“The Best Leaders Are Also The Best Listeners”

Gautam Saraf, Managing Director(Mumbai) at Cushman and Wakefield believes that good leaders are also great team players. He speaks to B&E about his views on leadership and the power of teams.

What according to you are the fundamentals of leadership?

Gautam Saraf (GS): The best leadership technique is that which involves simple and regular work that can be done without having to devise complex strategies

  • Set clear expectations – every leader should set a clear agenda and goal to start with and then follow it up with various steps that are required to act on the goals
  • Stand by your decision – a clear mark of a leader is to stand by his / her decision and if the decision is a well thought out one then the conclusion is bound to be correct.
  • Recognize well done jobs – its human nature to expect appreciation for a good job/task completed. A leader should be generous in handing over appreciation to his/ her team
  • Communicate often – keeping an open channel of communication between the teams and their bosses/leaders is important as it provides a channel for new ideas, suggestions, corrections and remedies to the process of business.
  • Listen to employees – A boss has to have patience and time to listen to his/ her employees. It’s often said that best communicators are those who listen to others.
  • Celebrate Successes –simple celebration of success goes a long way to boost morale and productivity for the company
  • Learn From Failures – failures have to be seen as learning experiences for everyone including the boss and a leader should be gracious enough to admit mistakes and rectify them for future

Aristotle once said -the hardest victory is the victory over self. What are the self-mastery secrets that make you the world class leader that you are?

(GS): It’s a bucket list that I make every year to do some very difficult things that includes challenging yourself, changing age-old habits, overcoming deepest fears or setting high expectations from one-self. The end result should be a self-pat on your back for achievements. It’s always about having control over your mind. For example giving up on the habit of smoking. I quit smoking after 20 years and it took 2 years of goal setting followed by a lot of self-control. My next goal is to complete a half marathon before I turn 40.

What according to you is the one most important quality of a leader?

(GS): A leader should be adaptable to change. Change is the only constant thing and in today’s world, we are all experiencing it faster than the speed of light. Be it technology, millennial at the workplace, economy, politics, ways of conducting business, our environment of existence- all are undergoing a rapid change. So not just leaders, but even employees/ followers too have to adapt to the change in order to be successful.

Can we teach people to become better leaders?

(GS): Leadership is a personal journey. One can definitely undertake leadership-training programs to understand the theoretical aspect of leadership. However, when it comes to inculcating the qualities of a leader, it is developed only over a period of time. A leader may be appointed by title, but it’s always his/her role and the respect he/ she commands that makes a person a true leader.

Respect has to be earned from your people/ team. Your people should have trust in your clarity of thoughts and vision for the firm. While being progressive, a leader also takes care of employees’ aspirations and their career path. Decisions for the organization are made considering employee welfare as well.

How important is teamwork in achieving success? The secret to building a strong and efficient team?

(GS): Teams are formed when individuals with a common taste, preference, liking, and attitude come and work together for a common goal. Teams play a very important role in organizations as well as our personal lives.Teamwork is essential in corporates for better output and a better bonding among employees. Tasks are accomplished at a faster pace when done by team and work too never suffers or takes a back seat, as there will be backups.

Team building activities is key to building a strong and well-bonded team. Such activities keep the team together and reduce chances of confusions, misunderstandings and also pave way for effective communication.

The nature of the leadership of the team and the way in which team members are empowered also plays a key role in the team’s success. The leader and the team should have a shared vision and sense of purpose and the level of empowerment determine the extent to which the members proactively participate in the team’s success.

A diverse team with different age groups, cross-functional expertise, gender diversity also contributes to the success in most assignments. Diversity ensures different expert ideas, newer directions, newer solutions are brought to the table for brainstorming purpose.

What is your secret of effective time management?

(GS): Time management is all about prioritizing your to-do list. Begin the day with a to-do list that captures varioustasks with varying degrees of importance and put a timeline against each item. To ensure efficiency, take sufficient breaks on completion of few tasks. When chasing a deadline, one should know how to say NO to peers/ colleagues politely but firmly. Always look forward to something at the end of the day- be it family time, a game with a friend, a movie with a partner- basically something that will make you enjoy the evening after a good day’s work.

How do you prioritize work and life?

(GS): I believe it is possible to have a good work life balance, although long hours and long commutes in Mumbai can make it tough. I try and keep my weekends solely for my family and we try and take short weekend vacations every other month to recharge our batteries.

The motivation secrets of a leader-how do you inspire and sustain motivation?

(GS): While there is always a brighter side to every situation, a leader should always be a realist. It is important to instill realist optimism in the people. Encourage people to look forward to achievable dreams, encourage thinking and welcome ideas. This makes teams stay motivated and take more ownership of their work. Challenges are omnipresent at work. However some view challenges as growth opportunities and make the most of it. Achieving success in such tasks also motivates an individual/team. It is important to celebrate success and over communicate wins to ensure high levels of motivation.

The secret to handling failure effectively?

(GS): Failures are important part of our lives. They give us a chance to begin more intelligently. However, we should not bury our failures. Instead they should inspire us. We must ask for feedback from peers, seniors, and juniors and ensure not to repeat the same mistakes again. A leader must also share his learning from his failures so that others too may not repeat the same mistake

Leaders you admire?

  • Mark Zuckerberg for creating social media sensations and changed the way we communicate.
  • Travis Kalanick and Garrett camp founders of Uber. A revolution that changed the way we travel

Best advice you can give to the future leaders

(GS): Find something you love to do and are good at. Stick to it and work hard at it. If you do that, success will surely follow. Earn the respect and loyalty of your team by working alongside them to achieve goals and to help them become better at their craft. Eventually they are the ones that will excel and make you look good.

The best advice to future leaders is to start early in adapting and moving ahead with times, but remain true to the basics of communication, rewards and recognition and effective management. A good blend of these would be a prerequisite for the next generation of leaders.

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