April 18, 2010

C.K. Prahalad, the Responsible Manager

"Leadership,is about self-awareness, recognizing your failings, and developing modesty, humility, and humanity." C.K. Prahalad

C.K. Prahalad one my most favorite management and innovation thinkers passed away this last Friday. I am currently reading his book, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, so this hit a little closer to home.

"Coimbatore Krishnarao Prahalad, one of India's best-known management exports and a distinguished professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, died Friday in San Diego after a brief illness. He was 68 years old." Read More

Harvard Business Review wrote a wonderful column dedicated to C.K.

"I asked how he could be so prolific, writing intelligently about so many subjects. His secret, he said, was to collaborate whenever possible with a strong partner. "I work hard and I work quickly," he said. "But once I'm done with a project, I like to move on to a new one, and leave it to my collaborators to deal with the legacy of the last one." Read More

And in what would be his last column, C.K. left his mark with a short but sweet op-ed on the "responsible manager." Truly timeless advice that I hope I can adhere to over the lifetime of my career as a manager.

"The global financial crisis of the past two years has triggered an unprecedented debate about managers’ roles. While discussions about managerial performance, CEO pay, and the role of boards have been fierce, scant attention has been paid to managers’ responsibilities.

For the past 33 years, I have ended all my MBA and executive education courses by sharing with participants my perspective on how they can become responsible managers. I acknowledge that they will be successful in terms of income, social status, and influence, but caution that managers must remember that they are the custodians of society’s most powerful institutions. They must therefore hold themselves to a higher standard. Managers must strive to achieve success with responsibility.

My remarks are intended to serve as a spur for people to reexamine their values before they plunge into their daily work routines.

Take a minute to study them:

• Understand the importance of nonconformity. Leadership is about change, hope, and the future. Leaders have to venture into uncharted territory, so they must be able to handle intellectual solitude and ambiguity.

• Display a commitment to learning and developing yourself. Leaders must invest in themselves. If you aren’t educated, you can’t help the uneducated; if you are sick, you can’t minister to the sick; if you are poor, you can’t help the poor.

• Develop the ability to put personal performance in perspective. Over a long career, you will experience both success and failure. Humility in success and courage in failure are hallmarks of a good leader.

• Be ready to invest in developing other people. Be unstinting in helping your colleagues realize their full potential." Source

May we all practice with gravitas what C.K. not only preached but how he lived. I think this entire world would be better off if we could do so.