It is difficult to sustain leadership when customers are constantly raising their expectations. From our experience, we say there are two realities. First, our employees have to internalize the challenges of customer experience, imbibe a service mindset and decide to make a living of service. But then, what motivates our employees to display such behaviours ? It is our culture. And, what drives our culture ? It is our leadership. So, we come to the second reality. Our leaders have to live the right values, and display the right behaviours, worth emulation. At Airtel, we call it lead right. In a way, leading right has been the hallmark of Airtel leadership. Let me share what we believe in.


Lead right in 3 ways. Being alive. Being inclusive. Being respectful.

1.    Being alive. Motivate teams to excel by being alive to all stakeholders. Understand and anticipate customer needs. We then expect our leaders to set clear expectations for their teams. Continuously raise the bar. Do not allow teams to remain static. Make them see the virtue of embracing change and innovation. Guide them with authentic, regular and meaningful feedback. Most important, be a coach to your team. Understand their aspirations, help them achieve their potential, and further grow. And make employees’ dreams come alive.

2.    Being inclusive. Deliver excellence through inclusion. Be fair and transparent by giving everyone an opportunity to bring out their best and excel. Never stifle ideation, innovation or even imitation, as long as the intention is good. We encourage different points of view. Diversity does not respect hierarchy. We throw open problems and solutioning to the wider employee network. We do expect our leaders to be curious about themselves, and openly seek feedback from their teams. When leaders embrace this style of self-improvement, they start becoming more inclusive. At Airtel, we inculcate employee ownership by being inclusive.

3.    Being respectful. Encourage teams to excel by giving them respect. We believe that the first step to reward and recognition is to accord genuine respect to every employee. So we fervently build and embed a culture of empowerment. We regularly ask folks who left Airtel what they miss the most ? Over 90% say : we miss the empowerment. Empower and build trust, that is our credo. We give credit to the teams unhesitatingly. Every quarter, we announce the financial results externally to the market. And we also announce another set of results internally to our employees – over 100 awards for customer centricity. We expect our leaders to treat people with empathy. As they would expect to be treated themselves. And we punish ourselves everyday by refusing to behave like a big, rule-driven MNC. Instead, we implore our leaders to be sensitive to the personal needs of team members.

If you are still wondering what does being alive, inclusive or respectful have to do with market leadership, let me replay the same question that we are posed in every forum – investor, industry, campus or town hall : how does Airtel achieve the extraordinary ?

And we say : lead right !  By saying so, we are not just talking of the past or the present. This is how we see our future.

Published with permission from Author.


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