When I was in college, a speaker at the university’s weekly forum addressed the subject of leadership versus management. He referred to the shift from the former to the later as ‘fatal.’ The statement resonates still today, and makes me grateful that we increasingly talk about exceptional leadership as opposed to merely good management.

During my recent podcast interview with Naveen Rajdev, Chief Marketing Officer of Wipro Limited, he shared a story of great leadership. And he made a point of paying anonymous tribute to the boss he names as the best he’s had and who taught him the most important lesson of his career.

At the time of this experience Naveen held a responsible position with his firm and was working to clinch the deal on a significant account. He approached his boss to see how much leeway he had in offering a discount or other incentive to successfully close. He was told, “Whatever you think is all right. You’re the business head for this and you make the call.”

Then, recounts Naveen, the boss said:

“Just keep one thing in mind. The business you run is a significant amount of our overall business, of our portfolio and that would mean—because we have a variable compensation, which is based on how we perform—when you give this discount you’re not going to meet your profitability targets and that means some people in your team…a lot of people, a couple of thousands, they may not get their quarterly bonus. And one thing to just keep in mind, some people might want to use that bonus for their car down payments, or buying a car, or homes or for higher educations of for some important element in the family. Uh, just keep that in mind when you make those decisions.”

Clever, wise boss.

“You know what? We won the deal without giving any discount and that has stuck with me in my mind. I think everyone became more human since that time. Every decision I have taken. I see when I talk down halls to my teams or extended teams, I see a pop-up of dreams…above everyone’s head.”

Seeing people in increasingly human ways, understanding that they all have dreams even if we don’t know what they are, and being careful not to capriciously disrupt those dreams is as good a definition of the bridge between management and leadership as I’ve heard. I wish there was more of it. Pick up a few other leadership tips from Naveen Rajdev on the Disrupt Yourself Podcast.

Show Notes/Resources Mentioned in the Show and Transcript – Episode 18: Naveen Rajdev

Click to access the login or register cheese