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LEADERS @ WORK

LeadersCorporate leadership comes to the fore when a company is confident that the leaders who run its daily operations are capable enough to lead it to ultimate success. Leaders are responsible for effectively managing their company’s resources, working with their teams and inspiring their workforce to do its best work. They are the ones who find ways of improving the company from the perspective of workers’ involvement at the workplace.

It takes both business acumen and talent to be able to take on a role as a leader of a company. It also takes certain character or personality traits to be able to flourish in a high-pressure environment. Needless to say, adapting to change is one of the most important traits of a corporate leader.

Corporate leaders know that maintaining a good relationship with their customers is more important than just pushing their products. They are the ones who brainstorm and think of ways to make the company constantly better or consistently successful.

The Paper Mart (PM) team recently interviewed seven pulp and paper industry topnotchers about their work and learning experiences, their vision and their working style to find out what it takes to become a corporate leader in today’s highly-competitive business world.

W Michael AmickMr. W Michael Amick Jr., President, International Paper India

How did you start your career in the industry?

I first began with International Paper working summers between semesters at college to earn tuition for school. I was employed as a workman and operator on the paper machines. I joined IP full time in 1990 as a Paper Machine Supervisor in one of our southern US mills. IP has given me the opportunity to work in challenging assignments across various businesses, locations and functions over my nearly 25-year tenure.

How do you strike a balance between work and family?

In the eyes of co-workers and family: hopefully better today than yesterday. Work is part of life so balancing work with the rest of life cannot simply be measured by allotted time. For most working people, the majority of our waking hours will be devoted to our occupation. With this as the reality, we must know when to say “no” to work and be sure to give our undivided attention to those we love and who love us. Maybe we should ask our loved ones to regularly evaluate our performance just as we do at work.

What is the best leadership lesson you have learnt in the industry?

A good leader must ALWAYS demonstrate a willingness to serve

What is the best advice you’ve received in the industry?

Listen far more than you speak.

What is the worst mistake you made in your life?

Failure to get the right input or to listen carefully and consequently not understanding clearly, resulting in suboptimal decisions. Most of my significant missteps have resulted from not listening carefully to my “Home Minister”: she is much wiser than I.

What does ‘fun at work’ mean to you?

Conquering challenges as a team.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Inquisitive

If you weren’t here, where would you have been?

My daily goal is to be where God wants me to be!

What would be the last line of your farewell note?

Truth: Seek It! Thankful for It! Apply It! Boldly Share It!

Is there a one-liner philosophy that drives you?

Treat others the way you would want to be treated.

What has been the proudest moment of your career?

In 2009 and 2010, I was working as part of IP’s distribution business in the US and we implemented some very significant changes in the region I was leading. The team did a great job designing and executing the difficult but necessary changes that led to a doubling of earnings during the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Who has been your biggest influence?

Jesus Christ!!

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Sanjay SinghMr. Sanjay Singh, Chief Executive, ITC Ltd.-PSPD

How did you start your career in the industry?

After I did my Chemical Engineering from IIT Kanpur, I had three options: go to the US and pursue MS; join IIM, Bangalore; and take up a job at Bhadrachalam Paperboards Limited. I chose the last option, and I think I took the right decision.

How do you strike a balance between work and family?

Striking a balance between work and family is difficult for me, as I have to do a lot of traveling. I normally take my wife with me if the tour involves being away from home for more than two days.

What is the best leadership lesson you have learnt in the industry?

Use teamwork to solve problems.

What is the best advice you’ve received in the industry?

You cannot take care of everybody. But try to help those who are around you. As your area of influence increases try and help more and more people. Remember you also needed help when you were growing up and quite a few people stood up for your welfare.

What is the worst mistake you made in your life?

I guess I would have been happier if I had made more friends.

What does ‘fun at work’ mean to you?

I like talking to as many people in the organisation as possible whenever I get a chance. It’s good for health and cheers everybody up.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Try to listen to people. Many solutions emerge when you listen keenly.

If you weren’t here, where would you have been?

I would have been in some other manufacturing company.

What would be the last line of your farewell note?

Thank you so much for contributing to my well-being.

Is there a one-liner philosophy that drives you?

To improve society, give back to society more than what you take from it.

What has been the proudest moment of your career?

There have been many; it’s rather difficult to pinpoint.

Who has been your biggest influence?

Many people have influenced me in my life – from common people to many of my colleagues and many of my bosses. And I respect them all. Life has taught me a lot.

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Ajay GoenkaMr. Ajay Goenka, CMD, Rainbow Papers Ltd.

How did you start your career in the industry?

I started my career in the industry when I was 13 years old. I started working with my uncle as a paper trader.

How do you strike a balance between work and family?

