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From Ant to Lion – decoding leadership with L&T’s Punam Singh

Ms Punam Singh Addressing the students
Ms Punam Singh Addressing the students

“Despite possessing all the hallmarks of an excellent leader — diligence, tenacity, camaraderie, and communication — the ant is considered far from a leader in the animal kingdom. But that's where context and environment come into play,” remarked Ms. Punam Singh, DGM: Leadership Development & OD at Larsen & Toubro (L&T), during a recent session on “Leadership Agility & Growth Mindset” at Jio Institute that highlighted the mindset one requires to become a leader.

Ms. Singh, who holds an Executive Diploma in Human Resource Management from XLRI, Jamshedpur and is currently pursuing an MSc in Psychology from Southern New Hampshire University, UK, brings over 17 years of experience in leadership development. She has previously worked with renowned organizations like ICICI, Max New York Life, Future Group, Tata Consulting Engineers, and Vedantu Innovations.

The session, which was attended by Jio Institute students, faculty and staff members began with pictorial representations to depict how the human brain can quickly resolve complex situations, provided it has the right context to process the give situation. It was followed by a walkthrough of the scale at which L&T, an organization that employs 55,000 employees, operates. Ms Puman used anecdotes from her professional experiences to drive home the point that some key tenets for leader are understanding stakeholders, setting the right context and a passion to get the job done as indispensable traits for a successful leader

She drew upon the mammoth “Statue of Unity” project undertaken by L&T – the 182m statue of Sardar Vallabhai Patel, India's first Deputy Prime Minister, on the banks of the Narmada River near Vadodara, Gujarat. A video showcased L&T's comprehensive stakeholder engagement strategy, involving designers, historians, the local community, the government, engineers, and project managers, to successfully execute this world's tallest statue, a first for the company. Through this example, Ms. Singh underscored how L&T's leadership rose to the nation's call and delivered this engineering marvel despite the challenges. Engaging the community through training and employment opportunities for the statue's operation and maintenance, and fostering national pride through the “LOHA” campaign, were instrumental in immortalizing the “Iron Man of India.”

Another example was a water reservoir project for the Tirumala temple in Tirupati, a revered Hindu pilgrimage site. Ms. Singh highlighted how L&T took on the challenge of delivering the project within 90 days to address a water scarcity crisis at this sacred place.

Through these examples, Ms. Singh emphasized the critical need for a thorough understanding of the context and environment surrounding any situation or problem to arrive at the right decision or solution. She stressed that effective leaders must be prepared to take on diverse roles and challenges within an organization, even if they lack initial expertise, adapting and learning through their journey to achieve a more fulfilling career.

After the Q&A, Ms Punam Singh was felicitated by Dr Ravichandran, Provost, Jio Institute. The highly interactive and engaging session saw active participation from the audience, punctuated by moments of light-heartedness that enriched the overall experience. These takeaways will guide Jio Institute students, who stand at the threshold of their careers, in enriching their professional and personal journeys through continuous learning, effective problem-solving, and an ever-expanding knowledge base, regardless of their chosen fields.