The Light of Life Magazine
A ministry of Christian writing




Editorial: August 2011

SUCCESSION


P. Abraham

After three decades as a spectacularly visible and stunningly successful company, both in India and overseas, Infosys entered a new phase recently with three vital changes. Its iconic charismatic founder and chairman N. R. Narayanamurthy will step down on August 20, on turning 65, for the veteran banker and seasoned business transformation manager K. V. Kamath to take over. For the first time, a non-founder, non-insider, non-techie will head the Governing Board of Infosys. An action-packed tenure for Murthy, who along with half-a-dozen others, turned a Rs. 10,000 savings in 1981 into a Rs. 25,800 crore ($6 billion) company with 130,820 employees and shareholder base of 4,50,000. The company now has over 620 clients, 6,500 projects, 64 sales offices and 63 development centres spread across 75 cities in 32 countries. The founders have all become near billionaires by virtue of their Infosys stock. Murthy made Infosys a fashionable job market for a whole legion of young Indian professionals. He exemplified the highest corporate governance standards by flying economy class, cleaning his own dinner plate and even his toilet.

Murthy introduced the new trio as "a perfect team to strengthen customer, investor and employee connect on the one hand and world class board governance on the other hand." These changes are expected to "maintain continuity with change."

This announcement has put to rest all speculations about leadership issues in the company. Pleased with his elevation to the top post, Kamath said he felt "greatly honoured" and added that he would accept "this responsibility with a deep sense of humility."

Infosys is a company known for promising less and achieving more. Murthy is leaving behind a legacy which few in Indian industry can boast of. He raised corporate governance standards to levels that were completely new to them. He recognised that, to deal with global clients, the company had to have global standards in transparency and governance. The 3-member Nomination Committee headed by Jeff Sean Lehman finalised the new management structure of the company. Kamath, a part of the three-member Committee, withdrew from the Committee when his candidature evolved.

A person who founded the organisation with his meagre savings and led the organisation to great heights by precept and practice, is stepping down in favour of another person, outside his family, and selected by an independent Nominating Committee. The original promoters of Infosys have slowly whittled down their stake in the company, currently holding a mere 16% in the company. With none of the sons and daughters of the founding members working in the company, there is good chance that the Infosys Board will be without a link to its promoters in the next few years. A noble example worthy of emulation by Christian organisations!

Murthy was considered irreplaceable. The same was said about N. Vaghul of ICICI Bank and J. R. D. Tata. In both cases, K. V. Kamath and Ratan Tata have gone on to distinguish themselves.

Leaders should be chosen for the environment ahead, and not the environment in which the outgoing leader ran the organisation. Secular companies do not restrict themselves to hunt for a person who would be a mirror image of the incumbent. "It is not a matter of mirror image, but of potential and performance."

When Ratan Tata returned to India from the US, after turning down a job with IBM, he was sent to Jamshedpur to work on the shop floor at Tata Steel with other blue collar employees, shovelling limestone and handling the blast furnace. When he was named Chairman of Tata Industries, as the successor of J. R. D. Tata in 1981, he was heavily criticised for lacking experience in running a company of the scale of Tata Industries.

Ratan Tata was appointed Chairman of the Tata group of companies in 1991. He has been responsible for converting 'the corporate commonwealth' of different Tata-affiliated companies into a cohesive company. He was responsible for the acquisition of Tetley, Jaguar Land Rover and Corus, which have turned Tata from a largely India-centric company into a global business, with 65% revenues coming from abroad. He also pushed the development of Indica and Nano. He is widely credited for the success of the Rs. 3 lakh crore ($70 billion) Tata Group of Companies, especially after the liberalisation of controls since the 1990s. A Nomination Committee is now at work to select a person to succeed Ratan Tata, when he retires in December 2012, as he turns 75. From newspaper reports it appears that the 8 contenders, generated from within the company and outside, include a family member. The final selection will be made by a Board process.

The process, adopted by the government to arrive at succession decisions in public sector undertakings, of setting up search and selection committees, looking at a wide swath of candidates, is rigorous.

Do these examples and facts from the secular world have any lesson for Christians?

In Christian organisations, the leaders often misread the spiritual operations of the offices. This main spiritual deficiency causes them to misuse the authority. Some of them are thoroughly deluded and fight to maintain their personal influence and success, thus destroying themselves and the organisation. This leads to tolerance of mediocrity. What was once inspired by God's direction reduces to self-appointment, totally in the flesh, developing a weakness for power and wealth. "It is not a question of rising high, it is a question of becoming low enough, a deep enough depth of true humility, of true abasement and self-effacement for the high office." God is not looking for those who brag of their status and experience.

