Averages can hide more than they reveal; generalisations tend to gloss over deeper issues. Yet, it would be safe to say that the typical Indian manager is resourceful, not daunted by challenges and carries the 'can-do' spirit. We've all heard stories of how the Indian manager can find a way out of a resource crunch, a sudden downturn or a mid-term change of plans. The story of the Indian 'jugaad' — reaching goals despite the hurdles — shines as much in corporate hierarchy as it does in everyday life.
In celebrating all this, we cannot forget that the traits flow from the environment that brings us our managers. From our early years, we have been accustomed to negotiating queues and a sense of rush to bag scarce opportunities in the world around us. We see and grow on the message that opportunity is limited, that there are others waiting to take it and that only the very best will make the cut and fly away to a life of success and achievement. Others, it follows, will fall by the way side with limited avenues to build on.
Given these experiences, we are used to pushing the limit to get that seat, to book that ticket, to reach that destination. This struggle through our lives, shapes and conditions us. The typical Indian manager's resourcefulness is merely a reflection of this.
But a life of chasing limited resources can tend to bring with it an individualistic streak rather than the collaboration and teamwork that is often needed in today's networked organisations. Given his or her experience, an Indian manager also tends to have less faith in processes and systems, believing that individual effort can override the limitations of a larger, organised and process-driven work ethic.
The question we need to ask is where does this leave the Indian manager in the emerging business environment? This is an increasingly uncertain environment. Global business will have to deal with volatility, unpredictability and change all the time. The value of currencies as well as the mood of consumers can change fast. In this scenario, the Indian manager with his or her resourcefulness, can do spirit and ability to deal with uncertainty will clearly be in demand and best placed to drive organisations though the shifting landscape.
And if you add a little more --- team skills and a respect for processes and systems --- you'll find that Indian managers will be uniquely placed to deliver performance in the volatile and rapidly changing global environment.
The author is CEO and managing director, Hindustan Unilever Ltd.