Leader Speak - Art of Winning - Srikanth Balachandran


By Archana Jerath December 12, 2017

Having a great idea and executing it successfully are two different things. In order to execute it, the first step is to set up a team. It is equally important for the leader to know the art of winning.

Many leaders tend to neglect HR related issues, which can have a negative impact on the employee's productivity and commitment. One needs to follow a few simple rules to create a winning team. Srikant Balachandran, Global CHRO of Bharti Airtel talks about them at the recently concluded SHRM iAC 2017.

After a successful stint with Airtel as its CFO, Mr Balachandran became the Global Chief Human Resources Officer of Bharti Airtel in 2015. Coming from a purely finance background, his journey has been interesting and enlightening.

He has learned a few profound lessons in his journey and his deep insights resonate with the other stalwarts from the industry. According to him, winning teams have a few common traits. In his view, these traits are largely related to Human Resources, something Mr. Balachandran realized only when he became the Global CHRO of Bharti Airtel. His deep insights and comparison with his erstwhile CFO role, made him realize that what had been lacking so far was the humane angle.


Aspirations or goal setting is very important for every organization.  Highly ambitious individuals tend to set difficult goals and aspire for greater achievement. However, setting higher targets and meeting them as well is not always easy.

In fact, as a CFO Mr. Balachandran has faced tough challenges of setting targets for better performance. However, as a CHRO, he found the answer. Individual's aspirations should match that of the company's visions. When personal goals are aligned with the bigger aspirations of the organization, it is easy to work towards them and make them a reality.

Only then, comes the "Eureka" moment as he calls it.


Passion is another trait necessary for the art of winning. Some of the most successful companies are part of the zone of excellence.  Being the financial head, Mr. Balachandran had a hard time deciphering this puzzle as to how an individual or an organization goes into that zone? The answer, he found later, was nothing but "passion". When an individual's goals match the company's, minds are united and when there is passion, the heart is in it.


Investing and calculating ROI are very important from a business perspective; but as a leader one has to invest in an employee's development. There are several benefits:

  • Employees tend to be more loyal to the company
  • They are well-trained, hence they become promotable employees
  • They are more involved with their work and seldom find it monotonous

As someone with a strong financial background, Mr. Balachandran realized that financial investment projects are critical, but investing in people's skills and development should happen simultaneously and with equal vigor.


Innovation pays. Mr. Balachandran says, "Sectors and companies that are highly innovative, are generally awarded a higher multiple by the stock market." Hence, most companies aim for more creativity and innovation. However, innovation is not something that can be forced out of people at a convenient time and place. It is something to be nurtured.

People should be given a suitable environment, where they can think freely and be comfortable in their own skin. "The key is to provide them with an environment that is psychologically and emotionally safe for them", concludes Mr. Balachandran. That is when they can come up with splendid, life-changing ideas.  A true leader recognizes out-of-the-box thinking and is not hesitant to reward them as well. This kind of behavior encourages further creativity and thus, the company progresses.


Change in organizations happens so that they can take things to the next level. Change is required for growth.  It could be operational, strategical or tactical – however, most changes occur when the person in charge feels everybody should get the intellectual rationale behind the change. Mr.Balachandran realized though that the more important factor here is for the people to believe in that change. Only when people are convinced that change is necessary and find logic in the reasons behind it, they will give their best to make it happen.


As a leader, it is essential to not just rely on facts and figures when committing to a project but also to listen to people.  Conversations can often give better information than mere data. In an organization, leaders are sometimes faced with issues that cannot be solved with technology or strategy. Talking to individuals or a group, in those cases are a better solution.

Lead by example

A leader needs to set an example himself so that people can follow him. However, Mr. Balachandran adds - a leader should not just set an example but communicate in every way possible what he is doing. Social media plays a big role here. When people see their leader using a public forum, they follow suit. They understand that their leader will always stand for an agenda and this makes it easy for them to follow their leader.

To sum it up, since success is collective, the team members should never be ignored. Motivate your people, help them grow, make leaders out of them. Sometimes the journey is not only about reaching the goals but also overcoming the challenges on the way. The end objective becomes less important than the learning on the way - like it happened for Mr Srikant Balachandran as the Chief Global HR Officer for Airtel.

Winning means not just reaching the destination but facing the odds on the road too.



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