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New Delhi: Eighteen months ago, Manas Pandit was leading a group of analysts in the Netherlands office of computer services provider Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS) when his reporting head was promoted. Pandit, a high-performing manager, was picked as one of the candidates to fill his boss’ shoes.

After clearing a rigorous selection procedure, Pandit was mentored under TCS’ flagship leadership development programme Ambassador Corps—a learning and development programme that prepares TCS employees in global sales roles—to take on the mantle of business relationship manager, based in Singapore.

More power: A session on systematic problem-solving at the Mahindra Institute of Quality, Nashik.

“Being a domain expert, I did not have capabilities such as negotiation and cross-functional skills, managing CXO-level executives, vendors and competitors," says Pandit, 29. CXO is short for chief x officer, a generic term for any senior corporate executive.

As the business environment changes rapidly, organizations need leaders who can deal with the change and also profit from it. Managers are required to quickly assess situations, look at new opportunities and put in place necessary strategies.

“Organizations, thus, need people who are on the top of things," says Rajeev Dubey, president, human resources (HR), Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd. “For this, companies need to equip future leaders with the latest know-how, resources and tools."

Increasing globalization, technological advances and changing dynamics of the marketplace make continuous learning imperative.

Executive education is becoming integral to the growth of an organization, and an increasing number of companies in India are setting up their own corporate universities or tying up with educational institutions.

The Mahindra group, for instance, offers a number of life-cycle programmes for leadership development at key transition points for managers. In 1999, the conglomerate set up an in-house management development centre, Bodhi Vriksha—named after the tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment—to promote business values and leadership skills.

“In addition, we send our high performers to attend various leadership development programmes at Harvard, Wharton, London School of Economics and business schools in India, including the Indian Institutes of Management, Bangalore and Ahmedabad," says Dubey.

Similarly, Infosys Technologies Ltd has the Infosys Leadership Institute in Mysore to transition high-performing managers into larger and more complex roles. Infosys identifies leaders and segregates them into three tiers based on work experience. Each tier of leaders is mentored by a tier of senior colleagues. A leadership index assesses the performance of participants and their ability to share learning with others.

TCS has leadership development programmes that are modelled on Harvard Business School courses. It also invites faculty from the B-school and other renowned institutions to conduct leadership development programmes for senior TCS executives.

Maruti Suzuki India Ltd tied up with Management Development Institute (MDI), Gurgaon, in 2004 for a leadership development programme for all its functional heads. At RPG group, RPG Corporate University grooms future leaders at different levels across the group.

In partnership with assessment products and consulting services company SHL (India) Pvt. Ltd, it has identified competencies required for roles across the RPG group.

Human resource managers say companies need to determine what skills and qualities will best address their needs and seek programmes accordingly.

“However, executive education by itself can’t achieve much unless it is coupled with on-the-job training and development, real-life learning and problem-solving business situations, internal mentoring and coaching," says Dubey.

Industries such as information technology and retail had to accelerate the learning curve of their managers so that they could keep pace with the rapid pace of their growth. This spawned a breed of young business leaders who have taken on larger roles much ahead of peers in a manufacturing or an infrastructure company.

Currently, companies across sectors are adopting this practice as they look at increasing growth opportunities.

“Today we have (a) lot more younger employees joining the workforce who have aspirations of moving up the ladder quickly," says A. Sudhakar, executive vice-president, human resources, Dabur India Ltd. “At the same time, companies need able leaders at all levels to align with (the) company’s growth strategy. These intersecting interests are driving the creation of more executive education programmes within the organization and outside."

The traits that companies consider before putting managers in executive education programmes include integrity, a focus on results, sharing of knowledge and learning, the ability to communicate vision and ensuring customer satisfaction.

“To my mind, openness to learning and new technology, having a global outlook and understanding of the economic, cultural, legal and political aspects of the environment are some of the things that we would look for in a potential leader," says Prabir Jha, global HR head at Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd.

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