Adam Bryant conducts interviews of senior-level executives that appear in his “Corner Office” column each week in the SundayBusiness section of The New York Times. Here are a few insights provided during an interview of Girish Navani, C.E.O. of eClinicalWorks, a provider of clinical information systems. He says he guards against “title warfare” at his company, saying that new job titles “get old within the first day of having them.”
To read the complete interview as well as Bryant’s interviews of other executives, please click here.
Photo credit: Earl Wilson/The New York Times
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Bryant: When you were growing up, were you in leadership roles?
Navani: I was more what I would call a collaborator who would make things happen and coordinate them. I got that from my parents. Even today, my father is always making sure that people around him are happy and content. He’s trying to create that environment, which I think is probably the most valuable lesson of leadership. You let people express themselves so that you can find the best ways to work with them.
Bryant: Tell me more about your father.
Navani: He’s retired now, but he was a civil engineer. He worked for the Indian railways and built bridges. There are some lessons I’ve learned from that, too. Whenever I am faced with big questions to answer, I think back on what I learned when I was very young. I was probably less than 10 years old, and I was crossing a bridge with my family. My father said: “That’s a bridge I built, and it’s going to outlast me. So build something in your lifetime that outlasts you.” That one never left me
Bryant: How old were you when you started managing people?
Navani: My first role was at Fidelity Investments. I was 27. I had this team of five people, and every one of them went to my boss and told him that I was terrible because I had stifled them from talking to others, and that I only wanted them to tell me what was going on. One person said, “We can’t be on his team.”
I changed pretty much overnight. If people felt that they couldn’t really maneuver as easily as they did before I was a team leader, then I wasn’t doing my job. A team leader should be a coach.
Bryant: Tell me about your leadership style today.
Navani: My approach is to be as open as you can. There’s a big, oval table outside my office, with eight chairs around it, and I spend a lot of time working there. It gives an opportunity to anybody to come up to me, ask questions, discuss an idea and brainstorm on a big whiteboard. Some people will join a conversation just because they want to learn. You never ask the question, “Why are you sitting at this table?”
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Adam Bryant, deputy national editor of The New York Times, oversees coverage of education issues, military affairs, law, and works with reporters in many of the Times’ domestic bureaus. He also conducts interviews with CEOs and other leaders for Corner Office, a weekly feature in the SundayBusiness section and on nytimes.comthat he started in March 2009. In his book, The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, (Times Books), he analyzes the broader lessons that emerge from his interviews with more than 70 leaders. To read an excerpt, please click here.