FF Insights #704: Leadership traits

July 28, 2022: Steve Jobs, Bill Campbell and Andy Grove, India’s unemployment problem Age? What age?; Changing times

Founding Fuel

[Andy Grove in His Office. By Intel Free Press, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons]

Good morning,

In The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There are No Easy Answers, Ben Horowitz talks about three key traits of a leader inspired by three different people with very different styles. 

Steve Jobs for his ability to articulate the vision; Bill Campbell for pushing the right kind of ambition; and Andy Grove for his ability to achieve the vision

Steve Jobs: “I believe Jobs’s greatest achievement as a visionary leader was in getting so many super-talented people to continue following him at NeXT, long after the company lost its patina, and in getting the employees of Apple to buy into his vision when the company was weeks away from bankruptcy. It’s difficult to imagine any other leader being so compelling that he could accomplish these goals back-to-back.”

Bill Campbell: “If you talk to people who worked in any of the many organizations that Bill has run, they refer to those organizations as ‘my organization’ or ‘my company.’ A huge part of why he has been so remarkably strong in this dimension of leadership is that he’s completely authentic. He would happily sacrifice his own economics, fame, glory, and rewards for his employees. When you talk to Bill, you get the feeling that he cares deeply about you and what you have to say, because he does. And all of that shows up in his actions and follow-through.”

Andy Grove: “In his classic book Only the Paranoid Survive, Grove tells how he led Intel through the dramatic transition from the memory business to the microprocessor business. In making that change he walked away from nearly all his revenue. He humbly credits others in the company with coming to the strategic conclusion before he did, but the credit for swiftly and successfully leading the company through the transition goes to Dr. Grove. Changing your primary business as a sixteen-year-old large, public company raises a lot of questions.”

Have a great day!

India’s unemployment problem

India has a problem on hand. There are too many able-bodied people and too few jobs. This must be resolved urgently, else the country is headed into troubled waters argues acclaimed economist Kaushik Basu. In earlier avatars, he was chief economic advisor (CEA) to the Government of India and chief economist of the World Bank. Just how did India get here?    

“It did not happen overnight. We cannot deny that India has for long under-performed in terms of employment. But over the last five or six years there has been a rapid worsening,” Basu tells Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay of Frontline.

“The situation pertaining to youth employment is especially worrying. India’s youth unemployment rate is now just short of 25 percent. And this has nothing to do with the Covid-19 pandemic. We were almost at this number by 2019.

“This is unacceptably high unemployment, much like what we see in troubled middle-eastern [West Asian] economies like Turkey, Iran and Egypt. Most south and east Asian countries have much lower youth unemployment. Thus, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam… all have less than 15 percent youth unemployment.

“There are two reasons for this failure. The first is, as already mentioned, our policymaking is too focused on big businesses. Secondly, there is too little use of scientific expertise in policy design. If policymaking is left entirely to politicians, the tendency is to spend all effort on immediate problems. They neglect the deeper underlying problems, and this does damage in the long run. If you spend all your time putting out fires, and no time and effort on science and research to create non-flammable material, you will have many more fires to fight and, in the long run, you will be worse off.”

In response to a question on initiatives such as Make in India and Agnipath, Basu dismisses these “fire-fighting initiatives with little sign of long-run imagination.” And the government must shift focus from showering attention on big business to paying attention to small businesses, farmers and workers. “We can see how this can help from other Asian countries, like Vietnam and Bangladesh. Over the past two years, Bangladesh’s per capita income has exceeded India’s. This would have seemed impossible even five or six years ago.”

There is much food for thought here.

Dig deeper

Pay more attention to ordinary people: Kaushik Basu 

Age? What age?

That age is a number is a narrative we sincerely believe in. That is why a few days ago, when Arianna Huffington announced her raising $71 million in Series C funding for her new venture, we cheered her enthusiasm and chutzpah in this newsletter. But why aren’t we celebrating people such as our home grown Ashok Soota, wrote in Subodh Saxena, one of our readers? 

Saxena has a point. Soota will turn 80 this November and is at work to take his third venture, Happiest Health, off the ground. He told Sarita Rai of Bloomberg that he has plans to take the company public in five years.   

“Bootstrapped by Soota, the company has 90 employees, including doctors, scientists and writers. Soota is building the business based on his background in overseeing hundreds of thousands of employees and his experiences with their wellbeing, work-life balance and relationship issues.

“‘For decades, Ashok Soota spotted IT services trends and figured out how to stay ahead,’ said Thomas George, president of researcher CyberMedia Research. ‘He’s now chasing a new challenge.’”

Soota walks about five miles every morning followed by 30 minutes of laps in his pool. He also practices yoga a couple of times a week.

Just how many of us have that kind of muscle or energy? We salute Soota’s spirit and wish more people with the kind of experience he brings to the table stay invested in entrepreneurship. 

Dig deeper

79-year old tech pioneer aims for this third start-up

Changing times 

(Via WhatsApp)

Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel 

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About the author

Founding Fuel

Founding Fuel aims to create the new playbook of entrepreneurship. Think of us as a hub for entrepreneurs- the go-to place for ideas, insights, practices and wisdom essential to build the enterprise of tomorrow. It is co-founded by veteran journalists Indrajit Gupta and Charles Assisi, along with CS Swaminathan, the former president of Pearson's online learning venture.

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