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THEIR FAILINGS, OUR LEARNINGS

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THE WILLINGNESS TO LEARN

Context:

As this energy and environment engineering company showed, leadership is about accepting advice and acting quickly. All problems cannot be anticipated. Quick responses might often save the day. Is courage of conviction, what sets winning companies apart?

  • When the founder of a Company, which is into energy and environment engineering, had a serious health scare, he recognised that it was important to have family members in the business. Soon thereafter, his wife joined the business in the HR department.
  • A year after the Company went public, the founder passed away.
  • The Board met 2 days after the death of the founder, and chose the wife of the promoter to be the Executive Chairperson. She felt that the family’s majority shareholding was responsible for her appointment and was uncomfortable with it.
  • Shortly thereafter, she lost her son.
  • The next couple of years saw a downturn in profits of the Company because of external factors adversely affecting the sector at that time.
  • Some years later, a shareholder’s letter to her, accusing her of not taking care of her shareholders, acted as a wake-up call and she decided to take things in her hand.
  • As part of a process of revamping the Company, a leading consultancy recommended that professional management should run the Company, and the Board should be changed. As a result, professional management was hired. Also, the entire Board resigned.
  • The new Board inter alia had her daughter and son-in-law, and her, as a Non-Executive Chairperson.
  • At the AGM of the Company some years later, she announced that her daughter, who was then the Vice Chairperson, would take over from her as the Chairperson of the Company, and that she had a year to accustom herself to the new role. The choice between being an Executive Chairperson or a Non-Executive Chairperson was left to the daughter.
  • The daughter had first joined the Company, as a trainee engineer, after obtaining her engineering degree. Ever since, she was associated with the Company’s operations in various roles and locations.