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Leadership Perspective

Krishna Sai
Krishna Sai
Managing Director, Polycom India R&D and VP (Technology and Architecture)
Krishna Sai currently serves as Global  VP, Technology & Architecture & MD, Polycom ... more>>
I believe it was Peter Drucker who said that Entrepreneurship is a practice. Similar I believe Leadership is a practice. Through my 15+ years or so professional career and life observations, leaders who stood apart and made a difference have been folks who observed the environment that life presented to them, thought deeply, and have had the conviction and will to present an alternate view, and see them them realized. This has been the case in those that the world remembers as in the case of the Buddha presenting a spiritual view that transcended religion, Gandhi and path to freedom, Lincoln in the struggle to turn a nation around in terms of its views on slavery, or Steve Jobs in terms of bringing humanities and engineering together to create exceptional product designs.

However some of the same principles apply in applied leadership in our personal and professional lives as well. The one common trait I observe in folks who practice leadership is a great sense of personal discipline and commitment. For them, the realization of their causes has little to do with the organizations that they are associated with, as much as the larger cause. But in doing so the organizations they happen to be involved with benefit enormously, and they end up lifting those associated with them as well.

In my professional career I have seen this demonstrated by several folks, but in recent times, by Ed Ellett, who used to be the GM of the video division of Polycom in Austin when I was the VP of Engineering there. One clear example that stood out was how he responded to the situation of eroding market leadership due to a weak product and stiff competition. Instead of a blind reaction, I was deeply impressed by his methodical, but obsessive focus on bringing clarity to the situation by bringing together the right team to study the market and technology landscape, evolve a formula that is backed by almost “kindergarten” simplicity and clarity, and create an environment of execution focus that allowed a capable team to realize a winning product. In recent times, the term leadership has become more of a fashion statement in the corporate world and many folks in organizational leadership roles end up talking more about leadership instead of practicing it, and many times at the cost of a loss of the pulse of their organizations. This is trap that aspiring leaders should try and avoid.

In summary, I feel that the key traits of leadership that I find “practical” in life and professional situations are mission clarity distilled by deep observations, fanatical discipline (to quote Jim Collins), and the will to execute.

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