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Find Your Own Simon Cowell! InPowering Leadership Workshop By Dr. Vijay Jayachandran

Roopesh Mathur

Find Your Own Simon Cowell!

InPowering Leadership Workshop by Dr. Vijay Jayachandran


IIT Association of Greater New England (IIT AGNE) and the India Society of Worcester Professional and Entrepreneurial Network (ISW PEN) hosted a career leadership workshop titled “InPowering Leadership: A paradigm for navigating change and disruption” by Dr. Vijay Jayachandran on October 15th at ISW India Center. In this interactive workshop, Vijay walked the audience through a series of frameworks and exercises to help mid-career professionals advance their careers in today’s fast changing world.


Dr. Jayachandran, a 1993 graduate of IIT Kharagpur, had a fast paced and distinguished academic and corporate career at United Technologies Corporation where he last held the role of Vice President in 2019. He started as an acoustics scientist helping design quieter machines, before taking on leadership roles in product development; including leading an engineering design center in India.


Since 2019, Vijay is exploring new challenges, with a desire to build something new and different while also helping others achieve career success. Distilling lessons learnt during his career, he developed a four pronged framework for leading in times of change and disruption. He called it “InPowering Leadership”, and published a book that describes this methodology in detail. The interactive workshop is based on this framework.


We now live in a highly disruptive and challenging world where the future horizon is fuzzy, it is not clear what direction to take, and there is no time for making major strategic errors. Unlike earlier times, when knowledge and experience gave seasoned professionals the intuition to make good instinctive decisions, and there was always time to recover from mistakes, the imperative now is to learn, experiment and adapt with speed and precision.


Moving with Purpose, the first prong of the InPowering Leadership framework, involves setting a clear destination as a specific milestone or touchstone to be achieved. Dr. Jayachandran recommends setting a “North Star,” which is a key direction and purpose for the moment that is concise, meaningful, tangible and explainable to stakeholders; as well as unambiguous. For example, “flatten the curve” was a North Star set during the early days of the pandemic, which everyone could understand and get behind. The complement to this is to get alignment along both vertical (hierarchical leadership) and horizontal (stakeholder) directions, which ensures that the whole organization moves in unison and responds to changes in direction quickly.


Moving with Speed, the second prong, refers to developing a team of people who are empowered and autonomous. It involves developing a bench strength of people who have the knowledge, ability and training to work independently in moving towards the North Star and take on leadership tasks. This means letting go of micromanagement, investing in training and mentoring and sharing the limelight with others. To make this happen requires building an accountable team who can be entrusted with major responsibilities, which means developing those who can deliver results autonomously or who are dependable with some instruction. Dr. Jayachandran recommends following an empowerment and accountability framework, along with a “Culture of Yes”, i.e., empowering teams to make their own decisions and providing the contextual information they need to be successful. In addition, a “bottoms up” culture that empowers every person at any level to be autonomous and accountable ensures that the organization can move at the greatest speed.


Moving with Accuracy, the third prong, is critical for a highly dynamic and uncertain environment with a fuzzy horizon, where the situation and outcome is never clear. The analogy used by Dr. Jayachandran is that of a gladiator who is going into the Circus Maximus with his fellow gladiators, not knowing what deadly competitive challenge they will face. The only way to survive and win the day is to depend on your fellow teammates - it is an approach that values listening for feedback, humility to acknowledge that you may not have the best understanding and empathy to understand the strong emotions felt by others. Leaders must seek out “good trouble”, seek sources of friction and create a culture of feedback that allows anyone to close the loop. Vijay adds that it is extremely important to have a “Simon Cowell” in your life, i.e. someone who can give you unvarnished feedback, even if they are contrary or bring bad news.


Building Resilience, the final element of the framework, is about inspiring and energizing team members to visualize future success under difficult circumstances, with focus on their welfare and emotional well being at all times. Leaders must walk the talk with a positive and enthusiastic attiude, and be completely present for their team members, no matter how busy they are and what is going on in their life. One of Vijay’s superiors once told him “For you, anytime!”, which made him feel completely supported. In addition, leaders must mentor and coach by breaking down complex and intractable problems so that their team members can take ownership and solve them as if their name is on the door.


As he walked through each step of the InPowering Leadership framework, Dr. Vijay Jayachandran posed key questions that each attendee could ponder over and answer for themselves and their organization. There was a lively Q&A with the attendees, who comprised entrepreneurs, executives and technology professionals. He signed copies of his book and had brief consultations with the attendees.


IIT AGNE and ISW PEN are grateful to Dr. Vijay Jayachandran for coming to Boston and spending the afternoon conducting the workshop. Kelly Mittal and Ragoo Raghunathan and Raj & Shiamin Melville organized the workshop and hosted the attendees on behalf  of ISW and ISW PEN. Asit Goel and Nishant Gandhi led the publicity and marketing from IIT AGNE.


Authors links:


Powered from inside, Personal Change in the Age of Disruption: https://poweredfrominside.com/

Facebook Live Video of workshop


Inpowering Leadership: How to Lead with Purpose, Speed, and Accuracy Through Change and Disruption by Vijay Jayachandran: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0578778742/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_QYER91NV2HFHE0DQX4ZY

“Old Dog New Tricks” Newsletter on Career Management in the 21st Century:


The Indian Diaspora Podcast, a project by Vijay and three of his IIT classmates: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-indian-diaspora-podcast/id1636307790

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