The Biggest Challenge for First-Time Leaders

Ram Charan is a highly sought after business advisor and speaker famous among senior executives for his uncanny ability to solve their toughest business problems. For more than thirty-five years, Dr. Charan has worked behind the scenes with top executives at some of the world's most successful companies, including GE, Verizon, Novartis, Dupont, Thomson Corporation, Honeywell, KLM, Bank of America, and MeadWestvaco. He has shared his insights with many others through teaching and writing.

Born in India, Charan moved to the US to attend Harvard Business School, where he earned MBA and doctorate degrees. After receiving his doctorate degree, he served on the Harvard Business School faculty.

Charan is the author of "The Talent Masters," "Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done," and many other books and articles. 

  • Transcript


Question: If someone is promoted to their first leadership position, what should they keep in mind?

Ram Charan: You really need to first think if you are a people person. Of course, you’re going to develop numbers… or deliver numbers. And a people person means that you need to learn about the people you’re working with; you don’t have to be liked, but they've got to figure out why you should be respected. And why they will see you as a leader. Do not confuse with insecurity, so are you spending enough time to do this.

Second, you've got to do the most difficult thing, most people have and they don’t succeed—before you became leader, you were doing things yourself. You loved doing things yourself. You were brilliant, you were fast, your bosses loved you, you did the job of three people in one day. That cocaine needs to be taken out. You need to say, you’re job is not to be doing it, you’re job is to get it done. So define the tasks, learn the people, what makes them tick. Build the trust. Nothing will substitute the value of trust and no matter what you’re duties are, no matter how silver-tongued you are, subordinates will always figure out how trustworthy you are.

Recorded January 4, 2011
Interviewed by Max Miller
Directed by Jonathan Fowler
Produced by Elizabeth Rodd