MT: Why is authenticity a topic that crops up so much in your book, and why does it mean so much to you?
IN: Many, many people try to have two personas: a CEO persona and who they are really. I realised that it takes more effort to create two personas for myself and that also I might slip between one and the other and confuse people. So I decided I am just one person. I will bring my emotions and empathy to work. Somehow that stood me in good stead – as long as you didn’t do anything crazy that disrupted the company, people accepted you for who you were.
For example, when I decided to write to the parents of my senior executives, that was just me thinking that everyone congratulated my mother for bringing up such a good daughter, so I owed the parents of my executives a thank you for giving me the gift of their child. When I first wrote the letters, there were people raising their eyebrows, but when they got the letters they were crying.
Don’t dismiss authenticity and empathy – understand the human feelings behind it and you’ll realise it’s much easier to be authentic. Unless you’re a mean person, in which case don’t be authentic – just change yourself. You have no business being nasty as a CEO.