V Subramaniam, Director IT (Transformation) – Enterprise Sales and Service Strategy and Systems (Leading Digital), Otis Elevator Company (EMEA), shares the principles that have guided his work life and can be used to become a great leader. By Shweta Gandhi
V Subramaniam (Subbu) is an IT leader who has lead teams effectively across vast geographies, including the Middle East, South East Asia, Australasia, Japan, South Korea, Dalian (China),Hong Kong and Taiwan. He now looks after IT in the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East, Turkey and Africa) and has deployed (prior role) and is deploying (current role) enterprise initiatives through transformation, digitisation, innovation, effective teamwork, and business partnerships. Subbu has over 25 years of thought leader experience in IT strategy, IT governance, controls and compliance, technology and operations, and business IT initiatives. He was recently awarded as an Engineering Icon at CIO Power List 2016.
“Applying spiritual principles as strategies in my work life as a leader has been a humbling experience and benefitted me immensely,” says Subbu. “It has helped me connect with people and built respect for people, multi-cultural environments and places. It has provided high adaptability, a balanced work-life and helped me manage stress and emotions. It’s made me service centric, gave me a helping nature and a positive attitude, along with establishing a high work ethic.”
“When it comes to great leadership, it’s essential to have the following traits: impetus to connect first (then lead and engage), high adaptability, yearning to keep learning, experimentation to gain experience, humility, the ability to forget, forgive and let go, getting rid of negative energies through prayer and meditation, and life ethic. Life is a series of principles. If we practise principles we will profit from the principles we practise.”
Here, Subbu speaks to us about the four work strategies that have worked for him.
1. Cultivate high adaptability
“In a leadership role that is beyond your borders and across geographies, trying to fit into a culture that isn’t yours becomes the most important factor. As human beings, we need to understand that when we try to fit in, resistance comes due various factors (comparisons, finding faults, ego clashes). The ideal way is adaptability. Having cultivated the habit of high adaptability, recognising strengths and being aware of the limitations, I would advise CXOs to strive to maximise the strengths to get adapted to a place or culture. When in a multi-cultural environment, you first need to connect with people and places, get to know the culture, invest time in building and nurturing the connection through engagement, which leads to an effective relationship. In today’s world, to establish a presence in the global world, high adaptability is a key leadership trait.”
2. A leader is nothing without his team
“As a leader, I strongly feel that you must work with a team. In a leadership role, it’s the people skills that matter more than the technical skills. When it comes to people skills, the most important is to connect and engage to lead the team. Here again, spiritual practice helps in building effective relationships with people to unleash the team’s performance. When we connect and engage, build respect and trust, the basic foundation is strongly established. This leads to investment in time and effort, and increase in availability; most importantly, being there in the hour of need and extending all help unconditionally. A leader should be aware of the emotions of team members and instil confidence while also inspiring and motivating them and creating a positive environment. Leaders should also mentor and coach the team. Positive leadership is an important trait if you want to be great leader. I always encourage my team to maximise their strengths with continued focus and seek improvement so as to scale new heights.”
3. Partner to co-create value
“In today’s world, vendors and suppliers play an important role in our strategy and performance. It’s important we treat them as valued partners to co-create value, and this is another trait of great leadership. I respect all my vendors as valued partners, and more importantly as team members. This includes those working on a contractual/consulting basis. They are treated with utmost respect like my other team members, and they participate in reviews and meetings. I ensure their efforts are recognised and appreciated, and also their development areas are identified. The aim is to work together as valued partners to create winning strategies. What we treasure, we can not only measure but also respect. It’s all about partnering and teaming up.”
4. Keep learning
“I leverage my travel time and take out time periodically to invest in positive motivational inspirational content that helps in my leadership role. I make notes, and in the past have shared my insights on leadership and life with my teams. By sharing our ideas, our aspiration to learn grows. I had the privilege of being coached and mentored by great leaders within the organisation and beyond, and as a principle whenever I receive knowledge I impart or share it through mentoring and coaching. I also invest quality time in listening to music, which rejuvenates me. I also spend time reading positive and motivational books, which inspire me to educate others. I practice yoga every day and meditation—they have profound benefits. Only when the mind, body and soul are aligned can there be well-being.”