A Leader’s Role in Driving Growth

 ~ Harsh Mariwala (Chairman Marico Ltd., Founder ASCENT Foundation)

Leaders should create a shared vision

Whether it is for the entire organization or for different sections. Leaders have to engage the organization in thinking about growth, setting goals and then give people the freedom to think of their own growth and scaling up plans. Of course, the process has to be defined and well managed to ensure alignment and cohesiveness and stakeholder agreement in the agreed direction.

A leader has to give direction, and allow space for the team members to create their own road map towards that direction.

• Everyone has a blind spot. So, rather than assuming that you know everything, share your vision and help people contribute to that vision and on how that vision can be achieved.

• A Leader also has to give space for people to experiment and fail. You have to empower people to take responsibility and ownership. Leaders have to see that they do not punish failure. If they punish failure, the culture of risk-taking and experimentation will die.

Empowering needs good quality talent. You have to invest in good talent.

• Leaders need to define the framework or structure and strategy for growth. I.e. define the boundaries that people have to innovate within. (Allow people to share ideas about going beyond boundaries, but once the strategy is decided, ensure that everyone is aligned to the strategy and they ideate for that strategy).

• Leaders have to identify, in consultation & discussion with their teams, what their source of competitive advantage is. Is it product, innovation, cost, marketing, people, technology, customer service, etc. and then create a plan to overinvest in those sources of advantages. Then aim to be the best in the market in those aspects.

• Leaders have to send clear signals to the organization, which drives the strategy and focus. E.g. For a new product launch, you could say “Let us focus on building volumes. Let us not worry of immediate profitability.” (E.g. the Flipkart type of model) OR you could say “Let us aim to achieve profitability at such and such scale within 18 months”. 
In both these directions, the strategy, plan and focus will be entirely different. It is important for the team to get a clear signal. Else it will be very confusing for the team down the line, and a very haphazard plan in the market.
E.g. if the signal is to break even, then the speed of growth, pricing, marketing investments, etc. will be adjusted accordingly to meet the goal of breakeven in 18 months.

• Signaling is important because each and every individual in the organization is driving growth. The sales person, the procurement person, the distribution person, the marketing person, the manufacturing person etc. So unless they all know what the direction of the company is and have a clear signal, they may all be working at cross-purposes. The critical part is to see how the message can be driven down to the lowest level. To the worker level in a factory, to the sales rep level, to the rep of the distributor.

   Leaders should