Mr. Chandan’s talk on Leadership Qualities 

There is a famous saying that some are born great, others achieve greatness and upon some greatness is thrust upon. I can say the same about a leader. You can be born as a leader like someone born in a royal family, or you can groom yourself to become a leader by following sound principles of leadership, or you may be lucky to get drawn into such circumstances as to become a leader.
Let’s see what our great epic Bhagvadgita says about a Bhakta

“He who is free from malice towards all beings, friendly and compassionate, rid of’ I ‘ and ‘Mine’, balanced in joy and sorrow, forgiving by nature ..., and has a firm resolve    
- that devotee is dear to Me.”
                                Bhagvadgita, Chapter XII, Text 13-14

The same is true about a great leader. Any person with these traits can win the heart of even God the Almighty. Ideally speaking, such a person should also win the hearts of his team mates. But winning over human beings is far more difficult because human brain is a very complex machine and every human being a different individual. To lead such a diverse combination of human beings, a leader has to muster a number of additional skills.

 First of all, one should have the capability of learning from the past experiences. Only then one can create a vision for the future. This again can not be achieved in isolation. One has to first build a team of dedicated persons who have the skills of performance as well. But to win them over and for them to accept you as their leader, you have to set an example and demonstrate your skills, both of performance and leadership. In this context, I would like to quote Henry Ford who was fond of saying “Coming together is beginning, keeping together is progress and working together is success.” Once your ideas succeed, you have taken the first step forward in becoming a natural leader.

 My past experience as head of various organisations tells me that the mool mantra of success is: bringing together every one with compassion and without a whiff of superiority. This inculcates a sense of belonging, tremendous self confidence and, above all, a thrill of challenge among colleagues. The person who infuses the thrill of challenge is the real leader capable of leading his team with elan.

 Those who believe in status quo or look for the alibis of precedents, can never be leaders. Recourse to this excuse is taken only by those who are, either, not willing to take responsibility or who get intimidated by taking on responsibility. They are, unfortunately, not aware of the joys of owning and accomplishing a responsibility.

 Let’s remember that there are any number of complex responsibilities which the leader has to carry all by himself These can’t be shared with colleagues for a variety of reasons. He is, thus, all alone - separated from the peers with no one to consult or confide in. Many a time, in such situations, he runs the risk of going wrong. Instead of getting scared and searching for a scapegoat, a successful leader takes the blame upon himself.

Leadership is a trait which is acquired, not gifted or inherited. Everyone can acquire these traits to certain extent. The more one tries, the better and better one becomes. Just as an uncut diamond can be given the desired shape, a person endowed with a strong zeal, a mission and a firm determination to go ahead and lead as essential ingredients can become a leade. Other ingredients are: diligence, perseverance and commitment. Dale Carnegie used to say, “I know men in the ranks who will not stay in the ranks. Why? Because they have the ability to get things done and want to go ahead.”

Every one wants to succeed and be a leader. There are examples galore of those who want to lead from the back. But only a few lead from the front. That makes all the difference. Here, one has to set examples, howsoever daunting or challenging the task may be, or howsoever hostile the environments may be. He has to forget about personal inconveniences and hardships. For this, the leader needs mental toughness and resilience, for no one can lead without being criticized or without facing discouragement.

Trust in colleagues and followers is yet another sterling quality of a leader. Instead of leaning on figures and charts, often manipulated by vested interests, a true leader would rather trust his colleagues who are invariably faithful to their leader because of the trust reposed by him. On the strength of this trust, a leader never vacillates in delegating powers along with responsibilities to his colleagues. And, for a well accomplished job, he is magnanimous enough to give the credit in public. While dealing with your staff, criticize in private, but shower praise in public.

Concerned with the well-being and prospects of his colleagues, the real leader is sensitive to their needs and treats them with compassion. He empowers them, motivates them and provides a truly congenial environment so that they, too, can blossom. In fact, he grooms them to become leaders. He always promotes people from within rather than searching for them outside the organization. This requires a firm resolve to get rid of’ I ‘ and freedom from malice. Use the word ‘we’ as often as possible. 

It’s tough enough to succeed and become a leader, but it requires monumental efforts to retain that position. A leader should, therefore, continuously do his own critical appraisal to fathom his courage to forge ahead into new territory despite detractors’ criticism, his potential of earning respect from colleagues and finally, his intellectual integrity.

Let me sum up my observations by quoting Bhagvadgita once again:

“He who is alike to friend and foe, as well as to the honour and ignominy, who remains balanced in heat and cold, pleasure and pain and other contrary experiences   , who takes praise and reproach alike    - that person is dear to Me.”    

Bhagvadgita, Chapter XII, Text 18-19

V. P. Chandan
President, Qualcomm (India) Incorporated

Shri V. P. Chandan took over, in 2001, as President, Qualcomm (India) Inc., after his retirement (in 2000) from the Ministry of Railways, Govt. of India, where he had held the post of Additional Member (Telecom), Railway Board.

Qualcomm Inc., a San Diego (USA) based Fortune 500 telecom company, is a world leader in developing and delivering innovative digital wireless communication products and services based on its own CDMA digital technology. The Company has, so far, licensed CDMA technology to more than 100 telecom equipment manufacturers worldwide.

Shri Chandan graduated in Electrical Engineering, in 1961, from Banaras Hindu University, with a brilliant academic record. He also holds an M. Tech degree in Communications and Radar Engineering from ITT, Delhi.

 After graduation, he served the Indian Navy for a short while and thereafter as a management executive in Esso Standard Eastern Inc., an American petroleum company, for about two years. Thereafter, he was selected in the Indian Railways Service of Signal Engineers (IRSSE) in 1964.

 During his 36 years tenure on the India Railways, he executed several prestigious railway signaling and telecommunication projects including railway electrification on some of the busiest railway routes. Because of his expertise on railway signaling, he was deputed to Zambia (1981-83) through RITES as an expert for the World Bank’s modernization programmed of Zambia Railways.

He was deputed by the Railways to the University of Waterloo (Canada) in 1979 to study computer communication and networking. He also undertook a tour of European countries in 1988 to study the operation of Regional Express, Underground and Suburban Railway Systems, serving major metropolitan cities in Europe.

While working as Additional Member (Telecom), Railway Board, he drew an ambitious plan for the commercial exploitation of the surplus bandwidth available in the telecom network of the Indian Railways, and laid the foundation for the setting up of RailTel Corporation of India.

 Shri Chandan is a Fellow of lEE (London), Fellow of IRSE (UK), Fellow of IBTE (India), Fellow of liE (India) and a Senior Member of IEEE (USA). In August 2001, he was also awarded the Fellowship of All India Management Association (AlMA) in recognition of his “achievements and contribution in the field of professional management”.