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Amrutha Penumudi, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, December 17, 2012
In 2011, when Mahendra Singh Dhoni led Team India to the ultimate cricketing glory last year — World Cup victory — he was hailed by all as one of India’s greatest captains. He was praised for how he kept his cool and led from the front. However, after Team India’s back-to-back losses in the test series against England, everyone started calling for the captain’s head. Even as a nationwide debate goes on over whether the 31-year-old should step down, we ask people who manage teams in corporate establishments what it takes to be a leader in times of crisis.

Play by your own rules
“A crisis isn’t caused by inefficiency as often as it is caused by a mismatch in ideologies, or not being on the same page. However, it is important to not become a doormat for others to stamp on,” says Devraj Sanyal,  managing director for Universal Music (Greater India). After leading several companies to success and managing a number of teams, he is convinced that the one thing he has learnt over the years is to never bow down to unnecessary expectations. “Play the game by your own rules, work with honesty; and at the end of the day, go with your gut feeling,” he says.

Earn your team’s trust
A team that knows their boss will stand up for them in times of trouble goes out of its way to perform.  So it’s of utmost importance to earn their trust. Ashish Saxena, COO, Big Cinemas, Mumbai, says, “It’s important to win the team’s trust. Keep no secrets from your team. They must know when there is a problem, because that’s when you need all the help you can get. The final call will be yours, as the head, but their inputs are indispensable — never forget that.” About a leader’s responsibility, Sanyal adds, “If my team does well, they get all the credit. If they falter, the blame is on me.”

Friend or boss?
While it always helps to be friends with your colleagues, it is important to always put work first. How does one draw the line between friendship and professionalism? “Friendship cannot be at the expense of work. You must be there for them as a friend, but you also need to have a certain amount of command, so that the friendship never gets in the way of work,” says Saxena. Do friends take their boss for granted? “Never. We stop being friends before we enter office at 9.30 every morning, and then it is renewed post work,” says Sanyal.