Don't Take Charge, Take Part: Growing Global Leaders

Madhu Kiran, CTO of Uni Talent Management, has spent 15 years in the training and development industry. For him, the future of employee development is all about teamwork. "Take the team!" he said. "Clarity has to be there in terms of what the talent mobility is all about in an organization."

As former general manager of talent management at a Fortune Global 500 automotive company, Kiran created a company leadership handbook for Middle Eastern countries that both catered to the cultural hierarchy in place and properly rewarded employees. "An organization must be sensitive to not generalizing the talent management process... Each country is different," he said.

Check out our video interview above (or the text version of the Q&A below) and learn about Kiran's success with culturally customized training.

While you were instituting the leadership development program at this leading automotive company, what were some of the most important trends you witnessed while fostering these new leaders? What issues do you believe trainers should focus on most at their own organizations?

Leadership trends over a period of time have been changing. It could be political leadership, or even business leadership or sports leadership. Leadership has different dimensions and it’s been changing.

These changes have also being with respect to different geographies. The geography which we are currently talking about is mostly concentrated in Middle Eastern countries.

The good thing about the Middle Eastern countries, where I was handling this particular piece of program you’re talking about, the people were very receptive to the idea of learning and development—especially leadership development.

The industrial leadership is moving from the older generation to the newer generation. People are looking up to the different parts of the world to see what is that they want to do and how they want to take that forward in their new businesses.

And also what I noticed is peer learning, what we call peer-assisted learning or leaders teaching leaders, which was only just in existence.

Culturally in these countries, the senior portion is always respected and people go to him asking for various guidance in life. They already assume that particular role. So it was much easier for us to make it formalized and take it forward.

In what specific ways do you utilize the key experiences of leaders when you created this "leadership handbook" at this leading automotive company?

The handbook’s importance was two-fold: why it was created and how it was created. Why as a process and how as to what needs to be done post-process. I hear a lot of organizations—a lot of CFOs—have this issue when people leave the organization and they feel the talent is taking away the knowledge of the organization and going out of it. Especially, this is so very true at the senior level.

We have to capture something. We have to create something that will sustain itself over a long period of time. So the whole idea of this handbook was to help the existing as well as the future leaders in the organization take a very active, autonomous, critical, reflective and collaborative role.

What was the leader gaining out of this? Many times, old habits die hard. Despite the fact that we want to learn newer things, some of our older habits don’t die that easy. We say, "If not today, let’s do it tomorrow and give it another shot." There has to be a motivational factor for anyone of us to do something. So, what were those motivational factors?

People who contributed mostly to this knowledge portal, this reflective learning process or the handbook, would get to have a one-on-one meeting with the CEO or the head of the business to just generally talk about a perspective on leadership or their perspective on managing a business. That in itself was an added benefit to somebody, probably in a mid-level leadership position saying, "Ah! I get to meet somebody very senior and that in itself is a good thing for me."

There was also a quarterly reward which was not a monetary reward. If somebody would contribute a large extent to the repository, we would send out mail to their juniors—the people reporting to them—as well as to the immediate family, the spouse. We would say, "Thanks for letting your husband work here and do these good things in life."

Many organizations I see today, while they do a lot of the talent mobility amongst their business unit, the process is clearly missing. One has to come out with clarity. Clarity has to be there in terms of what the talent mobility is all about in an organization.

Also, finding an employee development or a talent development model which is accepted globally but keeps in mind the cultural vulnerabilities of a local place. An organization must be sensitive to not generalizing the talent management process or talent development process.

Each country is different, each culture is different. One has to understand that and one has to put that much more effort in letting the talent management function know that while creating one global, holistic perspective. There has to be a certain amount of flexibility to include the localization.

The future of employee development will be for helping people for being part of the team. Taking part becomes that much more important than taking charge. As a leader, you don’t take charge going forward, you have to take part in the whole process. You have to take part in the business. One has to understand this difference.

Along with that, take the team! Help them grow along with that. It’s more of what I call interdependence, a "reciprocal electedness." The more you take your team along, the team reciprocates in a positive way. Your work becomes easier, the organization’s work becomes easier, and as a whole we all grow together.