Facets of the Indian Leader

 by Steve Correa, author of Indian Boss at Work

What are the winning traits of Indian bosses?

What cultural influences have shaped their mindsets?

What makes them adaptable in any business situation?

What can the West learn from India on leadership?

I argue that there is a distinctiveness (not uniqueness) about the Indian Leader - how he thinks, feels and behaves at the workplace. That he acts in response to the ‘kaal’ (existential time and prevalent social character), and ‘desh’ (his inheritance, such as the identity of race, caste) and contextually to the Indian environment ever unfolding. 

The book examines forces that have shaped (not caused) his worldview. It shares insights on how history, and his family upbringing, and prevalent cultural forces, have shaped his orientation. You will discover insights to how he responds to his corporate duties, obligations and tasks; also ‘tensions’ in managing polarities (two sides that create contrary tensions) that come from responding to the imperatives of business, either in resonance or otherwise, to his personal value, either espoused or experienced. It will inform his behaviour at home, in society and at work. You will discover polarities and how he goes about co-holding the dilemmas, and paradoxes and contradictions, successfully or otherwise. This book, unintended though, maybe like the jar, God Zeus gave to Pandora, which when opened, have you look at things differently, even disquiet, and lead to newer perspectives, some even uncomfortable to notions held. 

The book draws on extensive research both global and indigenous, and Spotlight interviews with Indian Stalwart leaders, along with my own professional experience working both from inside (as CHRO) and outside (as a Leadership Consultant). 

The Indian leader lives in duality his own cultural orientation shaped by his nation – his ‘Kaal’ and ‘Desh’, and an imported set of beliefs gained through western education. The global forces have shaped his ‘self-directed, goal-oriented orientation’. 

I argue that the India leader is multi-faceted. He is ‘this and that and more’. He draws out the ‘Desi Leader’ characteristics as below:

D: Directive and Nurturant

E: Emotional and Intelligent

S: Spiritual and Worldly

I: Individualistic and Collective

L: Leverages Short and Long term opportunities

E: Expressive and Restrained

A: Androgynous – masculine and feminine

D: Dependant and Interdependent

E: Embraces Profit with Purpose

R: Relationship Builder

In the book, I elaborate on each of these facets. The Indian way is characterised by a fuller all-round engagement with employees, agility and adaptability to roadblocks, addressing needs through creative ‘value for money’ (paisa vasool) and finally a much longer-term Vision and sustainable purpose. The Indian way of conducting business ‘Om Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah’  (may all become happy) is inextricably linked to cultural and philosophical roots. Indian leaders view business as part of a wider social vision. 

I argue that Indians have an amoeba-like characteristics of adjustment, adaption, and flexibility. The Indian leader operates well in fierce competition and uncertainty. There is a comfort to straddle both strategy and operations – from taking a helicopter vision to deep dive into the business basement. Indian leaders are worldly and high-status seekers. They spend time enhancing their social reputation. Entrepreneurial thinking and strategic sense-making, adaptability and flexibility combined with a higher sense of purpose, is the basis of the India way. 

Som Mittal in the Spotlight interview shares that “The Indian context has great multiplicity. Agility, flexibility and resilience are key”.


In conclusion the Indian leader brings a facet to any situation, in this he is multifaceted. His traits are not absolute but are deployed in context. He is thus, as I learnt gratefully from Pulin, ‘this, and that, and more’.

As such, the Indian Boss at Work is not easy to ‘Categorize’, is a complex person resulting out of his own personal and professional experiences, her/his own mentoring, the specific culture of the geography/geographies she/he developed in, the influences of past and present Indian business requirements, and the impact of Western concepts & beliefs, etc.