Parmesh Shahani, head, Godrej India Culture Lab has made it to the World Economic Forum’s list of 200 Young Global Leaders. He talks to Prachi Rege about what makes a person a good leader.
1) Did you expect to figure in the Young Global Leaders (YGL) list at all?
This honour was completely unexpected! The Forum of YGL at World Economic Forum does not accept self-nominations, and I still do not know who nominated me! When I heard that I had been selected, I was surprised, humbled and grateful. All the other leaders on the list are so accomplished, and I consider this to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go on a collaborative learning and change-making journey with some of the best minds in India and the world.
2) Do you think India/ Indians are on the same page globally when it comes to corporate leadership?
Of course! In fact, I think that our Indian corporate leaders are some of the best in the world. The complexity and pleasures of leading in corporate India sharpen one’s mind to a certain level and enables one lead anywhere in the world – and we see evidence of this. We have many global corporate leaders, either from India, or of Indian origin. And not just global leaders, even the people who train them, like Nitin Nohria, dean, Harvard Business School, are Indians!
3) What is this Godrej India Culture lab?
We started the lab, to enable discussions around disciplinary boundaries. We organise conferences, talks, screenings and performances, and foster different kinds of collaborations with partners in India and abroad. It is a fluid experimental space that cross-pollinates ideas and people to explore what it means to be modern and Indian – and this Lab exists both in the physical sense – in our group headquarters in Vikhroli, Mumbai, as well as online, through the website and other resources we have created. I believe that India is an important world power and its contemporary culture needs to be chronicled, amplified and debated across interdisciplinary silos such as academia, the creative industries, the corporate world and the not-for-profit sector. Everything that we do at the Godrej India Culture Lab is free, and open to all – Godrej employees as well as the general public – and so we are creating a kind of open source platform for ideas, and in a sense re-imagining the role of a corporation as a sandbox for ideas, that its employees can play in, along with others.
4) Who according to you makes for a good leader?
There are many qualities, but the ones that I consider the most important are the ability to look at the big picture, integrity, humility, empathy and time-management. Leadership is about having a vision that others can believe in, and about having personal integrity, humility and empathy, so that the multiple stakeholders you are answerable to can trust you, give you constant feedback, and collectively embark on the journey with you. Leadership is also about time-management and actual execution, making things happen. Finally, I believe that a good leader needs to have a sense of humour. Things often don’t go as planned. Being able to see the brighter side, or the funnier side of things helps a great deal.