Posted: March 18th, 2022
The person I interviewed is named Pio and he is an IT consultant who has 20 years in the industry and now heads his own company and provides leadership for other companies that need expert advice on their networks and infrastructure. He is the founder and CEO of his own company and has 15 full-time employees. The reason I selected him is that he is an Indian from the state of Tamil Nadu. He came to America on his own in his late 20s and faced many obstacles, both personal and social, to survive and make it in this country. He is an inspiration for me as a leader and I wanted to interview him to understand his leadership approach more deeply.
1. How did you get to where you are today?
I got where I am today through hard work. I never gave up like so many other people I see today. It is so hard to get good help today and I don’t understand it because there are so many opportunities, yet you Americans are so lazy, you do not even like to lift a finger. If I could just find 5 hard working men or women I could take over this industry completely—I absolutely, firmly believe that. But aside from that, what else—I cannot take total credit for everything—yes, I worked hard and studied and never allowed myself any distraction—but there but by the grace of God go I. Without God’s help none of this would be possible, so I thank God every day for His assistance and I always ask God to guide me in everything, without fail. Every day—it is so important to pray, I cannot stress that enough.
2. How would you qualify your leadership style (e.g., servant, transformational, democratic, etc.)?
I am a very stern leader my team would probably say—but I am never unfair or tyrannical, because such leaders never last long. Sooner or later their team will abandon them. Leaders have to be compassionate and empathetic—they are leaders after all so if you are not connecting with your followers then ipso facto you are not their leader. You have to be understanding and sympathetic. They have to like you and you have to like them. It is part of the turf, so my leadership style—I would say it is compassionate authoritarian because at the end of the day I am making the decisions and I expect those decisions to be executed—but that does not mean I don’t want feedback or that I don’t want input from my people. I do want that and a lot of times they have good ideas and I listen and they play a part in the decision making process that way. But I am not formerly democratic or servant or transformational. I am very much authoritarian but compassionately so, which is what makes me a good leader I think.
3. What do you find most admirable in people? Why are those things so important to you?
What I most admire in people is honesty and intelligence. Honesty without intelligence is okay but only for a minute because once you realize the person knows nothing you realize the person is not worth listening to no matter how honest he or she is. Honesty and intelligence are important to me because those are the qualities that allow for good things to happen. I don’t care if you are socially backwards or if you vote Left or Right—if you are honest with me and know how to critically analyze a problem, you’re the person I want.
4. Who is your favorite leader and why?
My favorite leader of all time is Jesus Christ of course. He is God, how can he not be my favorite leader? There is no one like Him. Aside from Him, I would say my favorite leader is a boss I had coming up in New York with Deutsche Bank. He is the one who freed me from the headhunter who was holding me captive and basically ripping me off and I didn’t know it. So this boss took the time to listen to me and why I was struggling financially to make ends meet and he did something about it because he saw I was a good worker and he wanted to keep me around. I appreciated that very much and I never forgot it.
5. What were the top principles you have learned?
My principles are: never take anything for granted, never assume anything, and always make a record for future reference. In my line of work it always happens: there is a problem, it gets solved but no one makes a record of how it was done, and then two months later the same problem arises but no one remembers how it was solved and it causes delays. So always make a record. It is so helpful and it teaches so many things, such as responsibility and the importance of being accountable. It teaches prudence and why taking a little time now to do something right can save a lot of time later. I am not a cruel task master but I insist on record keeping.
6. How would you complete the sentence, “People should …”?
People should pray more. I am serious. Why do people think they do not need to pray? I do not care if they do not believe in anything. They need to pray to God because God hears everything and He wants you thinking about Him. Think about it: if you created a world and the people in it and you kept that world and all the people in existence, wouldn’t you want them to think about you too and to give you some time out of their day to give you thanks? We are so selfish and self-entitled, it is unbelievable. I wish my employees would pray more just because it would give them a little more humility I think and put them in the right frame of mind for working with others in terms of just being more conscientious.
