The workplace has changed, and so has the boss!

| Updated on January 28, 2019

Four business leaders offer their perspectives on the shifts in the workplace in the past 25 years and the impact on their leadership styles

All about OPTIC

I see five fundamental shifts – I term this OPTIC.

Office Layout. Offices today are open. CEOs have to be far more visible in open offices and need to walk around the office a lot more. Offices have piped music, brighter lighting... all aids to productivity!

Policies. There’s more diversity today than before. The CEO must embrace policies which s/he didn’t grow up with: youth forums, women’s forums, LGBT forums. Workforce is company rolls plus contract people, sitting next to each other, doing similar work. The ability to treat all of them as equals is a big change. The promise of job security is no longer in the CEO’s hands.

Technology. Technology helps 24/7 access: this is both good and bad. CEOs are on a constant leash, both from internal stakeholders and external stakeholders. The CEO must be responsive and must also know what’s important to get into and what s/he should stay away from. E-mail has also given licence to the ‘bcc culture’, which a CEO should not encourage.

Informality. The workplace is more informal today: language, clothes, meeting structures, mail length, cafeteria arrangements... A CEO role is formal in hierarchy but s/he has to be informal on all other dimensions.

Churn. Twenty five years ago, CEO tenure was 10 years or more; today it is a maximum of four years. Employees get bored after 18 to 24 months in a job. How does a CEO show and practice stability in a world of churn?

D Shivakumar, President, Corporate Strategy & Business Development, Aditya Birla Group


D Shivakumar

President, Corporate Strategy & Business Development, Aditya Birla Group


Turning transparent

The last 25 years have seen an advent of technological innovation and digital disruption leading to a collaborative work environment. It pushes us to go the extra mile and be well-informed. The landscape for leadership has evolved from a predominantly hierarchical system to a more inclusive one. For instance, our communication with employees, consumers and stakeholders are no longer restricted to only focussed forums, but through open social platforms, too. This helps us effectively use technology, be transparent and take insightful feedback. Amidst these, some of the integral qualities that have always shaped a true leader are integrity, commitment, creativity and innovation, and the ability to inspire others.

Manish Sharma, President & CEO , Panasonic India and South Asia


Manish Sharma

President & CEO , Panasonic India and South Asia

Mimicking start-ups

The rapid advent of technology has been the single biggest game-changer, bringing a heap of possibilities once seen in sci-fi movies to reality — like massification of mobile devices, bringing the power of the internet to every household, and making society more inclusive with innovations like digital payments. The shift to cloud services has revolutionised the concept of information exchange and freed users from limitations of traditional software, thus driving productivity and creating room for faster innovation. All this has led to every firm’s focus changing from products to experiences that matter, resonate and stay. In the corporate world, the most inspiring change has been the hunger in organisations (small and big) to embrace the ‘start-up culture’. From a time when conglomerates thrived on legacy and scale, today success is dependent on start-up-like traits, including agility, innovation, creative thinking, growth mindset and people-focussed work cultures. This is a welcome change and reflects my personal leadership style.

Kulmeet Bawa, Managing Director, Adobe South Asia


Kulmeet Bawa

Managing Director, Adobe South Asia

Inclusive and quick

Twenty-five years ago, Netscape went public, heralding the age of the internet. Connectivity and access to information entered a new era. This, along with increased accessibility of domestic and international air travel, transformed the pace of business and life. E-mail took off after 1995, displacing hard-copy letters for the most part. Now, with smartphones, work has become a 24/7 engagement. Twenty-five years ago, discussions would be bunched up for staff meetings or laid out in elaborate memos. Today, e-mail has changed the speed and format of communications — leaders can act on ideas with greater speed. The limitations of place and time have been removed; people can be accessed anywhere, anytime. Ideas can be aired, agreed, acted upon or discarded quickly. More people can be involved efficiently in the decision process. I find this a great advantage: the ability to be both inclusive and quick.

Arun M Kumar, Chairman & CEO, KPMG in India   -  THE HINDU


Arun M Kumar

Chairman & CEO, KPMG in India


Published on January 27, 2019

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