What does a leadership competence mean to you?
I guess very broadly speaking the leadership competence is about how a leader drives for results and sets forward the right vision and goals, how he/she demonstrates a strategic thinking, whether he is able to do the big thinking . It’ s a basket of various things which we call managerial skills –relationships’ orientation, planning skills, organizational skills, solving problems’ skill, ability to find business opportunities, ability to drive values and to give clear guidelines what the organization should work like.

So you define a leadership as a set of skills which can be learnt?

Yes, definitely. A leadership as a set of skills can be learnt. For me there is a difference between being a manager and being a leader. When you are a manager, you are not necessarily a leader. A good manager is able to make people to complete their tasks. These types of managerial skills can be learnt for sure. The leadership learning is possible provided the person is open, is willing to be a mentor for others and develop them. I don’t believe that you need to be naturally born leader, the skills can certainly be learnt.

Interesting. So in your opinion in order to develop your leadership skills you need to be willing to develop others… And how do you understand charisma in your culture?
Charisma is when you are able to grab people’s attention. Having charisma is a big thing for someone who has developed already the above mentioned skills. When he/she adds the ability to grab people’s attention to it then this may make him/her a much more influential person. This ability means a power of communicating – listening skills and empathizing.

How much is this expected from a manger here in India?
I think it varies from industry to industry and depends also on your role. There are companies when it is absolutely enough when you are just an effective manager, you get things done and this is ok. And charisma may not be so important. There are other sectors like the mass media industry when this ability is crucial.

And do you think that charisma can be learnt too? Can you consciously work on developing it?
This is a very interesting question. When you look up the word in a dictionary you will find an explanation that this is something what you have in you, something which you are born with. Probably when you are born with it then you may somehow shape it further on and give this a special direction. Whether someone who was not born with charisma could train it? I doubt it. What do you think?

I am now in the middle of some investigations on this topic… But shortly speaking I have now rather a feeling that the magic charisma is not that magic as we assume. If as you said, charisma means ability to grab people’s attention, it seems to me it can be learnt by most of us.
Interesting. In India we use the word charisma for religious leaders, politicians, film stars. Now I think you may be right that this thing can be researched, analyzed and then probably consciously learnt according to the designed guidelines…
And what about things like authority and respect? How a manager in India can gain them from employees?
In India traditional companies build managers’ authority and respect by formal structures. That means that the titles and roles matter a lot. The authority is hierarchically driven there. There are many companies which continue to work that way. But there are also some newer industries and here a manager gains a respect by achievements. You may notice both the approaches in India.

And what about the employees’ expectations towards their manager?
This is a very interesting question for me which makes me think deeper about this. In India culture there is a big focus on relationships and connecting. There will be a lot of bonding here in a company and I would even say that we have here our employees on employment contracts but also on some psychological contracts. Our employees expect guidelines, support, they expect their careers to be managed for them. The organization should guide them how to grow along various levels of the structure. And all of this they expect from their line manager. This means that the manager has a really critical role to play. The expectations don’t concentrate only on the professional life, they also relate to more private, personal spheres.

Does it mean that the line manager plays a little bit a role of a father or a mother?
Yes, almost. We do so much of team-outing, getting people together, organizing fun activities, a lot of things which aim at creating a little bit of a home kind atmosphere in the company. There is also an element of personal counseling in the relationship between an employee and the manager. The young people are away from their home towns and families, and very often they need a kind of advice related to life issues. All this concerns especially the very young people – up to the first 3 or 4 years in the company.

Are the line managers prepared to playing such a role? This requires maturity and I suppose some of them are also still quite young…
It’s a great point actually, Monika. This is true that many of the people are also very young and in the given situation that we have now in India –I mean the economic growth and a lot of investments- sometimes we may have a 25-year old girl who has to manage a team of 100 employees. This means that they are not always enough equipped and they need guidelines from the higher levels in the organization who are their line managers, and this is how the model works.

And what about you? You have a lot of international experience and I wonder what your observations are in respect to this topic. How does the world differ in your opinion in terms of a leadership concept? Have you noticed any interesting differences?
Yes, definitely. In the US we see a very high degree of professionalism and rather a complete division between the professional life and the private life. There is a focus on work during work. Also you can get things done in US irrespectively of having good or bad or no relationships. I call the US model “undercomitted&overdelivered”. In India the professional and private spheres mix together. You need to build good relationships in order to get things done . And sometimes you may notice here the opposite model: “overcommitted&underdelivered” which is because people here like to say “yes” which means “I want to do this” or “I would like to do this” , “I’m keen to do this” because they care about good relationships so much. It doesn’t always mean: “I’m going to do this”. This approach has also its historical base. In Europe I have mostly the experience of cooperation with German and British clients. My impression is that in these countries which matters, this is a little bit of a mixture between the organizational hierarchy and relationships. I have also noticed that maybe because in India we don’t have this strict division between the professional and private lives, people here are more willing to stay extra hours at work to finish a task.

And based on your experience what advice would you give to people who are managers on international level?
First of all to get to know well the culture of a country where they are going to work. That means to get to know the way how people communicate certain things, which behaviors can demotivate them, what phrases, expressions will not be welcomed, what you can say and what you should never say…

Yes, I understand it. In Poland for example we complain about our country quite much but we get upset when a foreigner complains about Poland. We can do this but they cannot.
Yes, such things are very important to know. And additionally I would suggest that the manager meets with people and tells them about his/her culture and how this influences his/her communication and management style. What it means when she says this or that. What behaviors they can expect from him and what the behaviors may mean.

Hmm…This requires a high level of a self-awareness…
Yes, it does. If the person lacks the self-awareness then the HR can be of help and lead him through the process of setting communication rules with the people in the foreign country. HR can guide her how to start the relationship with the local people. To sum up, the HR department can help a lot in cases when there is too little self-awareness and maturity. This is also the reason why now such services like coaching or mentoring are so popular.

You know all the time when I am listening to what you are saying during our conversation I am trying to create, let’s say, a psychological portrait of a leader…and now I would even risk a statement that this self-awareness is maybe an important characteristics of people who have charisma…
Yes! This can be one of the most important ingredients of charisma… Being self-aware and being deeply aware of the reality around us makes a person to see things in all the shades of colors and this is what leaders do in the opposite to managers who can see things black and white… It’s enough for a manager to be skillful in using managerial tools but the leaders go far beyond that…

Interviewer: Monika Schwertner

Jawahar Bekay is Microland’s Chief Operating Officer responsible for the global operations of Microland’s Infrastructure Management businesses. As COO of the company, Bekay is responsible for Service Delivery, Technology & Practices, the India & ME business as well as all Global Support Functions including HR, Information Systems, Facilities & Administration.

Microland established in 1989, was one of the earliest companies to recognize the potential of Remote Infrastructure Management Services. Since incorporation, Microland has evolved and adapted itself to meet newer challenges of the constantly changing global outsourcing industry. Microland leveraged its deep understanding of IT infrastructure management to pioneer and then develop the concept of remote IT infrastructure management services.