of us from IIM-A have an ambition and a winning streak. The question
is, how to achieve the goal? The real world is different from the
world of class rooms. People aspects and dynamics that are part
of every organisation are usually the most important part of management.
At the institute you can discuss real-life examples, debate them,
but at the end of the day, practice is what makes a person perfect.
I believe that your learning in the first three to four years has
a lot to do with whether you will develop necessary skills to be
a true leader. Some of us who did well have these skills or were
conscious that these skills are required and have been able to hit
our goals. My goal when I joined Bank of America as a management
trainee, fresh out of SRCC in Delhi, was that in under 20 years
I should become the CEO of the bank, either in India or in an equivalent
In an organisation, you have to grapple with
complex, unstructured situations, whether they are business related,
process related or people related. Confidence to deal with these
situations is a lot because of one's attitude that says "No
problem, I can do it." That's simply because better institutes
tend to better prepare their students for challenges. That's the
biggest takeaway. The other is how to deal with peer pressure. IIM-A
provides a highly competitive environment and if you have come out
of there strong and with lots of friends, then there is learning.
When you experience peer pressure in any organisation, are you going
to deal with your colleagues as pure competitors or somebody you
need to carry along and make part of your success? It's something
you pick up in an environment like IIM-A's or in a competitive sport.
Is my success also in sharing it? Am I carrying people with me and
becoming a role model? All these are critical issues as you climb
up in your career.
In the past I've found that many IIM-A students
tend to come out with a chip on their shoulders. There are case
studies that show how IIM-A grads tend to be misfits in certain
organisations, largely because while they carry a lot of positive
attributes and a huge amount of competence to make the difference
to an organisation, they tend to be weak on interpersonal aspects
and soft skills. Here, the value system that you pick up at home
and your primary school has a lot to do. I don't think any institute
can teach soft skills. They are learnt and derived from experience.
As businesses get more sophisticated and, therefore,
a lot more complex and integrated, the need for specialisation has
increased. When we go to the institute to recruit, we find that
a lot of the students come out in silos or with a product-oriented
focus, with specific spheres of activity in mind and have already
started building specialised skills and are itching for a fast take-off.
Unfortunately for them, they are losing on the broader perspective
and I hope they are conscious of it and learning on their own. I,
in contrast, started my career as a management generalist and developed
specialisations along the way.
As I look back, I feel that a broad-based perspective
is critical. In the past you could get by being jack of all trades
and master of none. Today you need to be a jack of all trades and
master of some. Otherwise, you end up with a limited perspective