Grooming the Next-gen Leaders

DQI Bureau
New Update

Creating and nurturing a second line of leadership is a must for every organization as it is equally important for an individual (read CIO) to deliver greater value to his or her company. A CIO's role cuts through all the functional areas and, therefore, he or she has good knowledge of each function of the organization. It thus provides an opportunity for him/her to grow beyond IT while keeping the IT running.


This is certainly an important part of strategic planning and needs to be built in a structured manner. Help from HR is important especially for the purpose of training on soft skills like leadership qualities, strategic thinking, business alignment, cross-functional coordination, etc. In this issue of CIO of the month, we concentrate on the need to groom the next rung of leaders

Be tactful in nurturing the second line managers

According to Hubert Dsa, head, IT, Abbott Nutrition India, there is a definite need for nurturing the second line of leadership. Strategies that can be adopted need to include management development programs either inhouse or services of business schools need to be engaged. At Abbott Nutrition, constant coaching activities are undertaken and if required, relevant MDP programs are planned.


Advising on the choice of new leaders, Dsa says, "Be tactful in choosing and nurturing the second line managers. A wrong decision can create a lot of disparity in the team."The biggest challenge is to identify the right mix for nurturing your team. The method Abbott uses to combat such challenges is to conduct regular monthly meets with the team, assisting in identifying the thought process, introducing best practices, and if required, resolve personal issues within the team. There are also discussions held on yearly training requirements.

Dsa informs, "It is the leader's responsibility to identify and nominate the right candidate, set the context, and convince the decision makers in the organization."

Talking about the hiring stages, he says, hiring the right candidate is the biggest challenge for all organizations and to retain good talent is much more challenging. The right candidate can be hired by setting right interviewing mechanisms. Abbott has a minimum of 5 rounds of interviews for a candidate ensuring they are well judged by different departments. Overall score and background verification are the final decisions which influence the hiring of a candidate. The company has a NEO (New Employee Orientation) program which caters to the induction.


A CIO has to create a benchmark for the management

A true leader will always nurture his second line of managers to become the future leaders. At the end of the day, reality cannot be undermined that the CIO can't handle all the responsibilities alone and forever. Therefore, he or she always needs to train talented resources. In fact, a leader can get amazing power only if he has very able subordinates.

"But nurturing a successor is becoming an increasingly complex issue for post-modern organizations. Earlier, we used to live in reasonably predictable times but today our environment is unpredictable and the time between two predictable situations is continually collapsing. Today, we need to merge succession planning with 'what if' scenarios," says Vishwajeet Singh, CIO, Epitome Travel Solutions India.


As soon as an individual is identified, the CIO's first responsibility would be to include him/her in most of the official tasks which the CIO performs on a daily routine basis. Later, his view points can be taken on most of the demanding calls where there is some peer pressure. As a next step, he can be allowed to work individually under the CIO's direct supervision. And the fourth and final attempt is to redirect all the CIO's direct calls (including new project planning, project handling, negotiations, team building, etc) to him and monitor things.

Every CIO has a different set of challenges. Finding his successor and relying on his capabilities will always be his own call. A good mentor inspires trust. He has to build a relationship in which he can build a sense of direction with employees, and their ability to make choices and face consequences. The CIO has to make sure that he should have the capacity to listen, what most people lack is big time. One should always communicate the organization's mission, strategy, and priorities, advises Singh to his fellow CIOs.

Highlighting the challenges, Singh says organizations want it all. The desire for creativity and innovation appears to smack up against the drive for productivity. How can people find time to be creative amid the piles of work that need to be done? There is also a fear of failure.


Not all leaders and cultures tolerate the risk associated with innovation, despite the promise of big gains. Failure is unavoidably part of every process. Yet failure can result in lost time, money that appears to be wasted, and blame. As a result, leaders hold back. Another is internal competition. There are chances of creating negativity within the department if the CIO doesn't carry the transition properly.

