Be curious, spend time on important stuff, says Ericsson CEO Vestberg

Hans Vestberg, President and CEO, Ericcson, with ISB students after his talk on Business transformation in the Networked Society at the Indian School of Business, on Thursday.

Ericsson President and CEO Hans Vestberg

Hyderabad, Sept 4

He took exactly 40 minutes like a professor generally does in a typical classroom. But perhaps, it was one of the best classes that the ISB grads ever had in recent times.

About 500 students listened with rapt attention at the ISB (Indian School of Business) auditorium, with a few hundred more remotely joining, as Ericsson President and CEO Hans Vestberg talked eloquently on technological revolution, transformation of the Swedish firm, leadership challenges, diversity in workforce and his exploits in sports.

Laced with jokes and anecdotes, his talk on the Networked Society gave a peek view on the rapid changes the technological industry has been witnessing in the past two decades. He also spoke on the connected world and how it is going to change the way we live and the way businesses conduct their business.

The future business leaders and entrepreneurs got a lesson or two from Hans on leadership. “It’s not easy to be a leader. Leading people is a difficult thing,” he cautions.

Hans leads a team of 1.18 lakh employees serving customers in 180 countries.

“About 40 per cent of mobile traffic runs through networks Ericsson supplied. Over 100 crore telecom subscribers relied on the networks we supplied,” he said.

The Stockholm-headquartered firm has 37,000 granted patents to its credit.

Importance of diversity

How is he able to manage such a big business with so many people from different nationalities?

While empowering the teams at different levels and different countries, “I tried to understand what I stand for,” he said.

Hans worked for the 139-year-old in seven countries in three continents, taking care of different aspects of the business as he rose to the top in the leadership team.

“Diversity in leadership and in workforce is the most important thing to make the organisation a successful one. The leadership must be adaptive to changes and needs,” Hans points out.

From its inception in 1876 till 2008, the behemoth had all leaders who hailed from Sweden, all based there and with only one woman working in the leadership team. “We have decided to change this and bring in diversity. By 2020, we want to have 30 per cent women in our workforce. In 2014, it was 22 per cent,” he said.

“As of now, there are six non-Swedish leaders and five women in the team,” he says.

Tips for leadership

He asks the business and management grads to be always curious in what they do. “You must be curious. Leadership is a profession. You must spend time on the important stuff. Spend time on what matters. Time management is very crucial,” he advises.

With mobile penetration covering a majority of the habitations, the world is on the cusp of the fifth technological revolution.

“We are at the inflection point of another technological revolution. While the other tech revolutions took a century or a few decades, this present revolution is happening now, impacting our lives, businesses and society,” he observes.

Meanwhile, in company-specific news, he announced that Ericsson will double the number of employees to 40,000 in the next five years.

Published on September 04, 2015

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