It’s strictly Personal

Since 1959, Mckinsey & Company has given away awards recognising the best articles published in the Harvard Business Review (HBR), every year. In 2010, something strange happened; the winning article (which, by the way, is the most read article on HBR today) was titled ‘How will you measure your life?’ by Professor Clayton M. Christensen.

I call this strange simply because the article is really not about business or management, but focuses on imparting life lessons to people. It talks about creating a strategy for your life, the importance of staying humble, having the discipline to keep up your promises always and, most importantly, focusing on bettering the lives of people around you. Christensen, an expert of disruptive innovation and a professor at Harvard Business School, had drawn parallels between the corporate and personal worlds and written this stunningly relevant and useful piece on managing one’s life better.

This article was a super hit in the world of business for a reason. All the complexity and pressure that the environment put on executives led to corruption, lack of common sense and overall, a lot of unhappiness. On the economic front, greed just led to a downturn and nothing else. ‘How will you measure your life?’ served as a reminder to everyone to become better people. While there are no statistics, I’m sure it played a role in shaping up the thought process of various business leaders for the better. The world of business was no longer just about making money and becoming famous. To me, the lesson of personal values was far more crucial than leadership skills. You could be the world’s smartest chief executive, yet, if you aren’t keeping the society and your immediate family happy, your life’s scorecard looks dismal.

The article deeply impacted my approach to editing The Smart CEO. Our cover stories on leadership always treaded down the path of personal values and ethics. However, we were looking for something a little deeper – an article that would bridge that gap between an individual’s personality and the leader in him. In December 2012, I ran into R. Gopalakrishnan, director, Tata Sons, at a conference in Mumbai.  I had heard about his book, ‘When the Penny Drops’; one that focused on the importance of self-awareness in a leader. I requested him if he’d be willing to interview with us for a cover story. He obliged.

During our conversation, Gopalakrishnan spoke about several experiences he’d been through, and more importantly, the lessons he’d learnt from these. He delved deep into a specific methodology – called the three-world framework – that is used at the Tata Management Training Center (TMTC) to train budding leaders in a structured fashion. The belief is that every leader is part of three different worlds – his or her personal world, the world of getting things done at work and the world of relationships (managing relationships with the boss, team members and any other stakeholders).

I thought the three-world framework is extremely relevant to all our business and personal lives. If we balance the demands from these three worlds, our lives and careers would come together, seamlessly. At the broader level, it’s fairly clear that there is a very thin line between our personal and professional lives. To be successful requires success on both sides of the line. This edition’s cover story titled “The Aha! Moments from the career of Tata Sons’ R. Gopalakrishnan” will help you understand the finer nuances of balancing the three worlds.

Hope you enjoy reading this edition of The Smart CEO.