Purpose: Leaders should provide clear guidance based on the desired results, customers’ needs and organization’s mission.
We are living in the Renaissance of Work. Just like great artists know that an empty canvas can become anything, great leaders know that an entire organization — and the people inside it — can become anything, too. Master Artists and Mastering the Art of Leadership draw from the same source: creation. In this series, we’ll meet masters who are creating the future of work and painting a portrait of lasting leadership. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Dennis Gada.
Dennis Gada is EVP and Industry Head — Financial Services, North America at Infosys, where he has executive responsibility for all client relationships and new client acquisitions in the financial services sector. Dennis has significant business transformation, innovation and financial services consulting experience. He is an industry leader in financial services with experience in partnering with clients to shape strategies and execute digital transformation programs leveraging business and technology services. Dennis is frequent speaker at various Industry events and is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.
Thank you for joining us. Our readers would enjoy discovering something interesting about you. What are you in the middle of right now that you’re excited about personally or professionally?
Transforming any business with the power of digital technologies is always exciting for me, but especially recently, as I’ve been intrigued by the possibilities of generative AI technologies like ChatGPT. Besides that, I’ve been traveling extensively for the first time post-COVID and it’s been great to visit places again. And finally, I’m very proud that both of my kids are now part of swim teams, so my new role as “Swim Dad,” taking them to swim meets all over, has been very fun!
We all get by with a little help from our friends. Who is the leader that has influenced you the most, and how?
I’m grateful for several leaders at Infosys and my previous employers that have tremendously influenced me and shaped my career. I’m truly inspired by Satya Nadella, executive chairman of Microsoft. Satya has led Microsoft’s transformation journey with a strong focus on clients, culture and continuous innovation. Though I am not much of an athlete, I’m also always inspired by many athletes and sports personalities, particularly by their discipline, consistency and will to succeed against all odds.
Sometimes our biggest mistakes lead to our biggest discoveries. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a leader, and what did you discover as a result?
I used to have an unhealthy obsession with perfection until I heard this quote from Vince Lombardi, a legendary NFL football coach: “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.” I have to accept that perfection will never come, but success and excellence is always within my reach. I’ve also realized that it’s unnecessary to have everyone precisely align with my ways of thinking — having diversity of thoughts and an open forum for various point-of-views can bring out the best in our teams.
How has your definition of leadership changed or evolved over time? What does it mean to be a leader now?
I have worked across continents, industries and cultures for more than 20 years in my leadership journey, so my definition of leadership has evolved and shifted over the years. I now believe that a good leader is one who leads with purpose, humility, empathy and perseverance. And in today’s world, more than ever before, leaders need to be hands-on and much more connected to reality with their teams on the ground.
Success is as often as much about what we stop as what we start. What is one legacy leadership behavior you stopped because you discovered it was no longer valuable or relevant?
Throughout my career in the industry, I’ve strived to continuously gain experience by partnering with clients to shape strategies and execute transformation programs that leverage business and technology in many different areas. I have realized over the years that while you need to have a broad understanding and knowledge of several industry topics, you also need to go deeper into some specific areas and be well known as a thought leader on a particular topic. To stand out among many accomplished leaders, you have to find a way to develop unique skills or areas of expertise.
What is one lasting leadership behavior you started or are cultivating because you believe it is valuable or relevant?
Today’s leaders must allow themselves to take risks. In fact, in a newly released Infosys research report, we found that taking responsible risks positively correlated with increased employee retention. With this, I believe leaders should learn to be fearless and tackle challenges head on instead of being so risk-averse. While the likelihood of failure undoubtedly increases, leaders can also increase their chances of gaining insights and value, which outweighs any potentially harmful outcomes.
What advice would you offer to other leaders who are stuck in past playbooks and patterns and may be having a hard time letting go of what made them successful in the past?
My advice to leaders stuck in past mindsets would be to constantly remain curious. Curiosity leads to many great discoveries and realizations, many of which would have never been found should someone with an inquisitive mind not had went down the rabbit hole of their curiosity. I always push my teams to ask questions and learn, unlearn and relearn.
Many of our readers can relate to the challenge of leading people for the first time. What advice would you offer to new and emerging leaders?
I encourage new leaders to remain agile and always be ready to adapt to emerging conditions, for better or worse. Agile leadership is critical in today’s climate, and agile leaders can build winning cultures that foster creative thinking and collaboration across teams. With that, I also recommend enjoying the excitement that comes with that! It will help shape your unique story that you will undoubtedly share in the future.
Based on your experience or research, what are the top five traits effective leaders exemplify now? Please share a story or an example for each.
I believe there are five key traits leaders must exemplify to successfully manage and navigate today’s uncertain landscape, no matter the industry, as outlined by the renowned Klaus Schwab. These include:
- Purpose: Leaders should provide clear guidance based on the desired results, customers’ needs and organization’s mission.
- Professionalism: Leading with tact, honesty and grace is key to winning over the trust and respect of your employees, clients and all other stakeholders.
- Perseverance: Quitting should never be an option, as cliché as it may sound. I believe leaders should instill a “never give up” mindset among their workforce and instill values of determination, ensuring work is done with the broader business objectives and greater good of society in mind.
- Passion: The old saying goes, “If you love what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life,” and while it’s been said many times over, I truly believe in the efficacy of this statement. When interviewing candidates for positions with our company, I always look for those who showcase genuine enthusiasm for their craft — as well as our organization’s mission.
- Positive attitude: Lastly, and this goes without saying, treat others with kindness and empathy — from the leadership level to entry-level. I believe leaders have the responsibility of creating a culture of purpose, understanding, compassion and positivity in the workplace, and I only hope my legacy lives up to that of the many great leaders of our time.
American Basketball Coach John Wooden said, “Make each day your masterpiece.” How do you embody that quote? We welcome a story or example.
At Infosys, I enter each new workday with one goal in mind: to enable our clients to successfully navigate their digital transformation agenda. With that in mind, I embark on a “journey in a day” for each client, helping them define their digital transformation roadmap through a series of milestones. These include features to be released incrementally or a chart of targeted outcomes which allows them to understand the bigger picture and identify what steps they need to follow to achieve their desired business outcomes.
What is the legacy you aspire to leave as a leader?
I hope that my legacy will be that I acted according to an authentic purpose as well as a clear north star strategy, and that I navigated with excellent execution while providing a platform for growth and learning to create the next generation of leaders. I hope that my work ethic and drive for excellence inspires the people around me to do the same, thus creating an unbeatable, collaborative and winning culture among everyone. I want to be remembered as someone who led from the front and had boundless energy to get in the trenches with my team so that we would ALL be successful. I want to be known as a genuine people’s leader who cares deeply because without people, none of this would be possible. And finally, I hope that by bringing my vision and strategic focus, we would always achieve the goals we set out for, while paving and building the business of the future.
How can our readers connect with you to continue the conversation?
Please connect with me on LinkedIn — I’d be happy to connect and continue the conversation. I am very passionate about mentoring and encouraging others to be the best leaders that they can be.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!