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The India Way: A Reader for India Cross Cultural Management

by Brandi Moore on May 12, 2010

The India Way, authored by 4 esteemed professors from Wharton is a new release and offers an in-depth view on what makes India’s organizations different from America’s.  In other words, it’s an India Cross Cultural Management primer that will help American managers understand the differences between US and India organizations.

The overall priorities listed by India Leaders for their effective India Organizations:

  • Setting strategy
  • Keeper of organizational culture
  • Acting as a role model or teacher from employees

The last two on the list are components of Rishi Leadership, although its not defined this way in the book.  Rishi Leadership is a combination of modern business practices with the values found in Hinduism and throughout India’s culture.

In India, specifically in Hinduism, people move through life with changing expectations.

Around the time young people leave college they enter a stage called Grihasta, or householder, where focus is placed on building wealth to take care of a family.  As family grows up, this stage transitions into a time that is focused on giving back to the community.  In organizations, this desire plays out with programs focused on employee development and building corporations for the long term to leave behind an organization that supports the community.

India Way authors interviewed Azim Premji, Wipro’s Chairman and the archetype of Rishi Leadership style and included intimate details of his thinking on management in American terms.  He describes himself as the “keeper of organizational culture” at Wipro.  While other leaders explained that “India business leaders bring a sense of family; sense of closeness to the office.”

Americans have a very different tone in the work place with a primary focus on quarterly profits and shareholders.  Indians describe Americans as “distant” which is not surprising.  American’s tone is confusing to those in India who are accustomed to a personal approach to an employee’s growth and development.  Employees in India expect to follow a path of directed learning offered by an organization.  In return for offering this path, the organization receives the skill sets are required for success.  In essence, the corporation takes care of employees so employees take care of the organization.  This is very simliar to organizations found in the US after World War II.

The biggest hurdle Americans have in this situation is trying to balance India’s needs with corporate America’s shareholder demands.  The brightest talent will be attracted to Rishi Leadership model, leaving firms that do not do some work adopting India’s principles without the leadership they need to be successful.   For managers working inside India, adopting a more father or uncle like approach toward employees will be received positively but it will take work for an American Manager to keep up.  Like all cross-cultural activities American managers must create a personalized guide of methodologies that might make managing India teams more effective.  Acting out of character will feel like a pretense at times since culturally this is not American workplace behavior.

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