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Shali Thilakan: Learning to Lead

Three books Shali Thilakan draws inspiration from

Published: Jun 16, 2010 08:31:55 AM IST
Updated: Jun 16, 2010 09:18:19 AM IST
Shali Thilakan: Learning to Lead
Image: Gireesh G V for Forbes India
Shali Thilakan,MD, Cable and Wireless

When I shifted to this new role, my wife bought me Lost & Found: The Story of How One Man Discovered the Secrets of Leadership…Where He Wasn’t Even Looking, by Lyle Sussman, Samuel D. Deep, Alex Stiber. The beauty of this book is the simple way in which the story is told. It’s about a first-time manager, now in a larger role. Through his journey, he picks up lessons from his dealings with his family, and other personal experiences. Like how lack of strategy and inclusiveness can lead to a lack of motivation. I worked it into my life, and every manager who comes in, this book is his induction.

Another book is Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, by Larry Bossidy, Ram Charan, and Charles Burck. It chooses 10 large companies, and a specific strategy like a policy change or launch of new product, and shows how it was driven by execution (or the wrong execution). For some roles, execution is the strategy and this was an important learning for my transition to sales.

I have drawn business learnings from The Glass Palace, by Amitav Ghosh, a story of a little boy who loses his way into Burma, and grows up to become the country’s largest timber seller. It is fiction, but Ghosh captures the reality of the period, World War I, and this boy, who picks up information as he works in a tea stall in the timber market, his management style, the way he grows his business. Without any training, he maps everybody; his thorough understanding of the process helps him win the largest contracts. The book teaches you how to map information to win, of course without greasing anyone, to own an opportunity. 

(As told to Nilofer D’Souza)
Shali Thilakan is MD, Cable and Wireless.
Ex Libris features business leaders on the books that influence them.


(This story appears in the 18 June, 2010 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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