"Having a second line in place will always be in the organization's favor and no organization would discourage it. Being the CIO, you always create a benchmark in front of the management and now it becomes easier for the organization in finding those qualities within a prospective employee," feels Singh.

I have selected a few key profiles who are continuously monitored by me


In today's intensely competitive business arena, the second line of leadership is crucial for any organization. One need not necessarily look outside for it and most of the time this talent is available internally which needs to be identified and nurtured to take up the future CIO role. A well planned and structured approach is a must for this. It is also recommended to involve HR while preparing the plan and periodic assessment needs.

"The selected profiles are continuously monitored by me beyond their day-to-day operations. They are given an adequate delegation, freedom to take decisions, manage resources, and work more from the solution perspective rather than technical one. I counsel them from time to time and correct their mistakes (if any) and also make them realize the right way to do things. I constantly expose them to the challenging business environment by having direct interaction with HODs, process owners, and various key users in the organization," says Nandkishor Dhomne, CIO, Manipal health enterprises, Manipal Group.

The key challenges are stability and patience of the second line during this entire nurturing process since this process takes time. But it also depends on the response and outcome from the second line, although the expected timelines may get extended. Getting proper alignment with HR processes is another area of concern which needs to be addressed while preparing the plan for second line development.


There are many advantages in nurturing the second line including CIOs moving on with additional or new responsibilities within the organization to further boost their respective careers in different domains. In this way, CIOs will be able to deliver more value to second line which will ultimately benefit the organization in the long term. This will also improve the stability of the second line and bring down the high IT attrition rate since the team will be able to see a clear career path over next 4-5 years.

There is a strong support to CIOs from the organization to nurture the second line as ultimately, this will give more talent and an extra 'horse power' to the organization for sustaining in the most competitive business environment. Most of the organizations, in fact, have started including this as a part of the CIO's KRAs and goal sheet. Dhomne informs that his organization is highly supportive in this initiative.

On the adoption of the road ahead, Dhomne informs about few measures which need to be considered at the hiring stage itself. One is stability and commitment of the candidate. Second is explaining the long-term career path and alignment with the candidate's expectations. Third is leadership skills which needs to be carefully examined while interviewing on the technology part.

Fourth is a formal document which must be shared with the candidate while hiring. This document should contain the current roles, responsibilities, and career progression. Few companies have well established and matured hiring process and they give a complete picture on the position they are hiring. However there many organizations which still need to implement best practices in the hiring process.

Welspun follows a formal succession tool

The Welspun Group is a $3-bn amalgamation of expertise, resources, opportunities, and engineering excellence. Being a progressive group, the company is already following the path of building the next generation with evolved roles. Following the typical HR defined protocol, the company identifies the next set of leaders from the present strength and grooms them on the basis of individual skills, roles in the company, and expertise in the role.

But looking at the blurring lines between IT and business, the company is grooming multiple business heads with IT skills rather than building a central IT head.

Mukund Prasad, who is presently the Global CIO also holds many other responsibilities as director, group HR, business transformation. Prasad says, "With the increasing role of IT with business, we see the emergence of new roles. The static job profile of the CIO is changing, and soon the enterprises might go away with a pure-play CIO who looks at IT in silos. As enterprises start a more strategic outsourcing and collaborative approach with vendors, the role of a CIO will change into a chief enabler officer. And hence we are encouraging the CIO to diversify from a static profile and wear different hats."

Similarly moving beyond pure IT, the next leader will look into enterprise architecture, procurement, and contracts. So who succeeds him is a tough question, as the role shall be collectively divided into business heads, who are at VP and other senior executive roles across 25 locations and other business units. "Welspun follows a formal succession tool. We define Individual Development Planning (IDP) based on skill and job profile and decide other aspects. We also spend heavily on training and development," he adds.

The new head would look into demand management and also at the outsourcing partner for the supply management. While the manpower skill will be derived from supply side, the demand management will be about business aspects.