Presenters: Mike Useem
Date: 30 June 2010
American and Indian business leaders preside over demanding worlds. Both bring a vision of where they want to take their enterprise, both are called on to make timely decisions, and both use much the same skill set. But at the same time, American and Indian executives have evolved distinct approaches to their positions—critical leadership distinctions that, in India’s case, have helped the nation’s businesses thrive. As India’s ICICI Bank chief executive K. V. Kamath summed up, “Time and again it has been proved that the Western model of doing business would not be a success here.”
To understand the Indian way of doing business, Michael Useem and three colleagues – Peter Cappelli, Harbir Singh, and Jitendra Singh – studied the country’s largest firms — those that have played a leading role in India’s rapid development. They interviewed those at the top of the pyramid, where the critical decisions of the nation’s most important companies are made. They approached a hundred fifty of the largest publicly listed companies by market capitalization, and secured time with more than one hundred of their executives.
From those interviews and other sources of information, they identified four distinctive Indian business capacities. Bundled together, these principles constitute a distinctive model, and one that contrasts with combinations found in other countries, especially the United States, where the blend is centered more around delivering shareholder value. Indian business leaders as a group place greater stress on social purpose and transcendent mission, and they do so by devoting special attention to surmounting innumerable barriers with creative solutions and a prepared and eager workforce.
Michael Useem is Professor of Management and Director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. His university teaching includes MBA and executive-MBA courses on leadership and change, and he offers programs on leadership, governance, and decision making for managers in the United States, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. He also works on leadership development and governance with many companies and organizations in the private, public and non-profit sectors. He is the author of The Leadership Moment: Nine True Stories of Triumph and Disaster and Their Lessons for Us All; Investor Capitalism: How Money Managers Are Changing the Face of Corporate America; and The Go Point: When It’s Time to Decide. He is also co-author and co-editor of Learning from Catastrophes, and co-author of The India Way: How India’s Top Business Leaders Are Revolutionizing Management.