“Be Water”: Unleashing Entrepreneurship in the Age of Disruption

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Be Like Water
“Be Water”: Unleashing Entrepreneurship in the Age of Disruption

Anytime you move into a new role, you inevitably get asked about your management style. It was no different when I moved to Hong Kong to lead Schneider Electric’s global Home & Distribution division at Schneider Electric earlier this month, after nearly a decade of running Delixi Electric, one of the key Schneider value brands. To me, the answer is simple: I don’t want to manage. I aspire to lead: to enable, nourish and inspire. And I have big shoes to fill, left by my predecessor, Manish Pant.

From an early age I learnt two things. First, nothing is impossible if we put our mind to it. If there is a will, there is a way – human space travel being a perfect example of us succeeding at something previously deemed impossible. And second, that a good leader must be humble and stay humble.  The reason I say this is because smart thinking can come from anywhere. It’s my job to listen, to provide a clear direction, to orchestrate – to continue delivering on the ever-changing customer expectations in a rapidly changing marketplace.

The disruption in the smart home space we are seeing today is an opportunity. Any business that empowers its teams to innovate at every level will always be successful, as it continues to reinvent itself, no matter how big or small or established. Maintaining healthy levels of customer obsession is key. I also truly believe in the value of collective intelligence to spot trends early and enable the organisation to pivot and find new ways to deliver our mission, vision and goal. This is the only way to thrive in the age of tech disruption, which is transforming our homes, our workplaces and our cities in front of our eyes. This diversity of opinion or thought, is also the only way to successfully address the biggest threat of our generation: climate change. This ability to make the world a better place is what ultimately motivates and drives me as a leader.

When someone asks me for leadership advice, I like to quote Bruce Lee: “Be water.” While it may not be the specific advice some may be looking for, I believe it embodies the essence of true leadership that delivers team success through agile entrepreneurship in the age of disruption. Here are the three lessons I believe modern leaders can learn from unpacking this two-word assertion from Bruce Lee:

  1. Everything is possible with enough persistence. Water wears away a stone. You can punch and kick water, but you will not be able to stop it from fulfilling its destination. Meaning there are no limits to what agile teams can achieve. We must focus on our strengths and believe in our ability to change the world. Elon Musk is an example of an unstoppable, unconventional leader who continues to surprise and disrupt.
  2. Great power lies in being fluid, adaptable and agile. Water can fill any container, crack, or vessel effortlessly, regardless of size, shape, and depth. Many great innovators and entrepreneurs are able to think ‘within the box’ and have developed solutions and services off the back of what already existed. Take all the entrepreneur building their businesses off the back of the internet and existing solutions, from Uber to Airbnb. They didn’t invent the world wide web, but they took advantage of the opportunity, created their own luck by listening and observing. Innovation can and should happen at every level within the organisation.
  3. Be efficient to be effective. Water finds the path of least resistance. Reacting to market shifts and changes in real time is important, and something many companies, big and small, have become much better at during the pandemic when traditional supply chains were disrupted and customer needs were changing daily. We should all make the time to think smart before sprawling into action.

This brings me to the role and power of technology, that, much like water, has become an essential fuel of our personal and professional lives, enabling us to stay connected, productive and entertained over the past 12 months.

At Schneider Electric, we believe that a more digital and more electric world will help us disrupt climate change faster, by accelerating the decarbonisation of our homes, cities and transport. But we must ensure that any such innovations are developed with human-centricity at their core. We serve our customers by enabling consumers to do good and protect the biodiversity around us from carbon emissions coming from our homes, without changing their lifestyles. That means, generating and using more renewable energy, minimising energy waste, storing access energy to make our homes resilient against power cuts – all with the help of modern technologies. It requires true innovation, and I believe we have what it takes here at Schneider.

Not only that – we have a treasure trove of knowledge, experience, and expertise within the business of how to design and deploy cutting-edge interoperable energy management solutions in the home, working with partners around the world for the benefit of the consumer. It is the foundation of our future success – something that I will build upon and unleash as we innovate to create smart and sustainable homes of the future.

I believe that today, nothing is impossible for true entrepreneurs and innovators – and the notion is not limited to a specific role or job function, or company. It’s the attitude, the mindset. And so, anyone asking me how I like to run things, is likely to hear: “Think smart, work hard and have fun.” And taking a leaf out of my own book, “be water”, I try to partake in these three activities in equal measure. This is exactly how innovation and positive disruption happen.

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