Can – and should – bosses be rule-breakers?

Taking a risk and breaking conventional rules in business can help you stand out as a leader.

by John Mullins

Do you like risk? Most bosses in big companies don’t. If they did, they’d probably be working elsewhere. Make your quarterly targets or else, they know. But those who make their mark often do so by taking a risk and breaking the conventional rules about ‘how things work around here’ or ‘how things work in our industry’.

Take Bharti AirTel’s CFO Akhil Gupta, for example. By 2003, Bharti had won licenses in 15 of the 23 regions where mobile phone licenses had been issued in India, and had accumulated market share north of 20 percent, mostly in urban markets. But Gupta knew that AirTel would have to change if it wanted to maintain its torrid pace of growth. Why?

Astutely, Gupta saw that Indian’s urban population had embraced mobile phones, and just about everyone in any Indian city had one. Thus growing fast in the future would mean tapping India’s still-untapped rural markets where most of India’s vast population actually lived.

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