‘Only bullies like to be feared, not leaders’

My Management Mantra
Sanjiv Kapoor

Sanjiv Kapoor (second row, extreme right) with Vistara colleagues.                            Pic credit: Vistara 

Sanjiv Kapoor (second row, extreme right) with Vistara colleagues.                            Pic credit: Vistara 

Context: How do India’s aviation leaders manage? Where do they draw inspiration from? We are launching a series of interviews with Indian aviation’s senior management leaders. The first one features Sanjiv Kapoor, chief strategy and commercial officer, Vistara. Kapoor likes to be respected, not feared and draws inspiration from Steve Jobs.       

1. What time do you like to be at your desk?
At my desk at home by 630 am.  At my work desk by 9am.

2. Where is the best place to prepare for leadership: at business school or on the job?
For leadership, by being a leader throughout your life. From school days onwards. Business school is good for certain technical and management skills and networking, but leadership cannot be taught in school.

3. Describe your management style.
Very detail oriented but not a micro-manager. Driven by passion, and put off by people who lack passion.  Hard-driving, but passionate people enjoy working hard. Refuse to accept “not possible” as an answer. Everything is possible, it is just a question of how long will it take and how much will it cost.

4. Are tough decisions best taken by one person or collectively?
By one person after seeking inputs from key stakeholders, in the presence of the key stakeholders.

5. Do you want to be liked, feared or respected?
Respected.  Only bullies like to be feared, not leaders.

6. What does your support team look like?
One shared executive assistant is the support team.

I refuse to accept “not possible” as an answer. Everything is possible, it is just a question of how long will it take and how much will it cost.

7. A business outside of aviation or a business leader that you draw inspiration from?
May sound cliched, but Steve Jobs.

8. Which management book has influenced you the most?
In my youth, it was some combination of Pepsi to Apple by John Scully, and the various Arthur Hailey books, especially Airport, Hotel, and Money – plenty of management stuff in those books too!  More recently, Steve Job’s biography by Walter Isaacson.  And “From Worst to First” by Gordon Bethune, the former CEO of Continental Airlines.

9. Do you socialise with your team outside of work?
Yes, when time permits.  In fact, I have recently been hosting a series of dinners at my home where 30-40 of my staff at a time across all departments come and let their hair down in a relaxed and informal setting while I subject them to a healthy dose of Pink Floyd and early Fleetwood Mac .

10. What would your key management advice be?
Do a job you love to do, lead by example, and demonstrate the power of passion.