When do we say QUITS?

We all agonize over when and how to bid adieu and shut the door.

Many a leader who has accomplished so much in their life time and reached the pinnacle of their careers where no one has ever reached have left their Careers on a high and on most occasions on a moral high. I am often reminded on the quote of the Cricket Maestro, the original Little Master Sunil Gavaskar.

He had once said that “people should quit – when people ask why? And not – why not?”

So when Michael Schumacher, Narayan Murthy and Ratan Tata quit on a high and on their own terms they were looked upon as Heroes and walking the Talk.

However many a leader after quitting a successful career has made a come back of sorts within a few years of retirement much to the chagrin of many of their followers. Lets look at some of the unsuccessful comebacks :

 Narayan Murthy

He was known as the Father of Indian IT Industry and literally placed India on the Global IT Map. He co-founded Infosys along with a few others. Everyone knows Narayana Murthy as the one who made Infosys what it is today. More than his management and strategic implementations, it was the values that he stood for that helped him and his company reach where they are today.

He retired in 2011 at the age of 65 and left on a high.

However in June 2013, Murthy returned to Infosys as Executive chairman and Additional Director and took on the mantle of again leading the sagging fortunes of Infosys. The sour point of his return was the fact that he brought his son along with him and gave him an executive position.

A year later, however, the sentiment was not as upbeat. Despite the several initiatives Murthy took, the company failed to meet his target of bringing Infosys back to its old glory within three years of his return.

“Infosys is still not on track and many large customers are disappointed. They believe Murthy’s return has not brought the expected positive impulse,” says Peter Schumacher, founder of Germany-based Value Leadership Group.

“They see his three-pronged agenda as tactical cost-focused initiative that is skewed toward benefiting Infosys and has little added customer value.”

In the months following his return, as Murthy started laying stress on meritocracy and initiated an organisational restructuring, Infosys saw exits of some of its top sales and delivery people. Among others, the company saw resignations of board members Ashok Vemuri, V Balakrishnan and, more recently, B G Srinivas. The three were once seen as top contenders to become the CEO of Infosys after incumbent S D Shibulal’s retirement by January next year. These exits, analysts believe, affected Infosys’ business.

The company also saw exits at the middle and junior levels which resulted in attrition rate rising to an all-time high of 18.1 per cent in January-March 2014.

Another concern that continued to weigh on the minds of investors was the presence of Murthy’s son, Rohan, who had joined the company with him as his executive assistant. Company observers continued to raise questions on Rohan Murty’s role and authority at Infosys, with several proxy advisory firms criticising the decision to bring him on board.

Value Leadership Group’s Schumacher also believes Murthy’s agenda is “too narrow and inward focused; it does not provide a compelling vision for the future”.

Buzz went around loud “he has shown his real colors”, “where is the ethics beyond family Mr Murthy” and many such comments as Mr Narayana Murthy chose to come back to infosys with his son Rohan as his executive assistant. With the appointment of the new CEO the cycle seems to be complete and I see lot of learning potential from the story.

I had been a admirer of Mr Narayana Murthy for bringing in the culture of Corporate Governance in India with the Infosys model. Otherwise most of Indian companies has a “Ownership” model even in case of listed companies. However with his second coming and trying to hoist his son into the Executive role, Narayan Murthy was a huge a disappointment even going by his own standards of Corporate Governance. Not only did he succeed to drastically change the course of Infosys he also diluted the Corporate Governance of bringing a retired person back to the helm of affairs and also promoting Owners children into Executive Roles. He had to step down within a year and hire an external leader in Vishal Sikka to take over the leadership from him.

Michael Schumacher

Another fascinating story of a very successful

Seven–time Formula One World champion Michael Schumacher concedes it hasn’t quite gone to the plan in his second coming,

Schumacher, who won five consecutive titles from 2000 to 2004, had rejoined F1 with the Mercedes team. The 42-year-old, who won an incredible 91 races from 261 starts, is yet to get on the podium in his second innings. Three fourth-place finishes in 2010 and another fourth-place finish at this season’s Canadian Grand Prix have been his best results.

He is a seven-time Formula One World Champion and is widely regarded as one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all time.[1][2][3][4] He was named Laureus World Sportsman of the Year twice.[5] He won two titles with Benetton in 1994 and 1995 before moving to Ferrari where he drove for eleven years. His time with Ferrari yielded five consecutive titles between 2000 and 2004.

Schumacher holds many of Formula One’s driver records, including most championships, race victories, fastest laps, pole positions and most races won in a single season – 13 in 2004 (the last of these records was equalled by fellow German Sebastian Vettel nine years later). In 2002, he became the only driver in Formula One history to finish in the top three in every race of a season and then also broke the record for most consecutive podium finishes. According to the official Formula One website, he is “statistically the greatest driver the sport has ever seen”.Schumacher retired from Formula One driving in 2006 staying with Ferrari as an advisor. Schumacher returned to Formula One on a permanent basis from 2010 with the Mercedes team before retiring for a second time at the conclusion of the 2012 season.

In December 2013, Schumacher suffered a serious head injury while skiing. He was airlifted to a hospital and placed in a medically induced coma, having suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Ratan Tata

After stepping down from his day-to-day responsibilities as Chairman from the Tata Group in 2012, Mr. Tata off late has found his interest in e-commerce ventures and has been investing his money and interest in almost all sections of e-commerce business—payments, automobiles, furniture, jewellery, e-payments, apparel, healthcare and mobile phones among others. The seventy-seven year old leader retired as Tata Group Chairman in December 2012, after a 50-year run from one of the world’s largest business conglomerate, including over two decades as its chief. He assumed the role of Chairman Emeritus post his retirement.

