Perspectives on Leadership and Entrepreneurship from Ram Charan
World-renowned consultant, author and speaker Ram Charan has made an extraordinary life journey, from working in the family shoe shop in a small town in northern India to an engineering degree then a job in Australian mines followed by an MBA and doctorate from Harvard Business School, from where he graduated with high distinction. He was then a member of faculty at Harvard Business School and Northwestern University before becoming a full-time consultant.
SPEAKING.COM: Do you have any advice for first-time leaders and entrepreneurs as they start their journey?
CHARAN: The most critical thing for a start-up is defining your goals and what you want to accomplish. You can seek help where you need it, but stay focused on your goals. Being resilient in the face of obstacles will get you there.
SPEAKING.COM: What does being a good leader mean to you, personally?
CHARAN: The question of good leadership has been debated for centuries. There is no standard answer. A leader who finds the right fit at the right time has a better chance of success. At the end of the day, there are a number of things most successful leaders do. The most important is selecting the right people and getting them to realize their potential so that they can deliver results.
SPEAKING.COM: What type of capabilities must leaders possess in order to effectively lead?
CHARAN: I think leading effectively is a game of very wide bandwidth; it depends on context and circumstances. Learning is the most critical capability. You learn from experience and from others; then you translate what you have learned into action.
SPEAKING.COM: No business can maintain steady growth at all times. What are some tips to help organizations endure uncertain economic times?
CHARAN: Organizations need to be in tune with external change, they should develop methodologies to see early warning signals and adapt. Adaptation is the key to surviving and thriving. Rigidity is the prescription for failure.
SPEAKING.COM: Are there ways an organization can turn an economic downturn to their advantage?
CHARAN: Economic downturns offer opportunities, if you can read the messages in them. Look at what has caused the downturn. Look for signals that the downturn is ending or shifting. And you will find useful information that can very likely be turned into opportunity.
SPEAKING.COM: Are you saying that you should predict what is going to come after the downturn?
CHARAN: No. Leaders first need to see what forces are causing the downturn. It is in those forces that opportunities lie.
SPEAKING.COM: What are the building blocks of innovation and how can they be taught?
CHARAN: There is a difference between invention and innovation. Invention is the generation of an idea, while innovation is the conversion of an idea into something that the consumer wants or needs and that the company can earn profit from. Innovation is a team sport. Build a team, develop a repeatable profit, learn from it, and over time, you will win. Innovation is not some big gadget every time. It’s perspiration. It’s a social process. You have to have a team that can work, engage and innovate. It’s a team effort.
To bring Ram Charan to your organization to inspire excellence in your business, please contact Michael Frick at: Mike@Speaking.com.
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