Name: Rajasekhar Chitta
Title: Manager, Enterprise Applications
Organisation: Cox Enterprises
Raj is a Quality Leader and Digitial Transformation Leader in the Enterprise Applications domain. He leads teams in US and India for delivery and quality management of digital solutions and provides thought leadership to teams to be successful in their work.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Rajasekhar's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
The most challenging task as a leader is to balance the expectations between the management and the team. It is important to set realistic expectations that are inline with the team's skills and knowledge growth.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I have always been open to taking leadership roles, right from school annual functions and college debates. The first real opportunity came in my final year of bachelor's in engineering where I was elected the President of Society of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in our college and it was my first exposure to working with several teams to organize a national level technical paper symposium from colleges all over the country (this was back in India). I learnt several leadership lessons that formed the foundation of my journey.
In the early part of my career, I became a Manager at Oracle India in 2007 handling multiple teams across India and US, and it has been a learning experience since then till today. I have also been fortunate to have great managers and mentors who taught me several important lessons in management and leadership, including my father.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
My week is pretty standard. Wake up at 6 am, drop kids at school between 7-8 am, and then reach office by 08:30. Most of my meetings start from 8:30 am and run back to back until 5 pm. I pick my kids from school in the afternoon and continue my work from home. I take a break between 5 - 9 pm for spending time with family, taking care of chores, and dinner. I catch up on some pending work or read something between 9 - 11:30pm and then go to bed. Weekends are usually for unwinding and catching up on sleep and chores, or extra-curricular classes for kids.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
As a Leader, you invest in people and always lead by example. It has been the motto for my leadership style. Recently, we had a production issue due to something that the team missed to look at, and I stepped in and provided a test strategy and also tested it myself along with the team to make sure we deliver the best quality solution. The team really understood the point and ensured all future builds are reviewed thoroughly. My favorite quote that inspires me is "A Leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way".
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 am not very much into reading books. But, in the early part of my career, there were two books that I had read. One of them was "The Magic of Thinking Big" by David Schwartz; and the other was "The One Minute Manager" by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson.
The greatest lesson from David Schwartz' book I learnt was to always think like a leader and not give up when there are failures. I teach my team to think positively and start acting/thinking like the person you want to be. If you are a Lead and want to be a Manager, change your attitude to start doing things and thinking like one.
The One Minute Manager has three principles that are always guiding me - Setting one-minute goals, one-minute praises and one-minute reprimands. This helps in a highly productive team by keeping a transparent channel between you and your teams, and also builds a high level of trust.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Be Humble and Respect Everyone - whether they are your team members or your supervisors. Remember that you are one of them and not different from them. Everything else will follow as long as people trust you and you really care about them. There is always something to learn from each other.
Another thing that I learnt early in my career was to never lose touch with your technical knowledge. People respect when you know the stuff you are asking them to do instead of giving instructions.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
It was back in 2016 I was asked to lead a Delivery Team for a US Client that gave us one year contract to see how we fare and renew our contract based on our performance. It was to build a Testing as a Service (TaaS) solution delivery that was never tried before by my employer. I built a team in US and India, streamlined all the processes, optimized their artifacts, improved the quality of delivery, built trust with the client and the client's customers, introduced them to automation, and gradually increased the number of projects, and we ended up working with the client for 6 more years. It was not my success alone, but a team effort. I built a team and worked hand in hand with them on the ground to ensure that I'll take care of them, and they united to make the project a success by working hard. When the team sees the vision that you have in your mind, they will follow you.