- Management Lessons From Akhilesh Yadav
What Managers Can Learn from Akhilesh Yadav
By Nikita Garia and Shefali Anand
The rise of Akhilesh Yadav, who was sworn in as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh on Thursday, offers some leadership lessons for India Inc.
Mr. Yadav, who led the Samajwadi Party’s campaign in U.P., is widely credited for the party’s resurgence after a decade.
Political analysts say his efforts to connect with voters and to embrace new ideas for his party have helped him succeed. These strategies would also benefit business leaders who aspire to reach the top, say human resources experts.
Mr. Yadav “cycled across the state and reached out to people in every nook and corner,” says Kris Lakshmikanth, founder of executive search firm The Head Hunters India Pvt. “As a manager, it’s important that your people know you are approachable,” he adds.
Without taking political sides, managers and human resources experts cull some leadership lessons from Mr. Yadav’s campaign:
Know the aspirations of your people:
Mr. Yadav travelled 10,000 km over several months to meet people in different parts of Uttar Pradesh and connect with them.
Similarly, a good business leader should be in touch with people at all levels in the organization.
When employees feel that their leader is listening to them, “it gives them a sense of ownership and they feel they belong,” says Sachit Jain, executive director of textile conglomerate Vardhman Group.
Mr. Jain says he makes it a point to visit Vardhman’s factories across India at least once a year, and conducts town hall meetings and spends time with employees during the office lunch hour.
When employees feel that their leader is approachable “then people can actually share their genuine feelings, their genuine concerns, and ideas,” says Mr. Jain.
On the other hand, “if you are disconnected with your people, they will soon lose the motivation to work with you,” says Vikram Chhachhi, executive vice president of search firm DHR International in Delhi.
He says that Rahul Gandhi disappointed in Uttar Pradesh because he didn’t connect with the locals, even in his home base of Amethi where the Congress party’s candidate was defeated. “If he knew what the people were looking for, his candidates wouldn’t have lost the seats,” says Mr. Chhachhi.
Align goals with employee aspirations:
A political party’s manifesto is akin to a proposal or a promise that a company makes to an employee.
When managers prepare their vision, they need to keep their employees’ personal goals and aspirations in minds. Two key questions for employees are: “Where do I belong, and what do I get?” says Ashok Chandak, senior director of global sales and marketing at Bangalore-based NXP Semiconductors India Pvt.
In his campaign, Mr. Yadav made proposals for both the young and the old.
Similarly, a manager has to “capture the pulse of his employees,” and give them a clear idea of their future and learning opportunities within the company, says Mr. Chandak.
A leader’s task doesn’t end at making promises. “If you don’t fulfill them, you will lose your credibility,” says Mr. Lakshmikanth of Head Hunters.
In politics, that would mean that people overthrow your party, and in the corporate world employees leave the company.
Be open to new ideas:
Mr. Yadav took some radical steps to change the image of the Samajwadi Party. He revamped its manifesto and announced that they would provide laptops and computers to students — something which the party was previously against. To get rid of the “goonda raj” image of the party, he denied tickets to prominent party members who have criminal cases pending against them and instead brought on young people from places like the Indian Institute of Management, says Mr. Lakshmikanth.
Taking a cue from this, business leaders should also be open to new ideas, and keep the team up-to-date with the latest trends in the industry, says experts.
Managers should encourage employees to take new challenges, while providing the assurance that they will back the employees’ actions.
Another new idea which Mr. Yadav implemented was the use of social networking web sites like Facebook and Twitter to reach out to young voters.
“Managers need to connect with their employees in the ways their employees do,” says Mr. Chandak. Most companies today have “internal communication channels that help employees get in touch with each other, the boss, and other executives of the company,” says Mr. Chandak.
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