Arun Sawhney, chief executive officer and managing director, Ranbaxy Laboratories, has over three decades of international experience in the chemical and pharmaceutical arena. He says a leader has an exceptional eye for talent or the one who succeeds in creating conducive work environment, and infuses team spirit around. He spoke to HT about various aspects of leadership. Excerpts.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership is a position with a lot of ethical and organisational responsibilities. A leader is the one who shows the world ways to lead. A leader must be a benchmark, an inspiration for others.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
I really look up to Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy (JRD) Tata. He is my role model. JRD Tata had an excellent eye for talent. Each of the Tata company has been built by individuals handpicked by him. He was the one who operated the company on values and principles and never compromised on ethics.
What is your leadership mantra? What is the most important trait a leader must have?
The rule is to be transparent, inclusive and be a team man. I try to reach out to my colleagues and co-workers because a leader must not only take responsibility of decision-making, but also create organisations with widespread knowledge, so people can work together to build values and develop the business.
We have heard rapidly about the rising cacophony against the FDA-tainted Ranbaxy. What is the role of leader in times of such crisis?
My fundamental is to remain composed and maintain self conduct. A leader should not get swayed or should not be misguided. He should walk the crisis while taking his people along. Difficult time is like a storm, a leader should behave like a strong tree, which can bend a little but would not fall.
Ranbaxy in the eyes of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is certainly at fault. What was the reaction of your Japanese parent, Daiichi Sankyo, the owner of Ranbaxy Laboratories?
They have entrusted a lot of trust and faith in the leadership at Ranbaxy India. They would be happy to provide us help and guidance, but essentially they let us decide our course of action. Daiichi knows the rich culture and ethical leadership we follow here.
Are you open to criticism? Do you think a leader should allow others to gauge his weaknesses?
Absolutely. After all a leader is also a human. Leadership is very much open to criticism. Criticism takes one to the path of correction and construction. A person who follows ethics and responsibilities will never be scared of criticism. It's important to listen to comments and opinions of co-workers. Then, one can decide on priorities according to one's conscience and competence.
Does a great team makes a great leader or is it that a great leader makes a great team?
Sharing and respecting others' opinions are fundamental teamwork values. Just like any team sport, I believe that a leader is as good as his team. To become a great leader, it is in his interest to create a prodigious team by demonstrating fortitude, insight, probity and selflessness. A leader and his team reflect similar values and virtues.
Do you believe that a bad economy tests leadership qualities?
The ability to convert adversity and despondency into opportunity and hope is the hallmark of a leader. A leader is evaluated equally in both days of boom and gloom. Expectations of stakeholders are high during both environments. It's just that he or she is critiqued more during tougher times. A bad economy tests a leader's conviction and prepares him for greater times. Leadership is about having a vision and inspiring a team to reach that vision. Being clear of what you want, makes one a leader.
Does the organisation play a crucial role in shaping leadership style?
Being clear on what is needed by the organisation is most beneficial. Your set of values and perspectives should be moulded in accordance to the needs of the organisation. The success of the organisation depends upon planning and execution. A leader should have clarity about the company's objectives, brand positioning, innovation and responsibilities, which essentially make a brand successful.