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7 Questions on Leadership with Nandakumar M

Name: Nandakumar M

Title: Vice President

Organisation: CIEL HR Services P Ltd

With an extensive background spanning over 25 years in the staffing, talent solutions, consulting industry, I have honed my skills as a strategic leader adept at creating new businesses, expanding markets, and achieving exceptional outcomes. As a Principal Advisor to Corporates, I provide invaluable guidance to my clients on business strategies, playing a pivotal role in strengthening their client base and fostering profitable growth across diverse domains and verticals.

My areas of expertise encompass a wide spectrum, including IT and General Staffing, Managed Services, RPO, HR Consulting, Digital Transformation, Educational Services, Statutory Compliance & payroll solutions, facilities and property management solutions to Corporates. Throughout my career, I have consistently showcased my ability to successfully launch and establish new verticals and cultivate strategic partnerships. In addition, I possess a proven track record of effectively managing large accounts and contracts, as well as revitalizing underperforming businesses.

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

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


Jonno White

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

Being a successful change leader has'nt been easy.

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

It took me 7 years to transition from a pure Sales/BDrole to the position of Branch Head, where I was responsible for overseeing the profit and loss of the branch. This opportunity arose in 2005 and required me to not only manage sales but also lead teams and oversee various functions within the organization, from a 25 member team to as large as 120+ over a period of time. I found great fulfillment in these roles and in order to enhance my capabilities, I dedicated a significant amount of time to learning about the other functions and building relationships with my colleagues. As time went on, I continued to grow as a "leader", successfully managing larger roles, teams and businesses across geographies.

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

I deviate slightly from the conventional saying of "early to bed, early to rise," as I tend to go to bed late. However, I still manage to wake up by 5am on 90% of the days. This early morning routine allows me to dedicate over three hours to self-preparation, which includes activities such as morning walks and getting ready to face the day ahead.

In addition to attending pre-scheduled meetings and calls, I make it a point to jot down a comprehensive list of tasks to be accomplished for the day. I set mobile alerts for each task, and as the day progresses, I diligently clear them one by one. By keeping my weekdays packed with numerous action items, I feel a great sense of confidence knowing that I am actively engaged in various endeavors.

Despite my busy schedule, I have successfully managed to strike a balance between my family and work responsibilities, especially since the beginning of the pandemic. For me, as the day winds down around 11pm, I often indulge in reading and watching news related to business, politics, and sports. This allows me to stay informed and satisfied with the day's accomplishments before retiring for the night.

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

A leader's composure is of utmost importance, particularly during challenging times and when dealing with their team. While leaders possess the authority to apply pressure on their team to achieve tasks and desired outcomes, it is essential to remain composed when things veer off track due to oversight or team members' underperformance. It is common for leaders to become agitated and resort to shouting at their team in such situations. However, in today's competitive world, this approach can result in the loss of valuable team members.

I am reminded of my boss and mentor, Aditya Mishra, who consistently demonstrates this quality and is widely admired as a leader. Irrespective of the circumstances, leaders must maintain a sense of calm and composure when interacting with people and facing challenging situations.

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?

I found Carol Dweck's book, "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success," to be intriguing. I have been implementing some of her insights into my daily work. One key concept she discusses is the power of mindset. Our mindset, whether it is a fixed mindset or a growth mindset, can significantly impact every aspect of our lives.

Dweck explains that a fixed mindset limits our potential by believing that our talents and abilities are fixed traits that cannot be changed. On the other hand, a growth mindset recognizes that our abilities can be developed and improved through dedication, effort and learning. By adopting a growth mindset, we can unlock our full potential and achieve outstanding results, regardless of the scale of the achievements. This is something which I have also been preaching to my students (as a visiting faculty) for the past few years now and it has been working well!!

I have found that by considering the "what if" and "what if not" scenarios and focusing on cultivating a growth mindset, I have been able to approach challenges and opportunities with a more open and optimistic outlook. Dweck's work highlights the transformative power of mindset in various areas of human endeavor, reminding us that our beliefs about our own potential can shape our outcomes

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

"Self awareness" is an important trait to be an effective leader. My advice to the younger generation and especially the "young leaders" is to be aware of your thoughts and emotions every moment and deal with it appropriately, this is a starting point for leadership...

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

During one of my previous roles, I was responsible for managing a significant business volume and a sizable team. At that time, I felt a strong desire for more power, larger territories and greater responsibilities (just to show my superiority among my peer group). Seeking to expand my role, I approached my boss and expressed my ambitions. In response, he offered a simple yet profound piece of advice: "Build brick by brick."

Initially, I was skeptical and interpreted his words as a lack of confidence in my abilities and that he might probably want to support another of his reportee. However, as time went on, I realized the wisdom behind his advice. I learned the importance of steady growth and taking one step at a time, focusing on making each endeavor a resounding success. By doing so, I discovered that power, opportunities and recognition naturally gravitate towards those who consistently deliver exceptional results. Few years later, my boss revisited our earlier conversation and genuinely expressed his happiness that i took his advice and worked on it and that has scaled me to greater heights!

By focusing on building a track record of accomplishments and consistently delivering value, one can create a magnetic effect that draws in power, talented individuals, and rewarding opportunities. Embracing this mindset allows leaders to inspire and motivate others to join their journey. This is something which I have personally experienced in so many years now!

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