How the Best Indian Companies Drive Performance by Investing in People

by Peter Cappelli, Harbir Singh, Jitendra V. Singh, and Michael Useen. The Harvard Business Review, March 2010.

Practices associated with effective leadership vary across cultures. This piece from the Harvard Business Review highlights the ways leaders of highly-regarded Indian companies focus their energies. The findings are based on interviews of 105 leaders from 98 of the largest Indian-based companies, such as Tata, Reliance, Aventis, and Infosys. Unlike Western CEOs who often claim that cleverness at the top is a key determinant of success, Indian leaders point to the motivation of their people.

The authors also find that Indian business leaders emphasise the social mission of their work. They report that Indian business leaders regard Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a key part of social mission and employee motivation. Their research indicates that CSR is more meaningful in the Indian context than in the West. Achieving CSR targets is monitored regularly by 40% of Indian companies while only 17% of US companies report regularly paying attention to this goal.

Investing in people and mission may have pragmatic roots. CSR might be a means to grease the wheels with government in India. Investing in human capital may be a way to combat high levels of employee turnover facing big Indian corporations. Over the past five years, Indian leaders began spending more time on internal issues. Consequently, Indian companies tend to invest heavily in employee training and responsibility. One successful Indian CEO when asked to define his legacy responded: “That I have destroyed the office of the CEO.” He aims to invert the organisation so that the top is accountable to the bottom.

Even if you are not planning or hoping for anything so radical, this article usefully probes fixed notions of effective leadership.

To order the article see: hbr.org/2010/03/leadership-lessonsfrom-india/ar/1

One Response to How the Best Indian Companies Drive Performance by Investing in People

  1. Alternative approaches

    What are the alternative approaches to the motivation of employees – investing in people through CSR.
    Engagement in strategic analysis and planning activities, democratic structures?

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