An inspiring experiment by two remarkable young men is finding resonance among youth today. Mathew Cherian and Tushar Vashisht, both 26 years old, are attempting to experience the constraints of living on India’s average monthly income by subsisting on just 100 rupees ($ 2.00) a day for a month. They took the journey even further last week by cutting their expenses to just 32 rupees (65 cents) a day – India’s official poverty line.
Mathew, a computer science graduate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Tushar, a former investment banker with Deutsche Bank in San Francisco and Singapore, decided to live the challenge rather than just study it. “We wanted to appreciate life at the grassroots in India better,” they said. Their Rs 100 a day blog and Facebook page, where they report on their experiment, have been flooded by appreciation, respect and praise.
Think about it. This is the way of today’s generation: they dig into the heart of the problem instead of waiting idly by for somebody else to fix it. So as we navigate new economic waters, how do we “teach” our young employees about the problems that are facing business? The answer is: we don’t. We do allow them to imbibe the learning by immersing themselves in the experience. We also allow them to face and rise above the business challenges in all their complexity and dimensions.
This “bring it on” attitude of today’s youth fits into the philosophy of Employee First Customer Second (EFCS) and can be attributed to its early success.
EFCS is now moving into version 2.0, where what was driven by management and merely embraced by employees is now driven by the employees themselves. Earlier, the role of management focused on enabling, enthusing and encouraging employees in the value zone to create differentiated value. But as the young employees begin to change, it is imperative to instill entrepreneurship in this next generation of leaders so they have the confidence to create a high growth, high performance culture.
As Ernst & Young concluded in its recent study Nature or nurture: Decoding the entrepreneur, entrepreneurial leaders are made, not born. I agree with their findings and believe that there are two parts to cultivating these leaders’ success.
The first is to nurture their entrepreneurship skills. This begins by providing an opportunity to absorb the necessary organizational skills and technical expertise early in school. HCL is partnering with colleges and universities to incorporate business values that align with our philosophy into their existing curriculum’s. Because we are committed to hiring from these institutions, these students form a potent talent pool of future leaders.
The next stage in cultivating leadership is empowerment. Over the years, we have created a journey of experiments that empower teams and employees to learn and grow by self-initiative and by creating unique value for customers. Every step along the way has strengthened our belief that we are on the right path.
EFCS 2.0 is a logical sequence that involves a handing over of the baton. Therefore, it also implies leadership. And leadership is an increasingly complex and multifaceted term. As Harvard Business School Professor Das Narayandas points out: “You can lead at so many levels…It’s just not a question of leading a small team. It’s about leadership in ideas, in actions.”
In our organisation, we are witnessing leadership working at every level. As young employees at the grassroots experience the challenges facing the organisation, they come up with solutions that display leadership in teams, firm, industry, and even society.
As we nurture and empower this next generation leaders, they display the courage, conviction and competence to convert every looming threat into an opportunity. What to us is a management philosophy becomes a way of life to hundreds, thousands, even millions of transformers.
Following in the footsteps of Matthew and Tushar, it is my sincere wish that young people everywhere continue to passionately look for ways to push the envelope and themselves and illuminate the way forward.
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