Taking the lead to lead by example

A few months ago, a friend forwarded me a speech made by a well-known name in the outsourcing circle not only in the region, but worldwide.The man, speaking at an employee session of an IT company in India, reminded his listeners that it was important to avoid putting in long hours at work for long periods of time.

A few months ago, a friend forwarded me a speech made by a well-known name in the outsourcing circle not only in the region, but worldwide.

The man, speaking at an employee session of an IT company in India, reminded his listeners that it was important to avoid putting in long hours at work for long periods of time.

One point he made left a particularly deep impression on me: "As managers, there are things we can do to help people leave the office. First and foremost, set an example and go home ourselves. I work with a manager who chides people for working long hours. His words quickly lose meaning when he sends these chiding e-mail messages with a time stamp of 2am on Sunday."

Talk, indeed, is cheap if not accompanied by appropriate action. Another case in point: In the midst of my dinner yesterday, a toddler at the table next to mine threw a piece of tissue on the floor. His mother, who had witnessed his act, looked at him sternly and demanded to know why he had done that. She then went on about how it's wrong to throw litter on the floor. But the tissue, sadly, remained on the floor.

The same man who spoke about leading by example demonstrated his commitment to this principle, when he retired yesterday as chairman of Infosys.

Narayana Murthy, who turned 60 on Aug. 20, officially stepped down as is required under the rules of the company, which state executives and executive directors should retire by 60. From today, the responsibility of leading the company's charge rests on Nandan Nilekani, CEO and managing director, and Kris Gopalakrishnan, president, COO and joint managing director.

It remains to be seen what impact Murthy's exit from day-to-day decision-making in Infosys will have on the company, which has over 58,000 employees as at Jun. 30, 2006. For now, he still remains involved in the company as non-executive chairman and chief mentor. At the very least, we might expect that his name will slowly cease to be synonymous with the company he co-founded in 1981.

One thing I hope will persist, however: His exemplary leadership and pearls of wisdom will remain much sought-after, and practised, by those in the IT services industry and beyond.

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