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7 Questions on Leadership with Hitendra Narain Mishra

Name: Hitendra Narain Mishra

Title: Managing Director India

Organisation: Westport Fuel Systems

Managing Director (India) for Westport Fuel Systems. An alternative fuel Systems MNC. (Sept’21 onwards): Entrusted with managing the entire business in India and as a vital member of Westport Fuel Systems' global leadership team. Role encompassed ensuring profitability, fostering business development, optimizing operations, and upholding the organization's strong brand image, including managing relationships with local government agencies for India. Additionally, held the position of Chairman of the 50/50 joint venture with large Indian firm and established the Global Sourcing Office for the WFS Group.

CEO of component/aggregate business of VECV and responsible for turnover growth from 300 Crore to 1200 Crores. Led transformation of business and turnaround of the same into global supplier with significantly enhanced profits. Member of Top Management of VE Commercial Vehicles Limited (A Volvo and Eicher Motors Joint Venture) reporting to the Managing Director and Board comprising of members of Volvo and Eicher Motors Limited. Worked across functions and roles to grow from GET (1992) at Eicher to CEO of Component and Aggregates Business vertical in 2014

Thirty-one years of rich experience in successfully exceeding revenue targets, profit, business growth objectives and turnaround of take over companies. Customer- focused and performance-driven. Leading multi-location and multi product teams of more than 2,500 employees. Responsible for P&L, operations, Supplier Development and Marketing functions of both domestic and Exports for business exceeding 1200 Crore. Strong track record of Business development with Domestic and global customers. Significantly improving bottom line through breakthrough improvements in Material cost, optimized operations cost, productivity and Quality.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Hitendra's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

The most challenging element of being a leader is to model the desired behavior. It is very clear that no one takes the leader's audio very seriously but what inspires is his video or what he demonstrates. Hence, as a leader I am cognizant of the fact that my behaviour has to be exemplary and I have to be the change I want to see in others. This doesn't have to be a forced situation but has to come naturally as one has to believe what one preaches. So it has to be walk the talk at all times.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I was a leader of a team when my superior resigned to move to another organization and the baton got transferred to my hand. Though it was a humbling experience but I was delighted with the opportunity. I was passionate about the business and story of the organization. We created a shared vision with the team and made it an important part of our day to day activity. All got aligned to the vision which became the guideline rather than the hierarchy. All these practices of inclusion and shared vision created extraordinary efforts leading to magical performance of the business along with an inspired team.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

Every morning I wake I express my deep sense of gratitude to god for creating one more day for me go out in the world to excel in whatever I do. This is followed by nearly 30 minutes of exercise and some meditation. I also create a weekly plan on Sunday for the next week and schedule time for urgent and important business requirements. I believe in short meetings with fixed objectives. I break my day in many 30 minutes slot so that I can cover all relevant activities. Before I call it a day at office I decide the next day priorities and reflect on anything which I feel hasn't been accomplished appropriately. During the day one slot of 30 minutes is planned for informal meeting with one of the team members.

Once at home I try to take out time for the family and always have our meal together.

Before sleeping I reflect on the complete day and try to find any lessons for me. This is followed by 30 minutes of reading for a good sleep.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

One of the recent leadership lessons learnt is how to handle setbacks in life. I have gone through some challenging situation which was quite difficult to understand when will it end. When you get in a difficult situation I will recommend the following :- 1) Don't panic and try to control your emotion. It is normal to feel low but it is leadership to gradually come back to control, 2) Find what is in control and what is not in control. Stop worrying about what is not in one's control and start acting decisively on what is in one's control. 3)The only way to control worries is to decide what all actions needs to be taken and ensure same is done without delay. 4)Monitor progress and ensure things move. Always have a belief in self that you will prevail.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

The book which has impacted my leadership in a very significant way has been Good to Great by Jim Collins. The concept of Level 5 leadership means the leader who wants to progress towards making a great organization should have very high high humility with extreme commitment to the cause of the organisation. This combination ensures that the leadership is in place for taking next steps for great organisation. It extremely difficult to create right humility once the leader is successful but this is the only way if you want problems and opportunities come to you at very nascent stage itself.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

My advice will be that " All young leaders to be emotionally, physically and mentally present at the place of action to maximise their learning and the impact of their deeds. They should also try to be proactive so that majority of problems do not arise and get prevented in first place.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

This situation arose couple of years earlier when of our customer's demand increased significantly and became unmanageable. The key people of leadership team were working in their respective areas and trying to manage the situation. Despite all efforts the output was not doubling as per customer expectations. Also, due to the pressures always while putting full efforts everyone was trying to avoid blame on their function for any loss.

I realised that we need to make changes to the approach for ensuring improved performance. A team called Mission 30,000 (As per requirement) was created and larger goal of delighting the customer was put for the team. All key members of various functions were part of the team. Suddenly the stress changed into stretch and constraints became challenges.

There was an overall significant change in performance and we got appreciation from the customer for extraordinary ramp up which was better than any supplier across the globe.

The learning is to find alignment towards larger goal to create superlative performance.

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