Tuesday, October 07, 2014

When management gurus dissect politics....

How can we tell whether a political leader such as Narendra Modi will succeed? Three management experts, including Ram Charan, attempt an answer in a business journal. I can't say I was bowled over by their analysis.

The authors say we should look for five signals, on all of which Modi scores. Let me take up two in detail

i. How deep is the politician's insight into public interest? Modi's interest is very deep, the authors say, because of his own background of poverty. Well, Manmohan Singh too came from a poor family in a very backward village. He could, perhaps, claim that he understood the poor as well as the elite and was thus well placed to negotiate his way through the elite on behalf of the poor.In India (unlike in the US), we have hordes of politicians who have come up from the grassroots. Lalu Yadav and Mayawati, for instance. But they have not proved to be transformative leaders in the sense of bringing about an improvement in the lives of the class of people they once belonged to.

ii. Can the leader get things done? Modi has a record as a doer in Gujarat, the authors point out. But Gujarat was one of the best performing states even before Modi became Chief Minister (although, to his credit, Modi was able to maintain that record). India's growth rate has improved since the nineties and through the noughties under a succession of governments and leaders. Not all were headed by doers. However, starting with Narasimha Rao, we managed to put in place policies that paid off. So, yes, it helps to be good at execution but the role of policy must not be understated.

The authors mention other factors that favour Modi: his business mind-set, his ability to engage senior government officials, the broad support he enjoys. It's hard to disagree on these. But none of these by themselves or even put together ensure results.  Both Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi had broad support but both saw how quickly this could dissipate. A "businesss mind-set" can be a negative if it means being pro-business at the expense of welfarist considerations.

Modi's strengths are his ability to connect with the masses, formidable administrative experience, a a capacity to think out of the box. deep study and reflection, boundless energy and a genuine passion to make a difference at the national level. This combination bodes well for any leader. We don't need management experts to tell us that.

1 comment:

Tanmay said...

Modi's skills are marketing (the way he is going about selling India), mobilizing resources (the way he appointed key people to devise the winning election strategy), and negotiating while in power (he got a good deal with industrialists as a CM in gujarat).

His problems are, not enough good support in terms of calibre of ministers; difficulties in replicating state-development model at the centre, managing huge expectations (Obama was also super charismatic and Godsent to solve problems, but in terms of delievry, it was only modest)