WHAT IT TAKES TO BE: A GOOD MANAGER
(WITH VIVEK JAIN General manager at SilkAir, the Regional Wing of Singapore Airlines)
Management and leader- ship skills are a crucial if you ever plan stepping up on the corporate ladder. As a manager your job is to inspire, motivate and take responsibility for ensuring that each individual within his department succeeds and that the team or business unit achieves results. Building on your characteristics and skills is a long process that will help make you an indis- pensable part of your organization.
With 18 years of experience in the airlines industry already under his belt, we talk to Mr. Vivek Jain who has recently under- taken his position as General Manager at SilkAir, regarding his views about what it takes to be a good manager and leader.
- What do you think is a good way of keeping up the morale and motivation in a new and growing organization? VJ: People are the key resources, whether it be a new or an old organisation. It is crucial that people are empowered to take decisions and given enough space to under- stand and help the organization grow. The new organisations have their own chal- lenges hence people must be trained and developed to face them. In my view, money is a motivating factor but only to a certain extent. Most of the people like to work for longer only if they find it challenging and satisfying to their heart, mind, and soul.
- What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess? VJ: The ability to lead by example. Do it yourself first. Leaders must practice before they preach. Leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Lee Kuan Yew could lead because they did this.
- What are the mistakes one can make that would cause them to derail their career? VJ: When the plans set by the leaders can- not be executed, this can result in disaster for them. There are no great ideas but there are great executers. What is the use of an idea if it cannot be implemented? It has its worth only if it is executed with its original intent.
- What are a few resources you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader? VJ: Being able to manage yourself while managing others is extremely important for any leader. If you are not organized in your personal life, you can’t be a great manager or leader in your office or factory space. Take cue from your personal life and you will know exactly how you are perceived or treated among your peers.
- What does it take to take yourself from a manager to a leader? VJ: Personally I am a team player and pre- fer team spirit over individual leadership. Within the team, you have chances to
lead and to contribute and that is how you take yourself to the next level. Sometimes we make mistakes of trying to change everybody around us but in the end we fail. Instead if we accept people the way they are and show them the possibility of creating something new which they can own, leadership comes naturally
- How does the perception of success change as you gain more experience? VJ: Experience and success thrusts humil- ity upon you. humble when success comes to you, it is important to keep yourself grounded.Experience and success in the context of humility make you calm, cre- ative and a better leader.
- When you’re assuming a leader’s role in a new company where the people you are supervising are unfamiliar to you, what are the things you have to keep in mind?
VJ: Do not expect people to think and be like you. It will never happen. The world is a better place because everybody is different, unique, and beautiful. Share the best that you have got and make a place for yourself in people’s hearts. Be patient, sincere and appreciative of what your colleagues are doing. I believe that change is a slow process and hurrying up makes things worse. People accept change only when they see a value in it and it’s a lead- er’s responsibility to show them that value.
- Does the weight of the responsibilities of being a leader ever weigh down on you? What is the best way to deal with such situations?
VJ: Never. It is a joy. As I mentioned, if lead- ership is seen in the context of team works and creating something new, then it’s fun.
- When you are at the end of your rope when faced with solving a problem what helps you get through it? VJ: Perseverance. Every problem brings all the elements of solution with it. That is the law of the universe. If there is no solution, there would be no problem or vice versa. Have faith and keep working towards it.
- Is it a good idea to get into as many different organizations as possible when you’re starting out your career to gain more experience? Or is it a better idea
to make your way through the corporate ladder in one organization? VJ: It is a personal choice. There are no quick gains in life. All quick gains are temporary. In professional life, one should run a marathon and not a 100 or 200 me- ter race. Whether you run that marathon with one organization or multiple is your own choice. I have been working with Singapore Airlines and SilkAir for the past 15 years and never had a dull moment.
If you are not satisfied with your work then think through what you really want to do and channelize your restlessness to something that you want to do with a long term vision. Changing job or organization is not a solution.
- Do students coming from abroad abroad have a better opportunity in the Nepali market? If yes, are people study- ing in Nepal wasting their time?
VJ: The world is flat and geographical boundaries are meaningless. There are plenty of opportunities everywhere. In my view, Nepal is at the brink of economic explosion. The wave of change is sweeping the whole world and Nepal can’t remain ignorant. Education is a means to change the world hence it doesn’t matter whether you are studying here or abroad.
- When faced with two equally-quali- fied candidates, how do you determine whom to hire? My mentor Giaming Toh, the commercial head of Vistara Airlines in India told me once that aptitude can be developed but not attitude. I will go with the one who has the attitude.
- What do you think is most important when you start out in your career and why? A) awareness of current affairs and local environment
- B) exquisite communication skills C) core theoretical knowledge D) diligence and persistence VJ: All four. Success or victory in life is a combination of more than one element. These elements evolve and are dynamic.
- What’s the difference between a good employee and a fantastic one? VJ: Attitude. A mind with a positive attitude towards learning, winning, dreaming, and executing, makes all the difference.
- What are some ways the company focuses on team development? VJ: Define the team objectives clearly and ensure that the role of each person is clearly defined. Every person in the team must understand his or her importance in the value chain.
- What do you love about working in Nepal—and what do you dislike? VJ: I am still a newbie here but I love Kathmandu city. I have made some great friends in a short period. I must say, Ne- pal is growing on me.
- If a decision has to be made for the betterment of the company but are against general business ethics, what is the best way to go about it?
VJ: Given a choice, I would never compro- mise with business ethics.
- What are the 3 most pivotal moments in your career that you either learned from and/or that got you where you are? VJ: I was a small fish in the big pond when I joined Singapore Airlines 15 years back. I grew and learnt a lot. Working
in IT, Finance, and Marketing divisions of Singapore Airlines shaped my life and when I moved to Silk Air and served India market, it was satisfying to both mind and soul.
- If your house is burning, which books would you like to pick up and run. VJ: Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, Tipping Point, Outliers, and What the Dog Saw and Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now and A New Earth.