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|Prof Sridhar at TISS|
“I have a strange request for you,” said Prof S. Sridhar, with a twinkle in his eyes and a friendly smile. I nodded with an intention to understand what the request was about. “Get me a broom,” added he. “Sorry, broooom”, I fumbled, trying to understand, whether those words which I had heard were actually uttered by him, or there was some kind of confusion. “Yes, you are right” he replied.
I carried a broom to the A R Wadia hall, where the professor was to be heard by over 150 TISSians pursuing MA, MPhil and PhD eagerly waiting in the evening. TISSian S. Sridhar (PM & LR-1972) is the Director, Viessmann Leadership Development Program, Management Professor (Emeritus) at University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. He addressed TISSians on 9th January at Naoroji Campus, TISS, Mumbai. Prof Sasmita Palo, Dean, School of Management and Labour Studies had taken initiative to organise the lecture.
The lecture started with general introduction of the students, it gained momentum immediately, with students cautiously taking down notes and answering the questions raised by Prof Sridhar. All this while, I kept thinking about the broom, which shared the space with the Professor’s laptop on the desk. In a while, with the mike in one hand, he moved towards the table and skillfully lifted and raised the broom, as a much-required instrument to convey the message. “How many of you know how to use this?” he questioned. Almost everyone raised their hand.
Well, there was more to come, Prof Sridhar posed the next question, “how many of you would stay back to clean the room after the programme?” None from the classroom responded positively. Within seconds each one of us knew why something like a broom was given as much importance of that of a laptop.
Prof Sridhar pointed out a formula Performance = Motivation X Ability. “One may have the ability and skill needed to perform a job. If motivation is zero, performance is zero. Similarly, we may have all the Motivation to earn the money and the fame that Virat Kohli or Serena Williams earn, but, if don't have their ability, our performance will be zero. The employees should have both ability and motivation to perform. It is the job of the leader to promote both in their followers.”
There are two kinds of teachers, some give, directions as if robot-like, while some are an absolute inspiration. Prof Sridhar falls in the latter category, being an inspiration not just through his formal lectures but one gets motivated as much by his behaviour. He is friendly with his students and brings in a great lot of patience while dealing with them.
One striking point which Prof Sridhar made during the lecture was, “Pursue PhD only if you are passionate about the field and are willing for long term commitment. With over specialization, job available, especially during economic downturns, will be sparse. In the 1990s, reportedly, there were 3000 unemployed computer science PhDs.”
Prof Sridhar who has worked in several fields, including in the social sector strongly believes that JD is a dead document in an era dominated by the likes of Airbnb and Uber. “Job descriptions that traditional HR held as Holy Grail have been dead documents for decades. The demands of the new economy that requires speed, connectivity, flexibility, etc. have rendered JDs to be albatrosses. Hence, they have become dead documents.” While sharing the prerequisite aspects of a successful manager, he expressed concern saying, “HR is still not taken seriously by the management.”
Though the topic was a serious one, Prof Sridhar could lighten the mood with his anecdotes. He was at ease showing his funny side, by sharing some lighter moments of his life. The class broke into laughter as he narrated the fact that he married his professor's daughter. Not many are aware that he was the President of TISS Alumni Association.
As noted by American author Henry Adams, “a good teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” The qualities which Prof Sridhar brings in the classroom; passion for teaching, discipline and more importantly he communicates respect, which helps him develop a strong and lasting bond with students within a few hours.
If the conversation we had with Prof Sridhar is to be scanned, words like ‘brotherhood, family bonding, friendship, long-term relationships, etc. were the most repeated terms. These phrases sum up his personality, which gives inherent significance to the basic virtues of life. The Turkish proverb, "If speaking is silver, then listening is gold," fits Prof Sridhar perfectly, as he emphasis on listening and knowing a student before advising.
The following day, during the meeting with the TISS Director, Prof Shalini Bharat, Prof Sridhar expressed his willingness to associate with the Institute.
TISSAA wishes him the best of luck for his future endeavours. Prof Sridhar is currently on a visit to India.
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