One of the most commonly attributed, yet underrated traits of organisational leadership is to create more leaders within the organisation, for it to grow. At the NASSCOM Technology and Leadership Summit 2019, President of Global Operations & Services – AT&T, Sorabh Saxena echoed his predecessor Edward Whitacre and current CEO, Randall Stephenson.
Obstinacy for Vision
Ed Whitacre began his career in what was Southwestern Bell Telephone Company in 1963. He carried out a series of industry-changing acquisitions and mergers and led the company to first purchase Mexican Telephone Company in 1990, and later several more mergers and acquisitions ensued and paid off too, including the 2005 acquisition of AT&T Corp., after which the company adopted the name AT&T Inc.
His advice to CEOs: “Follow the vision you have for your company. Be able to change strategy and tactics on a dime. Be willing to take a risk. Do good by the people who work for you because they are your most important asset.”
Little wonder then, that among Saxena’s three world leaders is Martin Luther King for his dedication to his vision and transform against all odds. Among the culture tenets of AT&T that he lists, Lead with listening (to customers), and Disrupt yourself (at an organisational-, product-, process level) feature.
Entrepreneurial Way of Working
Acer India’s Harish Kohli once said, “When I joined Acer India, it was a startup in India because we were out of the Wirpro joint venture. That meant we had to build the organisation from scratch and sell the first US dollar of the billing as well. I feel Acer has been a company that believes in the entrepreneurial way of working.”
But this entrepreneurial way must trickle down to every last employee – including back-office engineers who must confront change and the possibility of failure in order to achieve organisational goals.
Transformation Through People
AT&T is the largest pay TV provider in the United States and one of the largest in the world. Since conducting the first ever modern phone call a 142 years ago, the media and telecom conglomerate has “transformed over and over, so it’s in our DNA!,” points out Saxena. CEO, Randall Stephenson says, “Having the right people with the right skills is one of your biggest challenges in the transformation of business going forward.” Since assuming the role in 2009, Stephenson invested deeply in re-skilling the company’s talent to leverage technology and improve productivity.
In an earlier session at NTLF 2019 on the 20th of February, ABB’s CEO, Dr Ulrich Speisshofer stressed upon the last of the four values, (“perhaps the closest to my heart”) Take the people with you. Whether it is to prepare employees for new technology, offering them new opportunities, training & education or just encouraging them to unlearn old jobs.
Saxena adds, “To make the most of technological innovations, IT professionals must achieve the right mindset,” that of innovation and possible failure.
He signs off, “The easiest way to retain customers is to give them speed, simplicity and proactive care. The same applies to internal customers as well. A sort of servant leadership mindset therefore needs to develop among c-suite.”