My wife and my daughters are also involved in the business. So it’s not very difficult for me to strike a balance between work and family.

What is the best leadership lesson you have learnt in the industry?

The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.

What is the best advice you’ve received in the industry?

Dream big and then work hard to fulfil your dreams.

What is the worst mistake you made in your life?

By God’s grace, I have not made any.

What does ‘fun at work’ mean to you?

I regard my work as fun. Work gives me a lot of pleasure and satisfaction.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I think, it’s all about being very practical and realistic, yet speaking the language of a visionary and idealist.

If you weren’t here, where would you have been?

I don’t know, as I never thought about it – never thought about being elsewhere.

What would be the last line of your farewell note?

I pray for the welfare of all.

Is there a one-liner philosophy that drives you?

Vision coupled with action can change the world.

What has been the proudest moment of your career?

The proudest moment of my career was when Rainbow Papers Limited became the sixth largest manufacturer of recycled paper in India.

Who has been your biggest influence?

My uncle has been my biggest influence.

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Ashish DeMr. Ashish De, Former Chief Executive, New Project, JK Paper Ltd. – Presently Chief Adviser

How did you start your career in the industry?

I got a lucky break in 1971, immediately after passing out from IPT Saharanpur. I got the wonderful opportunity to join M/s Orient Paper Mills, Amlai, which was the then most modern, integrated pulp and paper company in India.

How do you strike a balance between work and family?

It’s not easy to strike a balance between work and family in today’s demanding and competitive world of paper business. Fortunately, I have an understanding family. They all have been extremely supportive to me throughout my working life to keep a realistic balance.

What is the best leadership lesson you have learnt in the industry?

Come out of your comfort zone and invite a little personal inconvenience. Look at the larger picture and show it to your team members. Become a source of excitement while working by developing team spirit and distributed leadership.

What is the best advice you’ve received in the industry?

To forget is a crime; to be lazy is a greater crime. Thoughtful action without delay is the secret of efficiency.

What is the worst mistake you made in your life?

I have made many mistakes in my life. A few of them can be regarded as stupid mistakes – mistakes that led to some financial losses. Some mistakes were blessing in disguise as these were a good learning experience, which ultimately ended up paying a rich dividend to me and to the organisation I served.

What does ‘fun at work’ mean to you?

Do your work in such a way that no one else in the world can do it better than you. Once such a level of passion is developed, work becomes ‘fun’ – some kind of game that you love to play again and again.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I try to follow Swami Vivekananda’s advice on leadership. He said that “leaders are rare people who come along and raise the standards of excellence, capture the hearts of many, and inspire them to achieve the impossible.” He also said that “true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others.” According to him, “a leader does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by maintaining the highest standards and going that extra mile.”

If you weren’t here, where would you have been?

I would have been in the Indian Army.

What would be the last line of your farewell note?

Keep your basics right; pay as much attention to the means of the work as to its end; manage your present well; and good future will follow automatically.

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SK MutrejaBrig S.K. Mutreja, CMD, Nepa Mills Ltd.

How did you start your career in the industry?

I joined National Defence Academy in December 1966 and passed out from IMA in December 1970 to join the Indian Army. Thereafter, I served the Indian Army for 35 years. One of the most important abilities that I acquired during my training and service in the Indian Army was the ability to take quick decisions. I was selected by Public Enterprises Selection Board to be the CMD of Nepa Limited in May 2005. After going through the balance sheet of the company, which was totally demoralising, I decided to make a trip to Nepanagar. The entire township and the plant were in a terrible state. However, I saw this crisis as an opportunity to do some meaningful work. So, I sought premature retirement from the Indian Army and joined Nepa on 25th October 2005.

How do you strike a balance between work and family?

Firstly, I do not take work home and vice versa. I don’t discuss company matters at home. Whenever I get an opportunity, I play golf. I am fond of reading good books, especially on management.

What is the best leadership lesson you have learnt in the industry?

Celebrate every success, no matter how small it is.

What is the best advice you’ve received in the industry?

Never look back. Draw your lesson and move on.

What is the worst mistake you made in your life?

I make mistakes quite often. It’s difficult to point out the worst one.

What does ‘fun at work’ mean to you?

Fun and work go hand in hand. One must enjoy one’s work. One must really feel like going to one’s office.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I try to carry my team with me. In an organisation, 20 per cent of the workers require no pushing; 70 per cent just follow; and 10 per cent are those who have a totally negative attitude. I believe in focusing on those who just follow. This enables me to carry 90 per cent of the workers with me. I deal with the remaining 10 per cent in an appropriate manner.

If you weren’t here, where would you have been?

Difficult to answer, but my heart is in Nepa and its people – all of them.

What would be the last line of your farewell note?

Work hard, play hard and leave the rest to God!

