The Indian Boss At Work

Thinking Global, Acting Indian

By Steve Correa, Executive coach, and OD Consultant

Featured Story

Management is all about leading, whether it is a company, people, team, logistics, strategy, actions and whatnot. Every country has its own culture which deeply affects the way of functioning of people at work. In organizations, the impact of the culture of the company is managed by team leaders we fondly call ‘BOSS’.

In today’s story, we have covered an interesting book – THE INDIAN BOSS AT WORK: Thinking Global, Acting Indian authored by Steve Correa, an Executive coach, and OD Consultant with 30+ years of experience spanning several sectors, a majority of which have been at the Senior Leadership Levels (CXO) since 2000.

Let’s dive deep into what makes this book so interesting. While reviewing Steve’s book we visited his website and the most interesting thing we liked was the SPOTLIGHT section. Often, an author writes from his experience only providing one aspect of the work, but what was invaluable we found that Steve has added a Spotlight section in his book where top-notch CXO has shared their personal mantra and experiences making this book even more useful. Here you can read through the narratives of top Indian bosses where they reflect on their ‘Indian-ness’ that helped them transform into global leaders. From Harsh Mariwala to Som Mittal to women leaders such as Naina Lal Kidwai and Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, there are many distinguished names in this book that add to the Indian leadership fold.

Spotlight Section in Book

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw stressed upon the 3D model she used – Descent, discussion, and debate, Where Indian management wants loyalty and obedience she strongly believes in empowering teams to perform better.

Krish Shankar, CHRO, Infosys & President of NHRD asked that we look behind the behavior of the employee and prepare for employee development.

Rajiv Memani, Chairman & Regional Managing Partner – EY India mentioned that Indian leaders are larger than life, the environment is such that authority is accepted.

Manu Saale, MD-CEO, Mercedes Benz- R & D, India in his simplistic yet powerful words shared that he believes most successful leaders are those that manage duality well, are international yet Indian, decisive yet flexible, and while understanding others, yet ready for conflict,

Sandip Das, Independent Board Director, Former MD, JIO: Sandeep has contributed to the book with two compelling caricatures showcasing the west and east style of functioning. He also praised Steve for his astute and observant working and bringing solutions applicable to all

Jawed Habib, Styler Master in his mesmerizing style emphasized Thinking global, Acting Indian, Emotion, passion, hard work, and Apnapan in this book.

In conversation with Steve, we tried to find out the distinctiveness of the book, Incidentally, we are already sold out with the analogies he has used in the book and his explanation of the DESI LEADER.  Let’s hear more from him.

On Indian Leader

Steve argues that the Indian leader is multi-faceted. A Desi Leader is ‘this and that and more’. He draws out the ‘Desi Leader’ characteristics as below:

D – Directive and Nurturant

E – Emotional and Intelligent

S – Spiritual and Worldly

I – Individualistic and Collective

L–Leverages Short and Long term opportunities

E – Expressive and Restrained

A – Androgynous – masculine and feminine

A – Ambitious and Competitive

D – Dependant and Interdependent

E – Embraces Profit with Purpose

R – Relationship Builder


Steve describes Indian-ness as an orientation and not geography. The Indian notion of ‘excellence for society’ (Sangathan Sukta) is examined and how emotions trump logic almost all of the time. Indians are influenced by values, not by rules, and unlike other societies in the West have a higher context-sensitivity which determines.


The author argues that there is a distinctiveness about the Indian Leader – how he thinks, feels, and behaves at the workplace. That he acts in response to the ‘Kaal’ (existential time and prevalent social character), and ‘Desh’ (his inheritance, such as the identity of race, caste, the religion of place) and contextually to the Indian environment ever unfolding.


The author emphasizes that we need a leadership practice relevant to modern times, for modern problem-solving. On one hand, we can look at the West and blindly follow its practices to our peril, and on the other, we can nostalgically recall Indian mythology and seek to bring back revivalist thinking. What is needed is to neither renounce nor denounce, to neither accuse nor defuse, to neither defy nor deny. Instead, what is needed to be a global leader is a continuous dialogue: to state, announce, share, and define what is needed for a healthy integration between the two. The forces of  Market, State, Community, and Self must remain in harmony. We need a blend of ‘Harvard’ and ‘Varanasi’ (a Corporate Veda) to enable the new age Corporate Rishi – the New CEO. We need together with a universalist and a contextualistic approach, not a tug-of-war between them”.

The Indian Boss at Work by Steve Correa

This is a must on the bookshelf of any Indian Manager aspire to grow with a think global, act Indian strategy to scale faster.

This book has already created a lot of buzz amongst corporate honchos and is being loved by CXOs of reputed Forture 500 Companies for the deep insights it provides.
Here are some more reasons you should read this classic book on Indian Leaders.

 “Steve reveals an indigenous Indian orientation that is in contrast to conventional notions of leadership. Its principles are universal, relevant and timely to the issues we face today. He goes beyond gender, bringing insight to what it means to be a self-leader. This book is a bridge to the two worlds of East and West, and argues that the twain must meet”.

Leena Nair, Unilever CHRO, LinkedIn Top Voice 2018-19

The Indian Boss” is a must read for Global leaders of all types – in all industries, in private and public sector and in all geographies! It provides an important reminder about contextual leadership – understanding in this case, the uniqueness of India as nation, its leaders and individuals as part of a “Global leadership playbook.” It’s also a reminder of the opposite—the power of Indian leadership on a global stage.

Honorable Terry D. Kramer, Former U.S. Ambassador, Former Vodafone Group Plc Executive, Faculty Director, UCLA Anderson School of Mgmt

Steve and I were colleagues, while the brand Hutch was being given a body and a soul. Going through the chapters reminded me of our free-flowing conversations, during smoke breaks, near the rear gate. While the context of the 10-minute chats was linked to the business, the content travelled across space, time, and beliefs. One line in the book, ‘What is the right thing to do, depends on circumstances. There is no absolute yardstick’, summarised it all for me.

– Harit Nagpal, MD & CEO at Tata Sky Ltd

 “Steve has surpassed himself in his maiden book. This masterful and honest narrative captures the core of an Indian Leader. Steve has treated the subject with a unique blend  of research, Spotlights, his own reflective experience and has skilfully used reflexivity to present a compelling drama of how Indian Leaders Think, Feel and Act. Highly Recommended”.

Dr. Santrupt B Misra, CEO, Carbon Black Business; Director, Chemicals; & Director, Group H.R.

The Indian Boss at Work by Steve Correa

This is a must on the bookshelf of any Indian Manager aspire to grow with a think global, act Indian strategy to scale faster. Book your Copy

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About Steve Correa

Steve Correa is a commerce and law graduate from XLRI and a Chevening scholar. He currently works as an Independent Executive Coach and OD Consultant and is a Fellow of Sumedhas, Academy for Human Context. He has over three decades of corporate experience. Of this, 18+ years have been as CHRO, with overall responsibility for the HR function. He has worked across a wide spectrum of enterprises, ranging from major global corporates (MNCs) to family-led professional businesses. He has diverse industry exposure that includes pharmaceuticals, office automation, FMCG, telecommunications, IT/ITES and alcohol beverage. His exposure spans across India as well as abroad.

Steve is an avid reader, loves traveling, blogging, and is active on social media. He was featured in LinkedIn Power Profile 2017. He is based in Bengaluru.

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