To properly administer success, one must hold himself in the strength of the Spirit, listening for His direction-not one's own. It is only through the strength of the Spirit and a hunger for God that we are able to continue in what God has spoken, pioneering into the next level. Remain with the original anointed plan of God for your life and allow Him to open avenues to administer it. If God has called you, He will support you. Never sway from what God has commanded you to fulfil a commission; make it your utmost priority as long as you live. You can never become so spiritual that you forsake the Word of God. It takes spiritual strength to fulfil the will of God. Keep God as your number one passion, and the desire of your heart will surely follow. Do not try to compromise your heavenly call for earthly security by promoting hereditary succession in the 'church industry.' It is a futile exercise to smuggle members of the family into the organisation and squeeze them into the hierarchy, as a cure for your insecurity. The perils of putting kith and kin in the hierarchy were clearly seen during the recent elections in Tamil Nadu.

Spiritual pride and fanaticism always produce an unteachable spirit. Arrogance of power creeps in. They "feel exalted, thinking they have a greater experience than anyone else, not needing instruction or advice, placing them out of reach from those who can help." In our fast-paced, 'feel good' generation, faithfulness seems to have been compromised. A striving for power, rank and fame seems to betray a poverty of ambition. The system should have checks and balances to keep power in control. The term of office (a year or two) should be clearly defined and strictly enforced. No more than two terms should be permitted for any person, without any exception. Longer tenures will always create problems. Many among the mighty have fallen along this track. An upper age limit should be prescribed for people occupying positions of power (preferably 65 years, but in no case more than 75). The boards of management should play an active role in formally and rigorously evaluating the CEOs for efficiency, integrity and accountability, and for transparency at the time of succession.

The church is an organism, unlike any other human organisation. Let us go on to maturity and fight for the prize rather than personal glory. Be bold to perform the plan of God for your life in the strength of what heaven has called you to do. Be passionate in the gifts of the Spirit, but never be excessive. Being excessive might skyrocket you, but you will eventually explode and plummet to earth. The Christian faith is a way of life, so run it like a marathon, not a sprint-no hidden agendas and ulterior motives. When we go the way of the flesh, we rely on our own strength; when we no longer operate on God's strength, we wear out before time. The most significant challenges are ignored. Narrow selfish interests vie for advantage. People are generally unwilling to make hard choices and live up to the Biblical ideas.

Today the secular world values nothing so much as being rich, thin, young, famous, safe, and entertained. This culture has crept into the church. Satisfaction is not to be found in the glare of television cameras or the applause of the crowd. Realise how fleeting fame is. Benjamin Franklin wrote to his mother, explaining why he had devoted so much of his time to public service, "I would rather have it said, he lived usefully, than, he died rich."

God appointed judges over His people Israel (1Chr.17:10). Samuel grew up to become Eli's helper in the duties of the tabernacle (1Sam.2:18). By bringing God's message of judgement to Eli, he showed that God was preparing him to be a prophet (1Sam.3:10-18). When Eli died, Samuel succeeded him as chief administrator in Israel (1Sam.4:18;7:15). People acknowledged him as a prophet from God and the religious leader of the nation (1Sam.3:20;7:3-6;Acts 3:24;13:20). The religious life of Israel centred on Samuel, who set up an altar in Ramah. The priesthood became so corrupt that God appointed Samuel to carry out priestly duties, even though he was not from a priestly family (1Sam.2:27-36;7:9;10:8). Israel's civil administration also was centred on Samuel. As Samuel grew old, his sons took over much of the administration. Instead of resisting the social corruption that had become widespread through the disobedience of people to God, they contributed to it (1Sam.8:1-3). In search of improved conditions, the people asked Samuel to give them a king. This was more a rejection of God. The people's troubles had come from their sins, not from the system of government. The people got their king. Saul was chosen by God to be Israel's first king (1Sam.9:15-16;10:1;10:17-25). He was a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, from the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin (1Sam.9:21). Samuel anointed him as king. Saul was impatient and wanted complete power, religious as well as political. Saul wanted his son Jonathan to be his successor, but God chose David. Samuel announced that God would take the kingdom from Saul (1Sam.13:8-14).

God then sent Samuel to choose a person who would one day replace Saul as king (1Sam.16:1-13). God took David from the pasture and from following the flock, to be ruler over His people Israel (1Chr.17:7). He took His love away from Saul (1Chr.17:13). When Saul and his messengers tried to capture David, all of them were overcome by the power of God's Spirit (1Sam.19:18-24). God promised David, "When your days are over and you go to be with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom" (1Chr.17:11). God had chosen David as the one through whose royal family He would bring the Messiah, the Saviour of the world (2Sam.7:8-17;Psa.2:7-9;89:19-37;Matt.22:42;Lk.1:68-70;Acts.13:22-23).

The changes in leadership for His people were always directed by God. When the apostles thought of selecting a person to fill the void created by Judas, they prayed and cast lots, a device used to ascertain divine will (Acts 1:21-26). We do not find any of the apostles selecting a successor for himself. It was always God who directed the operation with anointed leaders.

God so loved the world that He invested His only begotten Son to redeem the world. It is His prerogative to appoint leaders for the redeemed. How can anybody take it upon himself to lead or select successors for the Church of God?




Light of Life