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we would find fault with. But on the whole, what they did to advance the U.S.
was phenomenal. And the effects, in terms of insti tutional influence, have also
S+B: You’re studying institutional influence at SPJIMR?
GOPAL: We picked six organizations in India to study. They are the HDFC
Group, Tata Consultancy, L&T [Larsen & Toubro], Kotak [Mahindra] Bank,
Biocon, and Marico. Each has a chief executive who we think of as a shaper: a
holistic leader with very high aspirations for the company and its place in the
world around it. These six individuals come from completely different backgrounds.
But they seem to have some ver y interesting common qua lities : attention to ta lent
and an ability to focus on the long term in addition to the short term. They’re
absolute hounds for detail, but they
can also see the larger picture.
It’s fascinating to hear stories of
their ability for integrative thinking.
When presented with two options, they
push back and choose a third one.
S+B: Why do you use the term shaper?
GOPAL: I was influenced by the
metaphor of a brick layer a s distinct from
the guy who builds a cathedral. A
competent business leader is like a very good mason, who piles bricks and builds
a wall. A shaper has a much grander design in mind.
S+B: Are you saying that the institution’s competitive advantage has more to do
with its long-term identity than with its immediate profits?
GOPAL: This concept of leadership represents an evolution of business
management ideas that go back to the practice of cultivated agriculture. Ten
thousand years ago, people lived in the forests and ate what they found there.
Nobody grew their food.
Cultivated agriculture represented the beginning of humankind’s quest for
“I was influenced by the
metaphor of a bricklayer
as distinct from the guy
who builds a cathedral. A
competent business leader is
like a very good mason, who
piles bricks and builds a
wall. A shaper has a much
grander design in mind.”