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Saraswathi Venkateswaran President & CEO CEO Search (India) Pvt. Ltd.

The Economic Times | 28th September 2007

EVERY PROFESSIONAL USUALLY aspires to head a business, be it small, medium or large in size. The challenge is to test one's capabilities before making that quantum leap.

To be considered for a Head of Business position, a candidate should have stable stints (at least four years) in the organisations that they have worked in and at least one functional specialisation, preferably on a customer interface side. Too many jumps, whether very early on or in the later parts of the career, spooks both consultant and client while evaluating a potential candidate for a CEO role. So desist from making changes for 10% increases in compensation and imperceptible change in growth (say, from Regional Sales Manager to General Manager-West Zone).

CEOs are people who listen, so if you are a talker, now is the time to make that change. Problem identification is critical and is at the core of any CEO's job. Approach problems at work from the perspective of working around a challenge. Avoid looking at a challenge as something that stymies progress.

Good CEOs are lateral thinkers and have an understanding of larger macro economic issues. They know their competition, both within the country and without and will work on understanding the financial implications of their decisions. They analyse and evaluate all potential forks that may come on the way, so it's important to start working on the subtle nuances of decision making early in one's career.

As the Indian economic juggernaut chugs ahead, the pyramid is getting larger. It's rare for a CEO of a very large company to be able to reach down and communicate with those at the bottom of the organisational pyramid. And yet, what those in front-line are doing and how their actions impact the organisation is what a good CEO should be able to know and predict.

Any CEO needs to have very strong people skills. The ability to attract, retain and motivate talent has to be combined with a keen eye for spotting talent. Potential leaders may reside at the bottom of the pyramid and charting a course for grooming them is a part of the CEOs job. A good leader leads from the front. He's the guy who you will see taking the flak for all the bad news and cushioning the effect downwards. He's also the guy who will happily pass the credit down to his team for whatever good news comes his way.

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