Is there a one-liner philosophy that drives you?

Run your company with a business mind and a social heart.

What has been the proudest moment of your career?

It was when the Government of India approved the revival plan of the company on 6th September 2012. With the whole-hearted support of the employees, the company had been able to perform exceeding well: A company that was under disinvestment and had suffered a lot for a long period had been able to get its due by way of approval of the revival plan.

Who has been your biggest influence?

My entire family – and that includes my parents, wife, children, brothers and sisters – has been my biggest influence. They have always encouraged me to perform well. Instructors and seniors in the Indian Army have also played a vital role in guiding me to achieve greater heights.

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Rameshwar Lall LakhotiaMr. Rameshwar Lall Lakhotia, Executive Director, The Sirpur Paper Mills Ltd.

How did you start your career in the industry?

After doing B.Tech in Chemical Engineering, I started my career at Chlor Alakli Industry in 1968 and became plant manager in the same industry. I became a part of paper industry in 1984 and joined Century Pulp and Paper Mills as Incharge of Rayon Grade Pulp Plant. I served as Senior President Unit Head till 2009. For a short duration, I worked with K R Pulp and Paper for the commissioning of their 250 TPD writing and printing paper plant. Since July 2010, I’ve been working as Executive Director, The Sirpur Paper Mills Limited.

How do you strike a balance between work and family?

In the beginning, it was difficult to strike the right balance but now, with the support of a strong team, I’ve been able to find the right balance.

What is the best leadership lesson you have learnt in the industry?

A strong sense of belongingness and one’s willingness to face up to one’s responsibilities as a leader are the prerequisites of successful corporate leadership. Initiative and strong teamwork are essential for growth.

What is the best advice you’ve received in the industry?

Share your responsibilities to go up both personally and professionally. Be honest to yourself. Be sincere in your work.

What is the worst mistake you made in your life?

I suffer whenever I disregard my inner voice.

What does ‘fun at work’ mean to you?

I enjoy doing all of my work-related activities.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Choose the right man for the right job; form a strong team; and develop subordinates and empower them with proper checks without hurting their morale.

If you weren’t here, where would you have been?

Probably, I would have been a businessman under family guidance.

What would be the last line of your farewell note?

Be honest to your profession; don’t befool yourself – you are the creator of your own destiny.

Is there a one-liner philosophy that drives you?

Take your problem as a challenge; imbibe virtues such as courage, perseverance and boldness.

What has been the proudest moment of your career?

When Century Pulp and Paper, which produced a modest 3,500 tons per month, started producing 45,000 tons per month – that was the proudest moment of my career. I did it single handedly.

Who has been your biggest influence?

Of course, my wife. She was a source of great physical and mental support to me and the entire family during difficult times.

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Ved KrishnaMr. Ved Krishna, Managing Director, Yash Paper Ltd.

How did you start your career in the industry?

I was doing a Pilots License at Faizabad in 1993. The training session used to take place early in the morning, so I had the rest of the day all to myself. One day, I went to my father and asked him if I could do some work like the others. He allowed me to work on the condition that I would learn how to do each job properly. So, I started off by cleaning the drains and unloading the trucks. I was given the responsibilities of shift operator only after I had leant to do these jobs properly. In the following year, I got the opportunity to be part of the sales, purchase and accounts teams as well. I continued to work shifts during summers and learnt a lot from my gurus who continued to teach me on the shop floor.

How do you strike a balance between work and family?

Wonderfully! I am good at being disciplined. I delegate well: I believe that a task that can be done by someone other than me should not come to me. We have a team of wonderful and responsible people who ensure they manage independently and in teams. My family and I travel a lot and I have learnt many things from travelling. I normally do not take my work home and try to do one thing at a time – with full attention.

What is the best leadership lesson you have learnt in the industry?

Listen and observe well.

What is the best advice you’ve received in the industry?

Do one thing at a time. Concentrate.

What is the worst mistake you made in your life?

I have made many mistakes in my life. And I continue to make them every day! I guess, my worst mistake was my poor handling of the last project. We made mistakes in selection, execution and stabilisation.

What does ‘fun at work’ mean to you?

It fundamentally revolves around people. We have a team of wonderful people; we have non-hierarchical structures and the freedom to use our talents; and we face many challenges. We want to be optimistic and feel the joyful energy that comes when people in the company get opportunities to use their talents.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Involved and delegated.

If you weren’t here, where would you have been?

I am absolutely at the right place, and love being here.

What would be the last line of your farewell note?

He lived well.

Is there a one-liner philosophy that drives you?

How can I be of help?

What has been the proudest moment of your career?

Getting Mr Pudumjee as our Chairman.

Who has been your biggest influence?

Definitely, my father.

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