At a time when most Indian firms have cut costs to improve bottom lines in a sluggish economic environment, a select few are taking a different route and investing substantially on developing leaders. At least a dozen owner-driven companies, including CK Birla group, Dr Reddy's, GMR, Jindal Steel, Reliance Industries and Sterlite, are said to be investing between Rs 5-15 crore on leadership development over and above their regular training allocation.
"Leadership development is now being oriented for the growth of the company in domestic and global markets as also for the succession plan," says Yogi Sriram, Senior Vice-president, Corporate HR of India's largest engineering & construction conglomerate L&T, which offers leadership programmes across all levels and functions.
"Today's leaders need to be more agile and flexible to make course changes, in challenging situations and in turbulent times," says Sriram. "These skills can be inculcated via leadership programmes by providing '270 degree' feedback from the head of the department, juniors and customers, which help the individuals develop leadership behaviours and consistency. "In order to perform sustainably in today's competitive markets. the ability to innovate and to satisfy stakeholders depend on the quality of the leadership," says Sonia Stojanovic, who had served as a senior practice expert in organisation behaviour at McKinsey's New York office.
Leadership interventions, considered a softer side of an organisation till recently, are beginning to show quantifiable gains, said Rajeev Bhadauria, Director, Group HR at steelmaker Jindal Steel. "We have seen phenomenal results from our six-month leadership programme, where we trained 200 people in three cohorts studies for two months each. It has ploughed back Rs 218 crore for us, in actual terms," he says. Jindal Steel plans to put another 100 people through a six month leadership development intervention this year, involving workshops, action learning projects and one-to-one coaching, he said.
"Earlier the Big Four had leadership programmes concentrating on only 30-40 people in an organisation. This model is not relevant now. We need leadership to be available across all levels of an organisation," says Bhadauria. The Big Four comprise McKinsey, PwC, Deloitte and Ernst & Young. To tap this opportunity, many consultancy firms have set up a separate leadership practice or a leadership institute which enables them to undertake leadership intervention on a larger scale.
"McKinsey started it in the mid-90s and now almost all the bigger consultancy firms Deloitte, PwC, Bain have set up practices for leadership development. Today,