Who better than the man heading India’s largest bank to tell us about what works and what doesn’t in a large institution? Steering the State Bank of India (SBI) is a dream job for any banker; at the same time, it is one of the toughest jobs in India. The SBI chief’s decisions are always under close scrutiny of the government and industry every single day. That’s because SBI is a trendsetter for India’s vast banking industry in every sense. Many even see the bank as a barometer of the health of the Indian economy.
For Rajnish Kumar, who hails from a small town in Uttar Pradesh and joined the bank as a probationary officer in 1980, it was a dream come true when the call came naming him as the chairman of the bank in October, 2017.
Now, after serving nearly four decades in the bank, Kumar’s term will end in October this year. In an exclusive chat with Moneycontrol, Kumar spoke about his professional life; who has inspired him in his career and what his key management advice to young bankers. Edited Excerpts:
What time do you like to be at your desk?
My day in office normally begins at 10.30 am and this has been my routine throughout my career. I find morning hours good for meetings and interactions with colleagues, as my normal working schedule often involves long working hours, sometimes stretching into late evening.
Where is the best place to prepare for leadership: at business school or on the job?
Undoubtedly, the best place to prepare for leadership is on the job. Although, theoretical grounding does help, there are several things that one can’t learn in a business school. New learning happens on the job, every minute of each day. Therefore, a good leader is groomed over the years throughhands on experience ,on the job.
Describe your management style.
I firmly believe in leading from behind. As they say, a leader is only as good as his team. I always believe that a good team is essential to make things happen. Fortunately, SBI has no dearth of talent. We have excellent resources across departments to take on challenges and guide the Bank forward. I’m firmly behind my team for any direction or guidance they may require.
Are tough decisions best taken by one person or collectively?
Tough decisions are best taken by one person. A group of people can debate and offer suggestions but ultimately, the leader has to take the final call andown the responsibility.
Do you want to be liked, feared or respected?
As a leader, I would like to be respected by my colleagues. A leader is under the constant watch of his team and the respect earned by him is a direct function of his knowledge, conduct, approach to situations and crisis management skills.
What does your support team look like?
I have a very small support team.