MG George Muthoot, chairman, The Muthoot Group, has more than 55 years of industry experience and is the 3rd generation head of the group. Muthoot shares his best and worst leadership decisions and talks about other leadership issues with HT. Excerpts:
How do you define a leader?
A leader is someone who influences people towards sustainable achievement of a particular goal. He is someone who provides purpose, direction and motivation while operating to accomplish the mission and improving the efficiency of the team.
What are the three most important traits of a leader?
A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent. A leader has to be fair and consistent with every individual in his organisation and team along with being a great motivator.
As a leader of the Muthoot Group, how do you cultivate leaders?
We constantly communicate our company’s core values – ethics, values, reliability, dependability, trustworthiness, goodwill and integrity, to all our team members. As a company, we have always believed that as the organisation grows, each team member should also grow. For us (company), our team is our main strength.
We consider each team member as a part of the ‘Muthoot Family’ and not as an employee. The management has always appraised the team member for their hard work, solidarity, cooperation and support in making the organisation grow. Infact, we have always advised the team to ‘think that you are the owner of the company’.
Can leadership be learnt? In other words, how can a manager become a leader?
Leadership is infused and created by circumstances, but leadership skills can be learnt. It can be acquired, sharpened and improved upon. As a manager, you are focused on managing and sustaining certain things, but as a leader you are expected to enhance those things through coordination, cooperation and contribution of the team.
What is the role of a professional leader in a promoter-driven company?
The foremost role of a professional leader in a promoter-driven company is to be a powerful communicator. He should always re-build his strategy and leadership as per the current time, style and requirements, yet not forgetting his traditional roots and values. He also has to balance the inherent vision of the promoters with that of the larger goals and objectives of all stakeholders.
Since September 2008, the world has fallen into a maelstrom of serial crises. What is the role of a leader in these times?
I believe that failure to respond to a crisis is a failure of leadership. A leader will always take a crisis situation in a positive spirit, as a crisis is a time for him to prove his mettle and set examples for others.
As the saying goes ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going.’ Crisis is a time when the leader takes tough decisions and travels the path less traversed.
It’s important that a leader demonstrates strong ethical values and commitment during such situations. We have seen our leaders taking tough decisions and re-emphasising the core values we believe in during difficult situations.
That is why our organisation takes great pride in our history of having 126 years of unblemished track record.
What has been the biggest leadership challenge you’ve faced?
‘To work within the varied expectations of a team’ has always been the biggest challenge every leader faces. In today’s competitive scenario this challenge has further enhanced itself, as individual growth is overpowering the collective/corporate growth.
Do you think the role of business leaders has come under cloud --- globally and domestically --- of late?
The growing effect of globalisation has presented new challenges as well as distorted the old. New challenges of sustainable development and corporate governance, mixed with the distortion of fundamental issues such as ethics and values has presented opportunities to distiguish good leaders from the bad.
There are leaders who despite challenging times have maintained their ethics, values, integrity and led their organisation towards success, albeit a bit slower. Unfortunately, these intrinsic values never show up on a corporate report while evaluating performance.
Leaders have to often carry the cross of other’s wrongdoings and inefficiencies, the global banking sector today, for instance. What role can good leadership play to counter balance this image?
A leader is as good as the weakest person in the team. His strength is effectively guaged from the ability of the weakest member. As a leader, one is responsible on different levels while achieving the desired results and should be ready to own the responsibilities of his team as much as he is willing to take the credit for their perfomance.
What would be your one-line leadership mantra?
Rise to the occasion and perform the best you can.
Who are the leaders that have inspired you?
Everyone has a person they consider to be their role-model. A person who inspires them in a deep and profound manner. My inspiration came from my father who still remains my ultimate role model.
What is the biggest leadership lesson that you have learnt?
The biggest leadership lesson I have learnt is to never forego your ethics, values, reliability, dependability, trustworthiness, goodwill and integrity in any situation. Every situation, good or bad, is a learning experience.
What is the best leadership decision you have taken?
The best leadership decisions I have taken are the ones where I don’t take any (active decision) and allow my team to come to their own logical conclusion as to what is best for all stakeholders. I understand my role to be that of an enabler and not one of a solution provider.