How can a company “take a chip out of the marble façade of the office of the CEO?” asks Vineet Nayar – a provocative question coming from someone who himself is a CEO. One method: Post his 360 feedback on the intranet for all employees to see. Vineet has employed this and other unconventional approaches to infuse his company, HCL Technologies, with a unique brand of leadership that is simultaneously energetic and inclusive. Convinced that leadership needs to occur at the bottom of the corporate hierarchy, his management philosophy shifts power away from the office of the CEO and into the hands of employees. The story of how this has played out at HCL is the subject of his recently published book, Employees First, Customer Second (Harvard Business Press, June 2010). Since 2005, when Vineet became President and later CEO of HCL Technologies, he has led a remarkable transformation of the company, which has tripled its revenue and income growth during that period, even as other companies struggled through the recession. Today, HCLT is one of the world’s fastest-growing IT services companies, powered by 55,000 employees across 26 countries. The radical transformation of HCLT has been the subject of a Harvard Business School case study, while Fortune magazine has characterized the company as having the “world’s most modern management.” BusinessWeek listed HCLT as one of the world’s five most influential up-and-coming companies.
As the “Fasten Seatbelts” sign goes off in the global economy and CEOs step out of their crisis-control command centers, they must now decide: Should we go back to leading from atop the organizational pyramid — or should we stay in the eye of the storm?