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A Leader Finds The Blue Ocean: Paul Dupuis, MD and CEO, Randstad India

In a conversation with BW Businessworld Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, Annurag Batra,Dupuis gives away many insights into the traits of effective ‘leaders’ and what sets them apart from the tribe of ‘managers’. He talks of his E5 Model, which is the subject of his book and the challenges leaders face in a Covid-19 afflicted world.

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Speaking at a BW Businessworld Dialogue on Leadership, Randstad India Managing Director and CEO, Paul Dupuis, says leadership is like climbing a mountain, where you have to set the milestones and keep moving. In a conversation with BW Businessworld Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, Annurag Batra,Dupuis gives away many insights into the traits of effective ‘leaders’ and what sets them apart from the tribe of ‘managers’. He talks of his E5 Model, which is the subject of his book and the challenges leaders face in a Covid-19 afflicted world.

Paul Dupuis, Managing Director and CEO of placement consultancy firm Randstad India, has had a long stint in Asia and has drawn his learnings on leadership from diverse cultures. The Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown across India and most of the world, occurs just as he completes a little more than three years in India. Speaking to BW Businessworld Chairman and Editor-inChief, Annurag Batra, at the BW Businessworld Dialogue on Leadership, Dupuis muses on the “organised chaos” that is India. “In spite of 1.3 billion people and various economic changes, things work,” he marvels. “I really like the agility about India. I love the positive energy in India and connecting with people,” says Dupuis.

Dupuis has spent more than 20 years in Japan. He believes that blending Kaizen with the Indian way of working would be beneficial. Dupuis says he follows two simple values as a leader –gratitude and that a full life is about doing well and doing good.

“Doing Well is about delivering the best on the expectations and Doing Good is about making a positive impact or leaving a legacy behind,” he explains.

Like Climbing a Mountain
The Randstad India CEO draws a simile between climbing a mountain and leadership. Dupuis has, as a matter of fact climbed Mt. Fuji with his two sons.

“Never focus on the top but keep the focus on the milestones. I really enjoy being a transformational leader. There are moments when leaders have to walk alone. I want to say to leaders, ‘Keep moving, set the milestones, listen to the positive voice on the right shoulder and things will happen’. Most of all, besides all the challenges, enjoy the journey to the top,” he reveals.

The E5 Model
“When you are a leader for many years, you craft your own version of leadership. I use this E5 model for many years with my team members. My book is about a model for a game-changing leadership based on observations of game-changing leaders, my own journey, a lot of anecdotes, and stories of leaders across the genres,” says Dupuis.

“The book is about what I call the E5 - Envision, Express, Excite, Enable and Execute. Simply put, the E5 guides the transformation of the leader from a tactical pace-setter to a strategic enabler,” he says.

Critical thinking, Dupuis feels, is a skill required in the post-Covid world. “Critical thinking would be required in the world of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty complexity and ambiguity). Critical thinking can be a muscle. We need to find a way to teach E5 skills much faster and foster those skills in schools,” he says.

Asked by a member of the audience if good leaders could be equally good managers, Dupuis spells out the rather thick line between the roles of managers and leaders. “Managers deliver on the expectations, KPIs, they deliver on the vision of the company and we need competent managers, but the leader changes the game. The leader creates the vision; a leader finds the blue ocean and inspires to deliver, to surprise, to delight,” he says.

‘Leaders Must Be Swift, Sharp But Humane’
The pandemic that grips the world and India with it, is changing the way people live and do business, compelling leaders to drum up new strategies every day to cope with the times and keep their organisations afloat.

“I am a big fan of change, transformation, and bold moves,” exults Dupuis, as he goes on to talk of leadership in tough times, the future of the job market and human resources and dealing with a crisis as a strong person. Extending his support for those who lost their jobs, or are on the verge of losing it, he says, “self-care is important more than anything. I think it’s a great time to look into the mirror to take care of yourself, physically or mentally. Be ready for when this crisis will end.” He says he draws strength from the well-known phrase – “This too shall pass.”

‘People Will Lose Jobs’

Talking of the state of the job market at this juncture, he says, “People are going to lose jobs and that’s the reality and that has already started to happen. I have seen changes in the economy and I believe the creation of jobs and employment will always be more; that’s the nature of the economy, it always bounces back for those who all are facing job losses. At Randstad; we put 60,000 people at work in India every day. We already see some companies hiring straightaway, helping front liners – anything from doctors related to life sciences, and pharmaceuticals.”

Towards a Contactless World

 The upsurge, he admits was driving us all towards a contactless world. “I see a rising demand for data science, Data Analytics, skills related to e-payment, artificial intelligence, cloud, and the whole E-payment industry which is massive in India,” says Dupuis. Dupuis admits that corporate leaders at the top rung of their organisations like CEOs, CXOs and COOs really have a clear notion of what they are dealing with.

“No one has a clear notion right now, but I am seeing a clear line between the two types of responses – one where the leaders are accepting it as a massive challenge and they are looking for opportunities and talking about wellness, safety, security, family and engagement with their employees.

“Whereas on the other hand, we have leaders who are saying, ‘this will end in a couple of weeks’ giving false hopes to their employees and not working on strategies and opportunities during this disruption,” Dupuis says.

Randstad India
Predicting the near future Dupuis says, “I personally would lead with a cloudy scenario, that is, we need to face some months with unpredictability and instability. I am not the person who thinks about EBITA (earnings before interest, taxes and amortisation)-profit every day. We need to let people go from organisations. I am a big believer in being respectful and being humane through this very difficult process. We need to take these decisions swiftly but in a warm way to save the integrity of the person.”

Giving Back to Society

His narration of his experience as chairman of a Canadabased NPO called HOPE, which helps the neglected become self-reliant, is an inspiration for other leaders for doing good and giving back to society. In the early 2000s, Dupuis had been into the deep jungles of Cambodia, along with the chairman of HOPE to teach poor people how to use water and how to plow, among other things.

“I am a big fan of any community that is trying to be together to raise the quality of life,” he tells BW Businessworld. While moving to India he had to sacrifice a passion for playing ice hockey, but feels that it was worth it.

“Ice hockey for many Canadians is more like a religion,” he says enthusiastically. “It is in my mind also a temple. Sports are where we learn the meaning of right and wrong. There is so much unpredictability in ice hockey. I believe sports build community and community build hope and lives,” says Dupuis.

Makes Him Smile
All of us have our special moments that make us smile. For Dupuis those moments are mostly the simple joys of life. “I am an optimist who wakes up every morning with a smile. I love hearing the sound of birds chirping, coffee, and a newspaper sitting in the balcony, sitting on a sofa, making Zoom calls to friends and family. The moments of just being together and being around nature are really special,” says he. His advice to students who are still in college is that they should build on their values. “The world is going to continue to change; build on your values, especially agility. Step out of your comfort zone and put yourself in unpredicted situations,” he says.

His concludes on a note of hope. “Embrace yourself, surround yourself with good people,” says Dupuis, adding, “and stay hopeful – this crisis will be over soon.”

This article was first published in the print issue of (26 July - 08 August 2020) BW Businessworld. Click Here to Subscribe to BW Businessworld magazine.

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