Q: Can anyone be a leader, or do you have to be born with the aptitude for it?
Srikanth Iyengar: Infosys has a facility in Mysore which trains 18,000 people at a time, so yes, I believe that anyone can be a leader. Some people have more aptitude than others but everyone can get better. But that is subject to three things: firstly a willingness to learn, the person has to want to do it. Secondly there has to be self-awareness, that is something that also has to come from the individual. The third thing is incumbent on the employer, you have create an environment where people are allowed to experiment, to make mistakes and learn from them.
Q: How will the leader of 2020 compare with those of today?
A: The easy answer is that we don’t know what the leader of 2020 will look like! But there are some things we can be confident of. The ability to embrace change will remain key. We have seen that already, Infosys was a start up 30 yrs ago and it is now a pretty successful business. To keep that success going you have to stay ahead of change. Also there will be even more emphasis on diversity – ethnic diversity, gender diversity, cultural diversity. There will be changes in business and strategy but these are constants.
Q: How do you lead a company which operates in so many different markets and different economic climates?
A: We want to grow, but we recognise that different parts of the business will grow at different rates. Our Core business is BITS – business and IT Services – and it delivers the numbers for today. But there is another part of the business called products and platforms which is our growth engine for tomorrow. We understand that today that business needs disproportionate investment if it is to deliver growth in the future. The key thing is that we have a team culture at Infosys, we don’t say ‘My business is doing well so I don’t need to help the other guy’. That is propagated by the founders and the board, we succeed as a team and we fail as a team.
Q: What’s the role of technology in helping leaders connect with their people across the globe?
A: We are a technology company and we do eat our own dog food. We use tele-presence, social media and many other technological tools. We shoot two minute videos with people across the organisation at all levels, and put them on our blog site. They are categorised and indexed so that employees can find what they are looking for.
But the personal touch is still important. For example in the UK we have 2400 people out in our client companies. Within each group of people - in Swindon or Macclesfield, say - we make sure that there is one person who, outside their day job, is the de facto leader of the group. They are there to greet new people and to create a sense of community and connection to Infosys, even though they are out in the client and can be there for 2 years.
- Srikanth Iyengar is head of UK and Global head of Sales for Infosys