By SANDY CLARKE
Of the most effective leaders, it’s those who have had real experience in their field as they rose through the ranks. It makes sense – leaders who have worked in their industry often know best how to lead their people.
One such leader is Mahesh Babu, the current chief executive officer (CEO) at Mahindra Electric – a leader in the electric vehicle space – who describes himself as a car enthusiast at heart.
Having been with the Indian company based in Bangalore for 20 years, Mahesh has worked in the design and development of engine and vehicle platforms and witnessed the shifts in trends over the past two decades, helping his team and company to adapt and thrive.
In his appearance on a special episode of The Leaderonomics Show held in Bangalore, Mahesh discussed his passion for engineering with host Roshan Thiran, and talked about his dreams to scale electric mobility in his native India.
Talking about stepping into the CEO position at Mahindra Electric, Mahesh believes that leaders coming into a new role do better when they leave old assumptions and approaches at the door. Instead, he advocates tapping into our child-like curiosity.
Mahesh said, “I think the curiosity of a child, when you come to a new business, is all about observation. When you look at a child, they will be very curious in observing what’s happening before they act.
“When we become an adult, we think that we know it all and so we start acting before we look at what’s happening. So, my observation and curiosity are very high when I take a new role, and then I can start developing various points.”
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The key to great leadership
Roshan and Mahesh also talked about the importance of humility in leadership, and having the awareness that there’s always something to learn from the people you lead.
Mahesh believes that humility is part of the learning process, which can take young leaders especially from being know-it-alls to recognising through experience that humility is often key to great leadership and lasting success.
When asked what advice Mahesh would give to entrepreneurs of start-up companies, he said that belief is a vital resource in any leader’s toolbox. He insisted that half the battle is won through self-belief and the ability to inspire others to share in your vision.
“For example, I believe that Mahindra Electric is the future of electric mobility. If I believe this, I will keep making believers within the organisation and outside.
“I strongly believe that the technology itself has no value unless it changes the lives of people. Mahindra Electric is going to change the way that people move around, but will also impact the lives of many people.”
As a leader who is passionate about creating a lasting legacy and leaving a mark on the lives of India’s people, Mahesh believes that leaders should place their focus on a bigger purpose and what kind of meaning they and others can find in the solutions they are striving to create within communities and the wider society.
He added, “Most of the time, we get consumers to buy our products without understanding the purpose. So, if you know the purpose and belief, I think it will drive your actions.”
When asked what advice he would give to budding entrepreneurs, Mahesh said that, while setting goals can be important, we can often become distracted by them if we focus too much on goal-setting.
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Finding your passion
He said, “The most important thing is, if we are able to have an option to work in the area we’re passionate in then we are lucky. What I learnt in life is, if you’re doing something in life that you’re not passionate about, then you have to develop a passion for it and then the outcome will become so big that everyone will start believing in it and embrace it.”
It’s an important point in any level of our working lives: while some people are lucky to find their passion and use that within their working lives, others can develop their passion within their role and create a huge difference for themselves and their organisation.
Often, passion is found in the most unexpected places, and it comes down to how we approach what we’re doing and see the value in how it affects other people’s lives.
Ultimately, for Mahesh, what we do in our professional lives should see our focus placed on what we do for others: how we can help our communities and countries, and develop sustainable products and services that benefit us all.
For anyone who might think that they don’t have what it takes to make a difference to the world around them, Mahesh cites his own story as an example to show that we can all do great things in our own way.
He said, “If a humble backbencher like me can end up being a CEO, then anyone can do it if they can develop the passion and wisdom to come into that space.”
Watch the full interview with Mahesh Babu:
Sandy is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, and previously enjoyed 10 years as a journalist and broadcaster in the UK. He has been fortunate to gain valuable insights into what makes us tick, which has deepened his interests in leadership, emotions, mindfulness, and human behaviour.