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7 Questions on Leadership with Rahul Sahai

Name: Rahul Sahai

Title: CEO (B2B Businesses)

Organisation: Kirloskar Oil Engines

CEO with a demonstrated history of working in international markets. Rahul is skilled in business turnarounds, leading strategic growth initiatives, developing channel capabilities and leading engineering product launches. He is a data science enthusiast and the honorary President of Indian Institution of Industrial Engineering.

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

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


Jonno White

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

Taking everyone along! Every individual in your team has their own interests and focus areas. It’s not always easy to motivate people towards a common goal. Having said that it is one of the most important things needed to produce effective outcomes.

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

I got the opportunity to do leadership roles very early on in my career. One such moment for me when I was managing a manufacturing unit in South Africa. During the project phase of the unit, I was responsible for close to 150 people on site. Driving outcomes through a large team people who had varied ethnicities and cultural sensitivities helped me mature as a leader.

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

I typically try and plan my day the night prior. I try and schedule the most critical tasks in the mornings- between 9:00 AM and 10:00 AM. My pre-lunch (10:00 to 13:00) is typically pre-scheduled with operating reviews. Post lunch (13:30 to 18:00) is where I get into my routine calls.

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

As I was moving into my current role, one of my mentors told me to focus on “People First- Your success will hinge on building and leveraging a strong leadership team.” You cannot and should not attempt to do it all by yourself.

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?

What to Ask the Person in the Mirror: Critical Questions for Becoming a More Effective Leader and Reaching Your Potential by Robert Steven Kaplan

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

Work hard! Develop a strong work ethic.

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

Years ago, I was attending a workshop on Quality Management Systems. Quality management system is a collection of business processes focused on consistently meeting customer requirements. While the workshop was going on, I asked the instructor that “When I look at famous artists like Michelangelo, I don’t see them following any process”. Unflustered, the expert replied, “First, become a Michelangelo.” Upon further reflection I realised that even Michelangelo followed a very specific creative process. Rarely do business turnarounds or exponential growth occur by serendipitous happenstances. It requires relentless focus on execution via carefully established systems & processes.

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