In the contemporary society, leadership is no more the prerogative of a select few deciding the fate of a few others in exclusivity. Neither is it about building organizations with a handful of similarly dispositioned people. Today, as the world ushers in the hyper-digital age, the indispensability of engaging talent of diverse kinds is felt greater with each passing day. Close to the heels of this, comes the raging debate questioning the difference between equality and diversity and the role of leaders in it.
In a bid to find the answers to these and much more, the Vinod Gupta School of Management at IIT Kharagpur, as a part of Purvodaya 2018 - the Annual Business Fest of the Institute, organized its flagship event ‘Leadership Summit 2018’ on the 3rd of February, 2018. The topic for this year’s edition was ‘Leadership, Diversity, and Equality - How We Walk The Talk’.
The summit started with an ice-breaking session which was eventually eased into the more intense topic of diversity and inclusion by Mr. Rajiv Satyal, the moderator, who is a comedian, speaker, and host of international repute. Adding a tinge of humour, he manoeuvred the discussion around the topic with great effectiveness.
The panel included Ms. Richa Singh, CEO, Philips Healthcare@home, who underlined that the key role of a leader was to be inclusive. She mentioned that diversity isn’t only represented by differences in race, caste, and colour but also represented by differences in educational backgrounds. In her words, the biggest challenge of a leader lay in finding the perfect balance between contrasting opinions all the while making the people feel at home.
With a sense of humour rivalling Mr. Satyal’s, Mr. Amit Saha, Chief Sustainability Officer, Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd., brilliantly put forth his views on the lesser known aspects of diversity such as ‘Unconscious Bias’. He gave practical examples of how diversity is an asset, by introducing the audience to the new world idea of ethnic and regional research for new market penetration. According to him, successful multinational companies are those that employ a varied workforce and make use of their diversity, to thrive in different markets worldwide.
Mr. Priyabrata Sarangi, the Chief Information Officer, Exide Industries, highlighted how diversity within an organization contributes immensely towards achieving technological transformation within it. Talking about how diversity has found its way to success, he iterated the examples of the many people who have risen to glory despite coming from humble backgrounds.
Mr. Yogesh Mathur, Group CFO, and President, Moser Baer India Ltd., stressed upon the need to understand the interests of different people to decode the diversity that they represent. In order to understand interests better, leaders must first understand the positions of different people, followed by understanding their perceptions.
Mr. Ashok Cherian, CIO, Emami Agrotech Ltd. defined himself as a practical person. He stated that the best investment one can make for oneself, is to come out of their comfort zone that would be best suited for a diverse environment. His views on ways to quantify leadership was as practical as himself. He said that organizations who celebrate diversity and inclusion grow better. On the matter of achieving this utopian idea, he said, “Global companies have matured in this respect, while Indian companies still have a long way to go.”
Ultimately, the Leadership Summit 2018 hit the endnote with a healthy dose of laughter courtesy the moderator for the day, Mr. Rajiv Satyal, who at the end unleashed his talent, which left the audience in raptures.