“Good enough to be best”- 8 May 2012
(A sequel to last episode of “Politics is the name of a dirty game”)
Asking the immediate rival to the CEO’s post to be the second in command, was Hariharan’s master-stroke. And right from Day One, Hariharan started giving the second in command all the importance. He valued his judgements and decisions, allowed him to preside over important meetings, encouraged him to visit outstation units of the company. The second in command loved all that. For, even if he was not the CEO, he was almost the top man.
Senior executives of the company were rather surprised to see this new-wave management technique. Yet, many of them had serious doubts about Hariharan’s move. They felt that the second in command may not remain honest or loyal to Hariharan. So, one evening, one senior Divisional Manager confronted Hariharan on the club lawns. “Sir, are you sure you are doing thing in a right manner? Are you sure of the fellow’s honesty and loyalty? Will he not conspire to bust your image, since you have already defeated him to the post? I have seen you grow, and want you to succeed. So, be careful,” he said by way of caution.
Hari smiled and said, “Sir, I must thank you for your concern. I have taken a reasonable risk, and so far things have been good. Of course, only a few months have passed, and both of us are hitting off well. I am careful, and watch things closely, not in suspicion, but as part of my style of watching things minutely. But by the way, Sir, if you come across anything strange or untoward, please let me know. That will be sufficient.”
A couple of months later, the company’s Chairman, a seasoned warrior of many battles, invited Hariharan for dinner at home. And there, he asked a straight question: “How are thing Hari? Are you okay with your second in command? Of course, he is my relative, and has lot many good qualities. But is he doing things right? Are you sure, you have taken the right step? If there is any difficulty, please let me know. I will of of much help.”
To this question oozing with concern and admiration, Hariharan responded, “Thank you, Sir. I am absolutely comfortable with the arrangement. He is really doing well. Eventually, I am thinking of proposing a major expansion of our group. Sort of another unit. There, he can be made the CEO. For, he is getting ready for the task. Then, both of us would take the group ahead and higher. Sort of, I am grooming him without telling him.”
The Chairman was surprised all the more. He asked, “But Hari, he was your rival and you are promoting him, pushing for his rise. What sort of a fellow are you!,” the balding old man said.
Hariharan responded, “Sir, my motivation comes from history. When Abraham Lincoln got elected President of the United States, he had defeated four of his party rivals to the presidential nomination. On moving into the White House, Lincoln got in touch with all his rivals, roped them into his Cabinet, gave them important posts, and ran the country effectively. He formed a team of rivals. He could do this because he was sure of himself. He knew, leadership meant making others great. Yes, there is always a risk in this approach. But then, it is a reasonable risk worth taking.”
The Chairman’s eyes widened in sheer awe of the courageous thought on the part of Hariharan.
“I must admit Hari, I, too, had read Lincoln’s biography thoroughly, but never thought of this dimension. That’s your credit that you are making the best use of your reading professionally. Hari, the group will always remain safe in your hands. Yet, I must offer you a word of caution: Please be careful. For, what is involved here, what is at risk, is the group’s well being. You are a brave man, but you need to be alert all the time. I am not trying to frighten you. I am only asking you never to drop your guard. The fellow — your second in command — is a good guy and will be one. But much will depend upon how you conduct yourself vis-a-vis him. Good luck!”, the Chairman said.
For Hariharan, it was an ultimate certificate that what he was trying was good enough to be the best move.