhi family - have been asked to take responsibility for the party's worst ever performance. And yet, a large chunk of the blame, believe some leaders, lies with outgoing PM Manmohan Singh. Two days ago, Kamal Nath faulted Dr Singh for being uncommunicative, saying, while lack of communication was at the root of the government's problems, the PM's silence made it worse.
Management experts agree. Here, they chalk out lessons young leaders in corporate jobs can learn from how the PM managed his affairs.
BE AND ACT AS LEADER. Head of a brand management firm, Suhel Seth says, "When you are in a position of power, you must be accountable. The PM was seen as the man in the office, but not in power." This, he argues, compromised his credibility.
Bangalore-based brand consultant Harish Bijoor says that Singh was seen as part of a dual power centre. This made it worse. "Sonia Gandhi was viewed as the doer, while Singh was only holding the front. That isn't how leadership works. People need to know that their leader can achieve, what needs to be achieved."
COMMUNICATE, WITH EVERYONE. Bijoor says it's imperative that managers and leaders communicate with their stakeholders. "In the case of the PM, the stakeholders fell into two categories: within the party, i.e. the Congress leaders and its allies, and outside the party i.e. the citizens. There was no communication with either," he adds. When heading an organisation, communicate with everyone from the board of directors to the worker on the shop floor.
Silence is hardly golden, especially in times of crisis or when your and the firm's reputation is under threat. Not talking, says Seth, makes it seem like you have something to hide.
DEMONSTRATE BY SETTING EXAMPLES. When someone falls out of line, you need to pull them back. In the PM's case, it first took the Supreme Court and then the CBI to arrest the former telecom minister alleged to have played a role in the 2G spectrum scam, A Raja. "Why leave it to external agencies to act? Indecisiveness is the hallmark of a wimp, not a leader," adds Seth.
DON'T DO SOMEONE'S DIRTY WORK FOR THEM. Seth says that the PM allowed the Gandhis to mess up his legacy. "He ended up ridiculed; he didn't deserve it. This also affected the station of the PM's post. Not even dolts like Deve Gowda were able to ruin the position of his office. A leader must maintain the strength and character of his institute," he adds.
ADMIT YOU GOOFED UP. IT'S GRACEFUL. A leader, says Seth, takes the rap first. "You can't say, I didn't do it therefore I don't have anything to do with it, and put the blame on others. Ignorance is not the virtue of leaders. Great managers are known for taking a stand. You may end up being wrong, but you will still be appreciated for it."
PERCEPTION MANAGEMENT IS YOUR JOB. Congress candidate from North Goa, Ravi Naik, on Tuesday blamed Singh for the party's debacle, saying he failed to project achievements of the UPA government before the people. Radhakrishna Pillai, author of Corporate Chanakya, agrees. Citing the example of late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, he adds, "Jobs was not just a great innovator but also good at marketing his product. The iPhone is something everyone talks about and wants. The PM, could have also marketed the achievements of his government better." Perception management, adds Pillai, is the CEO's job. "When there is a crisis at hand, like say the Adarsh scam or a Coalgate, it's the leader's job to step out for damage control. The PM, as CEO of the government, should have called a press conference immediately. Taking ownership sends out a positive message."
DON'T GET INSULAR. Often, managers get caught up with their persona and forget the outside world. The PM shouldn't have depended on ministers to understand what's happening at grassroot levels, says Bijoor. "As per the old structure of management, you'd have to follow protocol. You couldn't ask a junior staffer for certain information; you'd have to go through the vice-president. But in our times, you can say, 'to hell with that'. Jump the barricades and see what the voter wants," he says. Rahul Gandhi tried it occasionally but Bijoor feels it was incidental. "It should have been a process. For instance, CMs in some states hold lok adalats every week to allow the common man to discuss his issues. As a manager, adopt this principle. Allow your staff to speak to you freely," Bijoor says.
DON'T JUSTIFY WHAT'S NOT UP TO THE MARK. You can't justify poor GDP with 'economies world over are doing badly'. "Instead, if you say you'll fight the global to make the local happen, you'll generate confidence," Bijoor says.