in Great Quotes, Leading the Self, Random Thoughts

Leadership and Adaptability

India Knowledge @ Wharton’s “Business and Change” section has published an interesting interview of ICICI’s CFO and Jt. Managing Director Chanda Kochhar. She joined ICICI as a management trainee and the interview focuses on leadership challenges she faced as a banker over last two decades. One of the key messages here is that a leader has to be adaptable.

A few weeks back I was discussing re-organization with my immediate superior. In this process, when I was expressed my willingness to grow the current practice that I am heading, he said: “While I respect your preference, it is important for all of us at leadership positions to understand that we need to be adaptable. Thats what I have done all my life. I started as a software engineer and then did some business analysis and then took up entrepreneurship and then did some sales and am now into full time operations management. To grow as a leader after certain years of experience, one should have an ability/desire to take up different things according to organization’s needs and do it successfully. You not only expand your canvas but also re-invent yourself and grow as a leader in that whole process. Beyond a certain level, all you need is sound business understanding, common sense and a lot of passion to get things done.” Out of so many words that he used, I picked up the essense of what he meant to convey and it was one of the important things I learnt from a career perspective.

Here are some of the excerpts from Chanda Kochhar’s interview that I specifically liked:

“On a personal level, it wasn’t always easy. But as a leader, I think you need to be, first of all, adaptable, so you can quickly understand and move forward in new business situations. Second, you need to treat each challenge as an opportunity. I treated this challenge as an opportunity, not just to learn for my own development but also to create something new for the organization. “

“If I was not a person who could adapt and move with this evolution, I would not have grown as a leader. The constant challenge is to keep evolving and adapting as the country and the company evolves.”

“So, adaptability was a big challenge for me personally, but this opportunity to handle all sides of the bank — globally, I can’t think of many bankers who have had this opportunity.”

  1. Great comments on the need for adaptability in our jobs. A recent study by IBM found that only 14% of organizations felt prepared to adapt to change. If adaptability is a leadership imperative why aren’t companies preparing their people to be adaptable? Check out my blog on adaptable leadership at

  2. @Adaptable Leadership – Thanks for posting your comment and pointing me to your blog – I read your views on resilience and adaptability and I do believe that being rigid as a leader is a sure way to failure.

    Leaders have to be adaptable – and respect preferences of people (team members and clients) they work with. I think, for leaders – adaptability has to be a way of life. Rigid leaders never form great teams around themselves.

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