The Rise of the Eastern Sun

rajeev suriA week ago the new CEO of Nokia was announced. Not surprisingly, he was Rajeev Suri, an Indian and cosmopolitan,  man who has already given 20 years of his working life to Nokia and whose last task was bring Nokia Networks - the infrastructure company -back to rising track. He mastered that well. The event brought me to think how East and West are colliding in a new way as we are embarking on the sixth wave of  chain of socio-economic revolution. Much more than before, it means  new  mixtures of cultures, new ideas about the leadership and new priorities in terms of behavior. More clearly: in the West, what we need is a much more fundamental understanding how to push our egos down and be more humble towards realities of the others.

Let's take an example of one of the previous and The CEO of old Nokia, Jorma Ollila. Clever and quick as he was, he was also very much known of his arrogance. He yelled to his co-workers and  was very demanding in every respect. Though no one can challenge he was - at his best - a great business man, he was also very much driven by his rather ego-centric world-view.  Unfortunately, this feature was replanted into the collective consciousness and behavior of Nokia, causing the unprecedented demise of the world-class company.

You do not get such impression from Suri. He is a humble man, yet with strong will and great ability to get things done. He seems to be a man of total integrity, self-conscious and reliable. He does not boast or promise too much.  Though introvert, he likes being with people and see the utmost importance of co-workers feeling well with their jobs.

My other experiences with global corporations suggest that indeed, our understanding of how a more human-centric and and more spirited leadership of this rising socio-economic era needs a Copernican revolution (see my article on this), though in a rather Buddhist format: the focus should move from "I" and "We" towards "The Other": co-workers, customers, society. It requires a totally new mindset.

There is nothing "soft" in this view. It simply follows the rule that the more you work for the good of your stakeholders, the more you get from that relationship. But what I do believe is that we more likely to find this kind of worldview and attitude from the representatives of Eastern cultures than from West, since theirs are the great cultural heritage emphasizing these values.

In an interview published yesterday by Helsingin Sanomat, Suri told a key event in his career in Nokia. In early 2000, he was called to save the deal that was about to go down the drain: a tele-operator that wanted to open 3G-network and nothing worked. With his ability to get the connection and build trust with the client, together with technical wit and will to solve the problem, the whole deal was finally rescued.   That event, I guess, shows his spirit at work.

The CEO of Allianz, Michael Diekmann - my boss at one time - once said when we talked about integrity and leadership that "it is hard to be nice to people all the time". While that is absolutely true, we should remember that the old Finnish saying "what is you sow is what you ripe". In corporate life (as well as in individual lives) we see this happening time and again.

By the way, my guru - if I ever had one -is a man called Ashok Khosla, an Indian. As a part of his life time work with social enterprises in India, he and his team has created over 3 million jobs in rural India by helping the needs and assets -human, cultural, financial -to meet. I learned to know him through Club of Rome where he also worked immensely hard for common good. His work and attitude symbolize pretty much everything that needs to be spread in our Western ways of leadership and, indeed, life.

Finally, the word "Suri" means in Sanskrit "Sun".