“I view risk as an ability to be where no one has been before. I view risk to be an issue of thinking big, something we did not do previously. We did everything in small increments so we always lagged behind. But the crucial question is: can we venture putting a man on the moon or risk billions of rupees on a really way-out, advanced project in, say, superconductors? Do you restrict your risk to something close to your heart”? is what Ratan Tata said on his new found passion for promoting/funding a slew of Start Ups.

Snapdeal, Bluestone-online jewellery start-up, Urbanladder, Kalari Fund-venture fund, Swasth India- affordable healthcare services to the marginalized sections of the society, niche car portalCar Dekho, Chinese mobile startup Xiaomi, women’s noncasual wear Kaaryah, Grameen Capital social impact startup helping small microfinance institutions in India, mobile payments and commerce venture Paytm.

Ubiquitously and undoubtedly, Ratan Tata is one of the most dynamic and admired business leaders the world has ever seen. His invaluable contributions to the growth chapter of the Indian economy would be written in golden letters with his never ending quest to lead and the quest to conquer. The Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons was honoured with India’s second-highest civilian award, the ‘Padma Vibhushan’, in 2008.

However the recent developments at the Tata Sons and its subsidiaries have left much to be desired. The comeback of Ratan Tata, though being anointed as the Chairman albeit for 4 months hasn’t gone down well especially under the circumstances he has made a comeback. The Tata’s were known for Corporate Governance and an epitome in Fairness & Ethics. But the way Cyrus Mistry was removed without any stated reason and by not giving him a fair chance to defend his actions, the actions of the Tata Board has shocked the entire Corporate world. The reputation that they built assiduously over the last 150 years is crumbling by the day, what with the dirty linen being washed in public glare both by the Tata Board and Cyrus Mistry.

Why did Ratan Tata risk all this for a 4 month stint. Isnt there any one else worthy enough from the 6000+ employees  who can manage in the interim. What was that urgency that Cyrus had to be sacked during the Board meeting and without giving him any notice and to bring back a retired 75+ year Ratan Tata.

LK Advani

He is one of the doyen of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). A staunch RSS worker, former Home Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition and a Padma Vibhushan awardee. For long he was considered to be a natural successor to the Prime Ministers post. He was pipped by AB Vajpayee the first time around in 1998 and then by Narendra Modi in the run up to the 2014 Elections. Post the loss of the BJP in 2004 to the UPA, it was writing on the wall for LK Advani. He failed again in 2009 to lead the party to victory. Yet he nurtured his ambitions of making a comeback for the 2014 elections.

In the build up for the 2014 Elections, Advani was 80+ years and was still nursing to become the Prime Minister. Through an elaborate selection process, the BJP chose to make Narendra Modi the PM Candidate for the 2014 elections about 9 months before the Election. Advani made known his disappointment of being ignored again and nearly openly revolted against the party decision to make Modi the PM Candidate. He refused to accept the reality that his days were over and it was time to pass on the mantle to a younger and more popular leader who had an outstanding track record of delivering to the Party.

All the 4 Leaders were icons in their own field. They had built a reputation that was the envy of their competitors but through their comeback bids their Iconic status began to crumble. Why did these leaders have to come back or attempt to come back. Was it a need to satisfy their “centre of action” need & get back to the glare of public attention like many celebrities go through or is it a sense of insecurity feeling of being left out or is it that they treat their organisation that they had so assiduously nurtured and grown as their child and hence adopt a paternal stance and feel the need to take charge of the straying child.

In contrast look at icons like Sunil Gavaskar, Steffi Graph, Bill Gates. They quit when they were at their peak of their careers and still had some years left to continue. They chose to leave on a HIGH and on their own terms, rather than being egged on to quit.

Most of us grew up being advised  “Don’t be a quitter,” and we’ve internalized it to the point where we feel guilty of even the thought of quitting. Our advisors weren’t entirely wrong in saying that tenacity and persistence is necessary for success, but sometimes quitting can be an effective course of action.

“Quitting is leading too.” – Nelson Mandela

As it turns out, some of us are really good at knowing when to quit, while others have a hard time to call it “Quits.” Research from the University of Rochester found that people are motivated by either “approach goals” or “avoidance goals.”

Those who fall into the approach camp are motivated by impending challenges outside their realm of work after they have reached a sense of achievement in their current assignment. In other words, they know that they have other options to pursue and know when to quit.

People motivated by avoidance goals, however stare at a blank future and  worry a lot more about what to do next and fear failing outside their comfort zone. There’s always a choice. Sure, sometimes it’s a choice between two things that seem equally bad, but there’s still a choice. They want to avoid failure at all costs, so they keep plugging away at things, long after logic suggests it’s time to move on. This is typically a much less productive way to work.

Some others are so stuck with POWER, that when they are finally out of it, they struggle to cope with it and want to get back the POWER. You have to give up your power, and you can’t put a price on that. To succeed at the highest level, you have to quit giving your power away.

Knowing when to quit is a skill. It requires courage and self introspection to realise that its obvious that things aren’t going your way and its time to move on. Failure to do so, risks the reputation, image, credibility that Leaders had assiduously built over the years and many a times run the risk of making a fool of themselves.

Life is full of challenges and even more at work. It’s like a rollercoaster ride. There is bound to be ups and downs, twists and curls but it can’t go on and on. It has to come to an end.  You have to try to disassociate yourself from work emotionally sooner or later. And see it as a game, as strategy, [so you can] think rationally. Sometimes you just need to draw a line under it, because actually you could end up losing even more if you keep going.

No one is indispensable. Give others a chance to succeed and lay back with happy memories of your hay days. Remember that when the Sun rises it has to SET.

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