The Centre for India & Global Business at Cambridge Judge Business School hosted Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, former President of India, on 9 June 2009. Dr Kalam spoke eloquently about the need for both corporations and nations to cultivate creative leadership.
The world economy is undergoing dramatic and fundamental changes. The centre of geopolitical and economic gravity is irreversibly shifting from West to East, the pace of technological change is accelerating, even as the world grapples with growing scarcity of resources. To thrive in this turbulent world, corporations as well as nations need ‘creative leaders’, a new breed of visionary and empathetic leaders who act less as commanders and more as coaches, less as managers and more as facilitators. In his engaging talk, Dr Kalam overviewed the dramatic socio-economic and technological shifts occurring worldwide, and outlined the key attributes of creative leadership that are critical for driving innovation and growth in the global knowledge economy. He discussed the importance of education in cultivating creative leaders in vast numbers in both developed and developed nations, and addressed the catalytic role of the youth in providing creative leadership in emerging economies like India.
Dr Kalam was introduced by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alison Richard, who recalled the many distinguished Indian scholars who had studied at Cambridge in the last 150 years, including Prime Ministers, mathematicians, physicists and Nobel Prize winners.
Dr Kalam spoke quietly and with great sincerity, reminding us that Cambridge University was always on the lookout for gifted Indian students, encouraging them and nurturing them so they could benefit both the university and India on their return.
Dr Kalam went on to recall examples of great people he had worked with as a space technologist. He said that great people are always mindful of the spiritual dimension, placing social responsibility at the heart of everything.
He outlined the key tenets for leadership, such as integrity, nobility, courage, passion and vision. Old style managerial practices would be replaced with collaboration and delegation. Leaders cannot go back to a dictatorial style.
The audience listened in rapt attention. Dr Kalam answered their questions with grace and humility. He recognises that India still lacks confidence as a country but that individuals can change this, moving from the idea of ‘I can do it’ to the confident ‘India can do it’. He ended by returning to the themes of beauty, harmony, order and peace.
Dr Kalam was thanked by Professor Jaideep Prabhu. He signed the Visitors’ Book, was most gracious in his demeanour and left to rapturous applause. We were most honoured by his visit.