Arup Roy Choudhury is the chairman and managing director of India’s largest and one of the world’s best power companies, NTPC Ltd. He has the distinction of becoming the youngest CEO of a Central Public Sector Enterprise (CPSE) at the age of 44 when he joined as CMD, National Buildings Construction Corporation Ltd (NBCC) in 2001. His vision and leadership transformed NBCC from a sick company with negative net worth and salary back log in 2001, into a blue-chip enterprise. In an interview with HT, he says a leader aligns the personal goals of each individual in his team to the corporate or group goal and assigns measurable and achievable milestones and gets them evaluated against predefined targets. Edited excerpts:
How do you define a leader?
A leader has to be a visionary. There are hordes of people who can see the next, that is, the second milestone but a leader would be able to see the milestone beyond that and see right through to the destination.
As a leader of your group, how do you cultivate leaders?
A leader aligns the personal goals of each individual in his team to the corporate or group goal and assigns measurable and achievable milestones and gets them evaluated against predefined targets. In order to groom leaders, it is important to tell the executives that they have been selected and not elected. Otherwise, they would lose clarity and focus in decision making.
Can leadership be learnt? How can a manager be a leader?
Leadership has to be learnt. It is not part of one’s genetic code. Otherwise, we would have children of all corporate leaders as good business leaders. Ifyou look around you, will notice many family-driven companies have disintegrated by the time the third generation took over the mantle. It is true that if one has some genetic traits or character traits which go with leadership roles, it is easier for these individuals to adapt to a leadership role. But growing as a leader is a continuous learning process and one has to keep all senses open.
What is the role of a professional leader in a government promoted company?
Government promoted companies are run by excellent professional leaders and, in fact, many private companies are run by business leaders who have joined them from the government fold. The role of a professional leader in a government company is to demonstrate that it is possible to acquire business excellence and competitiveness while complying with the elaborate set of norms and rules under which they perform. In a government company you cannot lay people off and so it is important to get the best out of everyone in the team with an effective strategy customised for each team member.
What has been the biggest leadership challenge you’ve faced?
The biggest leadership challenge was when I was made CEO of an organisation which had not been paying salaries for over six months, had nine unions to foment trouble among already disgruntled groups of employees. It was a government company so it was also not possible to give any pink slips or layoff any people. To lead it into making it a profitable and dividend-paying listed company was the biggest challenge.