7. What’s the purpose of your life?
Oh that is easy—the purpose is to get to Heaven—to know, love and serve God so you can be happy with Him in the next world. That is our basic catechism lesson. I know, you think it is to make a lot of money and buy a lot of things—but it is not that at all. Look, I make a lot of money but so what—it is not coming with me. If I make money my God I will go to Hell. It is that simple. The purpose of life is to do good to your fellow man and to love God. Life is meaningless if you are not doing those two.
8. What’s the best way to get others to do what you want them to do?
Simple: ask them. If they hesitate—tell them why you are asking. Be reasonable. If they do not listen to reason, let them go. Why waste time with people who do not want to listen to reason?
9. What are the two most important events in your life and what did you learn from them?
Going to the seminary and getting married. The seminary taught me to love God. Getting married taught me to love others. You have to do these two things. Learning IT gave me a chance to have a life in the US, but so what I could have easily have had a life in India as well—so what? If I am not in love with God and doing good things for others, I have no life. That is the point, that is what I learned from these things in my life.
Pio’s leadership philosophy is inherently autocratic but it is tempered by a belief in showing compassion towards others, and that belief comes from his Catholic upbringing and faith. Without that he would likely be a poor leader because he would be the kind of tyrant that he says makes a bad leader—but because he shows kindness towards his followers, his autocratic leadership approach is acceptable to them. They do not mind taking orders because they know he is fair, trustworthy, charitable and compassionate. He asks them for input and they feel valued by him. So it is a good relationship he has with his followers and he leads them well because he knows where he wants to go and how he wants to get there. He has the experience and the background to know. He is not just blowing smoke. He empowers others by his own confidence and trust in them, which is what Conger (1989) says is important in terms of being a leader. Maxwell (1998) also makes that point.
Pio’s leadership approach is non-nonsense, so he can come across as stern at times, he says—but that is important to him: he wants to run a tight ship and he is not interested in sharing leadership or in making all of his employees into decision makers on his level. He wants them to be intelligent and critical thinkers so that they can solve problems on their own—but when it comes to making decisions on which way the business should go, he calls those shots because it is his business. They work for him, and so it is a simple arrangement in that sense and not necessarily bad just because it is authoritarian, as Northouse (2016) points out. Rather, he fits his own mold, which is perfectly fine according to Stogdill (1948) who argues that there is no one size fits all model for leadership.
In terms of skills, Pio knows his subject and his business. He is a master in IT and thus he knows he can run his own consultancy firm. He does not need to be directed by others because he can direct his own course. Yet he is anchored by his faith and it helps him to remain humble, charitable, kind and appreciative. I think that is very important when it comes to assessing his skills. He definitely has people skills and shows strong emotional and social intelligence skills. He can read people and he knows what tone to take, when to be firm, when to be conciliatory, and when to be supportive. He understands people very well and knows that to be successful you have to help others to feel successful.
Overall, Pio strikes me as a very kind leader who knows his own mind and knows what he wants and likes the challenge of helping others and forming a team. He is not shy about voicing his opinion but once voiced he is not going to try to beat anyone over the head with his opinion. He does not want to argue or fight. He wants to be around reasonable, intelligent people and so he attracts these types because he himself is intelligent and reasonable. So like attracts like.
This interview project has shown that what I most admire about Pio and his leadership is his ability to rise above the daily obstacles and that feelings that can wear one down. He learned compassion along the way and partly because he once had a boss who showed him compassion. That type of experience can impress one deeply and I can see how it impacted him. It impacted me just hearing the story, so from what I can tell of his leadership approach, he sees that people even employees have needs that have to be satisfied if one wants them to stick around. This is one of the most important aspects of his leadership style and approach that I found.
Conger, Jay A. (1989). Leadership: The art of empowering others. Academy of Management Executive, 3 (1), 17- 25.
Maxwell, J. (1998). The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and practice (7th ed.). Thousand Oaks: CA: Sage Publications.
Stogdill, R. M. (1948). Personal factors associated with leadership: A survey of the literature. Journal of Psychology, 25, 35–71.
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