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HindustanTimes Fri,29 Aug 2014

'A leader must be quick on his feet'

Gaurav Choudhury, Hindustan Times   December 19, 2012
First Published: 23:07 IST(19/12/2012) | Last Updated: 23:12 IST(19/12/2012)

Sunil Godhwani, chairman and managing director, has been the driving force behind Religare Enterprises, transforming the firm from a mono line broking-led business to a one-stop shop financial services major offering insurance, wealth management, mutual fund, and loans to small firms. Under his leadership, Religare has seen its revenues climb 10-fold in the last five years to nearly Rs. 3,200 cr in 2011-12. Godhwani tells HT that a true leader must have the humility to accept and change a wrong decision. Excerpts.

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What are the key leadership qualities one needs to build in an organisation?
A leader must have clarity and vision and have the passion and perseverance to back that vision. A leader should also have the ability to pick the right talent so that the team he/she builds is able to successfully execute the vision. Above all, a leader needs to be quick on his feet in these uncertain times and must have the humility to accept and change wrong or incorrect decisions, if any.

What is the best leadership decision that you have taken so far - listing the company or diversification?
Both in their own right have been decisions that have contributed to the growth and success of the Religare Franchise. The listing of the holding company Religare Enterprises Ltd (REL) way back in 2007 met with good success with the initial public offering (IPO) being oversubscribed a record 161 times.

That is a history of sorts. It was also a true recognition of our model by the external world early in our evolution. What followed in a planned manner was then the diversification from a largely mono line broking-led business to a multi asset integrated financial services group.

What is your vision for the group?
At Religare, we are committed to our vision of creating a superlative platform for all our stakeholders namely customers, employees and shareholders, and build an all-encompassing one-stop shop for integrated financial services. Banking is clearly on our radar. If it happens, well and good. But if it doesn't, we will continue to focus and build on what we are doing currently.

What is your leadership mantra?
Develop a deep and wide management team that is completely aligned with your vision and goals. A team that is highly motivated, empowered and happy doing what they are doing, is a team that will be able to deliver seamlessly. One should focus on helping them and enabling them to be successful and they will in turn help the organisation succeed. Most importantly it is very critical to create a culture of teamwork and not that of "individual heroes".

Can leadership be taught?
As they say, leaders are often born and not made. Having said that, we have to create the right environment for leaders to be made and grown. Education, grooming and training play a vital role in honing certain skills already exhibited by leaders or a potential leader. We as leaders should have the skills to spot and identify "tomorrow's leaders".

As a leader, are you consensus builder?
While my primary objective is to set goals and direction for my company, I believe it is necessary to build a consensus. When we debate about a particular move, we very clearly know the merits and de-merits of that decision and its likely implications. When we discuss it threadbare, we get opinion of other leaders on board. To that extent, delivery of that objective or the action needed to start a process becomes easier.

Name the two non-business leaders you admire the most?
Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa.

Since September 2008, the world has fallen into a maelstrom of serial crises. What is the role of a leader in these times?
One of the reasons why the world fell into this maelstrom is that a small minority of heads of companies thought they were great leaders and got carried away. This made them far removed from ground realities. One can get into such a situation, when people close themselves from the dynamics of a the real world, which is evolving constantly. It is absolutely essential for a leader to be conscious of such situations, for you would never realise when you have fallen of the cliff.

Leaders have to often carry the cross of other's wrong doings and inefficiencies, the global banking sector today, for instance. What role can good leadership play to counter balance this image?
I do not agree with such generalisations. Leadership, in the final analysis, is a very individual trait. If we look across history and also the contemporary world, there are certain individuals who stand out in each sector as universally acknowledged leaders.


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