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Leaders Need To Shift From Pace-setter To Supporter: Paul Dupuis, Randstad

The virtual edition of BW People CEO and CHRO Conclave discussed the digital realm and juggling a paradoxical praxis of employee centrism and catering to business continuity while faced with the mortality of human life

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The virtual edition of BW People CEO and CHRO conclave was conducted on the 29th of May 2021 along the theme of ‘Looking beyond the Epidemic: Leadership perspectives.’ In a series of five-panel discussions, a fireside chat and five eminent keynotes, CEOs, CHROs and venerated authors graced the all-day virtual colloquy from 10:30 am to 7 pm.  

Wriggling out of the second wave, and at the brink of a possible third wave in the country, the Indian economy is now an economy of three C’s- “Collaborative, Compassionate and Contactless,” explained Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, Dr Annurag Batra. And in these testing times, leaders have had to juggle a paradoxical praxis of employee centrism and catering to business continuity while faced with the mortality of human life.   

In the opening Keynote, Paul Dupuis of Randstad succinctly phrased, “We (Leaders) need to shift from pace-setter to supporter.” He elucidated that leadership is a series of muscles built along the business journey, something that the final keynote involving Paul Kessler and Rajiv Verma (former CEO HT Media) tapered towards. Kessler who is the co-author of “Leading at the Edge: Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton's Antarctic Expedition” believes leaders should frame their business journey as expeditions, leaving room for the unknown on the other side of the horizon.   

The panels during the day dealt on timely topics of employee centricity, work-life balance, fostering resilience and channelling an adaptable workforce. A key observation that emerged among leaders was the need to accept and adopt the digital realm to cope better. CEOs agreed that the basic needs of the workforce- a steady job and salary were still priorities alongside consciously curating a sense of belonging in the organization.   

CHROs added to the same, stating that forging an organizational culture not only compliments and augments flexibility but also instils a sense of collaboration. Many agreed the key to a healthy balance is to practice demarcated boundaries of ‘work’ and ‘home’ and follow them through with self-discipline. 

It was determined that the responsibility of leaders in the new workspace was one of practising empathy and fostering a collaborative ecosystem. “Start meetings with a simple ‘how are you, how is your family?’” states Rajesh Srivastava, CHRO Capital Foods.  

Explaining the problems of Work-from-home, Suchismitha Burman, CHRO,ITC Infotech explained that “The Indian homes are not designed for work from home, and this affects wellbeing.” She goes on to explain that there is an additional degree of leadership responsibility and individual adaptability is necessary to bridge the gap.    

The keynote addresses of the day also aimed at spotlighting technology as an ally in a rapidly changing environment. Arup Datta, Co-founder Khaddar and Manoj Tandon, CEO Dalitso in their respective keynotes highlighted the role of human relations evolving into digital relations.   

The last panel discussion of the day focused on a pioneering topic of neurodiversity in the workforce and including a ‘diversity in thought’ in organizational ranks. The panel agreed that as the quest for innovative and disruptive business ideas rise, the need of the hour is differential thinking. CEO of Cipla Health, Shivam Puri remarked, "Diverse thoughts and diverse candidates come in handy for innovation.” The panel also questioned the existing social-skill and soft-skills dependence in the workplace and explained that Neurodiversity should not be an HR experiment but an effort towards inclusion from the Leadership.  

This panel discussion was followed by a fireside chat with Harsh Mariawala, Chairman of Marico and Dr Annurag Batra who delved into the need for attention and investments on Mental Health initiatives, now more than ever and the evolving sense of leadership in dynamic times.   

Authors Paramjit Singh and Sandeep Kaul too, graced the event imparting insights about establishing accountability and drawing points from their book, “The Accountability Clock-Building Accountability in the Workplace.”  

The eventful and impactful day drew to a close with a three-way conversation on Leadership and the origins of term ‘VUCA’ with Paul Kessler, Rajiv Verma and Dr Annurag Batra. Looking forward and concluding the event, Kessler borrowed from Psychologist Martin Seligman’s concept of learned optimism. He remarked, “Because there is so much that we can become frustrated with and become anxious around, Optimism is true moral courage ahead.”