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Leaders should become more humane to have a sense of confidence and agility in order to take their organizations ahead even in the face of crises, said option trader and mathematical statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb at the latest dispatch of the Mint series—Winning with Anti-Fragility: Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder. He added that the quality, competence and capability of a system may become better as a result of shock, volatility, randomness and disorder.

Corporate cultures may be disrupted by factors such as family lives of the employees, workplace interactions in a remote set up, the economy, religion and politics, despite enterprises having stringent expectations regarding workplace behaviour. However, many say this makes them too vulnerable and fragile when change ensues. If corporations were antifragile, they could potentially have a stable workforce with improved innovation, product quality and service performance.

Cyril Shroff, managing partner, CAM, said a leader is akin to Shiva, and must have the ability to drink poison every day to grow stronger, while an antifragile organization is like a muscle, which gets regenerated after wear and tear.

The mindset, according to him, is to never waste a crisis like the pandemic to identify the weaknesses and become robust. He said a leader’s core mentality must be understood: whether he believes in a built-to-last or built-to-sell model.

(L-R) Cyril Shroff, managing partner, CAM; Vineet Nayar, founder, chairperson and CEO, Sampark Foundation, and the former CEO of HCL Technologies; Anjali Bansal, founder of Avaana Capital.
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(L-R) Cyril Shroff, managing partner, CAM; Vineet Nayar, founder, chairperson and CEO, Sampark Foundation, and the former CEO of HCL Technologies; Anjali Bansal, founder of Avaana Capital.

According to Shroff, the greatest skills a leader could have include the ability to see around corners, as it augments the vision and ability to pivot according to circumstances that are constantly changing. In the face of all stressors and shocks, the purpose and values of an enterprise must not change and, if it remains unwavering, it can withstand anything. When it comes to globalization, Shroff cites two models. One is the model of the church, one of the largest and complex organizations in the world, where all churches are the same. The second is the Buddhist model, which is also global, but every temple in the world is different with a set of guardrails, allowing adaptations to different markets. For companies to maintain their core competence, and yet be locally adaptable is important, he added.

Vineet Nayar, founder, chairperson and CEO, Sampark Foundation, and former CEO of HCL Technologies, said with the industrial age, a hierarchy had been established, but with the advent of the digital age, value creation in response to a crisis and finding opportunities by innovating is key.

Nayar said for the organization of tomorrow, nobody will be managed, but everyone will be led. There has been a growing trend towards accountability that has gone beyond profitable returns, and include social, ecological and ethical responsibility, driven by a larger purpose and all-inclusive vision.

Anjali Bansal, founder of Avaana Capital, said crises are everyday occurrences and, with information being a new currency, which is bottom-up and not top-down, to remove the role of leaders is to remove the asymmetry of information, so as to create distributed leaders across the organization.

She said the focus must be on the “agility" component of antifragility and organizations, be it startups or big traditional enterprises, must be flexible.

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