GeneralHr Library

The Responsible Manager – CK Prahalad

By | Late Dr. CK Prahalad

The global financial crisis  has triggered an unprecedented debate about managers’ roles. While discussions about managerial performance, CEO pay, and the role of boards have been fierce, scant attention has been paid to managers’ responsibilities.

Here is what late Dr. CK Prahalad, the respected world renowned Management Guru had to say during the earlier financial crisis in the beginning of this century.

For the past 33 years, I have ended all my MBA and executive education courses by sharing with participants my perspective on how they can become responsible managers. I acknowledge that they will be successful in terms of income, social status, and influence, but caution that managers must remember that they are the custodians of society’s most powerful institutions. They must therefore hold themselves to a higher standard. Managers must strive to achieve success with responsibility.

My remarks are intended to serve as a spur for people to reexamine their values before they plunge into their daily work routines.

Take a minute to study them:

  •  Understand the importance of nonconformity. Leadership is about change, hope, and the future. Leaders have to venture into uncharted territory, so they must be able to handle intellectual solitude and ambiguity.
  •  Display a commitment to learning and developing yourself. Leaders must invest in themselves. If you aren’t educated, you can’t help the uneducated; if you are sick, you can’t minister to the sick; if you are poor, you can’t help the poor.
  • Develop the ability to put personal performance in perspective. Over a long career, you will experience both success and failure. Humility in success and courage in failure are hallmarks of a good leader.
  • Be ready to invest in developing other people. Be unstinting in helping your colleagues realize their full potential.
  • Learn to relate to those who are less fortunate. Good leaders are inclusive, even though that isn’t easy. Most societies have dealt with differences by avoiding or eliminating them; few assimilate those who aren’t like them.
  • Be concerned about due process. People seek fairness—not favors. They want to be heard. They often don’t even mind if decisions don’t go their way as long as the process is fair and transparent.
  • Realize the importance of loyalty to organization, profession, community, society, and, above all, family. Most of our achievements would be impossible without our families’ support.
  • Assume responsibility for outcomes as well as for the processes and people you work with. How you achieve results will shape the kind of person you become.
  • Remember that you are part of a very privileged few. That’s your strength, but it’s also a cross you carry. Balance achievement with compassion and learning with understanding.
  • Expect to be judged by what you do and how well you do it—not by what you say you want to do. However, the bias toward action must be balanced by empathy and caring for other people.
  • Be conscious of the part you play. Be concerned about the problems of the poor and the disabled, accept human weaknesses, laugh at yourself—and avoid the temptation to play God. Leadership is about self-awareness, recognizing your failings, and developing modesty, humility, and humanity.

Every year, I revisit my notes about the responsible manager, which I first jotted down in 1977. The world has changed a lot since then, but I haven’t found it necessary to change a word of my lecture. Indeed, the message is more relevant today than ever.


200px-CK_Prahalad_WEForum_2009C.K. Prahalad (1941-2010), one of the world’s most influential business thinkers and one of the most beloved teachers at the University of Michigan, had a huge impact on business and business education around the world.

He created the base of the pyramid idea and changed the way the world viewed India’s economic potential.

At the time of his death he held the title Paul and Ruth McCracken Distinguished University Professor of Corporate Strategy at Michigan Ross. In addition, he served as distinguished fellow at the William Davidson Institute, where he played an important advisory role for the institute’s Base of the Pyramid research initiative. Prahalad twice was ranked the world’s most influential business thinker, most recently in October 2009, by the “Thinkers 50” published by the leadership consulting firm CrainerDearlove.

A professor at the University of Michigan since 1977, Prahalad earned the University’s highest distinction, Distinguished University Professor, in 2005. In 2009, he was named Padma Bhushan ‘third in the hierarchy of civilian awards’ by the Government of India.He won the McKinsey Prize four times for the best article in Harvard Business Review and held honorary doctorates in economics, engineering, and business. Among the numerous other awards he received were the Faculty Pioneer Lifetime Achievement Award from the Aspen Institute for contributions to social and environmental stewardship; the Italian Telecom Prize for Leadership in Business and Economic Thinking; Lal Bahadur Shastri Award for Excellence in Management, 2000, presented by the President of India; and many others. He served on several boards, including NCR Corp., Hindustan Lever Ltd., and TVS Capital.

He has published many books to his credit. C. K. Prahalad is the co-author of a number of works in corporate strategy, including The Core Competence of the Corporation (with Gary Hamel, Harvard Business Review, May–June 1990) which as of 2010 was one of the most frequently reprinted articles published by the journal.[9] He authored or co-authored: Competing for the Future (with Gary Hamel, 1994), The Future of Competition (with Venkat Ramaswamy, 2004), and The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through Profits (Wharton School Publishing, 2004). His last book, co-authored by M. S. Krishnan and published in April 2008, is The New Age of Innovation.

He passed away in April 2010 at the early age of 68 years.

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