Just What Makes a Good Leader? Local Leaders Find Out from Experts


The panelists for the afternoon program with ICC President P.V. Patel (far left) were, from left, Surendra Nath Sharma, Consul from the Indian Consulate; Jose Villarreal, Executive Director of AVANCE in Houston; Pradeep Anand, a business consultant and Saum Mathur, Global Chief Information Officer at Hewlett Packard’s Software Division. Photos: Jawahar Malhotra

By Jawahar Malhotra
HOUSTON: “We need to have better communication,” said P.V. Patel intently as he looked out at the roomful of about 60 people at the India House last Sunday, June 16. “Let us try to improve it.” As the current President of the India Culture Center, the oldest organization of Indo Americans in the Greater Houston area, Patel was in a good position to lament that.

Two weeks earlier, the ICC, in conjunction with the leadership of India House had arranged for the majority of Indo American organizations, most of which are religious or non-profits, to join hands and come together for a prayer meeting for the four fallen HFD fire fighters after the Southwest Inn blaze on the Southwest Freeway. About 200 people attended that program (see IAN dated June 7, 2013) and the organizations then collectively pledged about $50,000 to donate to the families of the fire fighters.

That effort brought to Patel’s attention how important it was to act quickly, efficiently and decisively. No novice at working in public service, Patel has been involved in some form or the other in many other organizations, but he reasoned that the main problem for ineffective dialogue was that the Presidents of many of these groups change every year and the programs change accordingly, with no continuity or follow through.


The leaders of many Indo American organizations participated in the afternoon program at the India House last Sunday, June 16 and later posed with the panelists.

Patel threw out the gauntlet to the four people who were the panelists for this year’s ICC sponsored Leaders Conference, the seventh year that it has been held. Dr. Falguni Gandhi opened the event with a short, simple Hindu prayer and then Ramesh Akarapu introduced the topics: the role of power and politics in grooming leadership and future leaders: are you a good leader or manager?

He also introduced the panelists: Surendra Nath Sharma, Consul from the Indian Consulate; Jose Villarreal, Executive Director of AVANCE in Houston; Pradeep Anand, a business consultant and President of Seeta Resources and Saum Mathur, Global Chief Information Officer at Hewlett Packard’s Software Division, each of whom spoke separately and then in a panel discussion later when questions were presented. Sugar Land Councilman, Harish Jajoo who was recently re-elected for his second term spoke briefly about the role of politics. “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action  can change the world,” he said, quoting futurist, author and filmmaker Joel Barker.

Consul Sharma stood in for Consul General Harish who could not attend. He appreciated the shared bonds that the ICC and the CGI have had in enhancing the relationship between India and the US, especially in culture. “Power and politics often have negative connotations,” he said, “but power can enable you to lead your team.”

Jose Villareal spoke about the work that AVANCE does in parent and early childhood education because “parents are the most important teachers and the home is the most important classroom.” His belief is that we must prepare for a multiracial democracy – sharing demographic data that showed how the population would shift by 2040 to a predominantly Hispanic majority. He then noted that leaders needed to be held accountable, be innovative, honest and “have the vision but put it into action.”
Pradeep Anand explained the four ‘C’s” that affect leaders: company, competition, customs and the climate that these forge. He went on to enumerate the sixteen characteristics of leaders: integrity, authenticity, action, humility, self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, social skills, anticipate changes, adaptive capacity, vision with purpose that inspires themselves, focus, delegation, intolerant of mediocrity and excel at creating trusting relationships.


The emcees for the program were Dr. Falguni Gandhi and Ramesh Akarapu, both Board members of the ICC.

Saum Mathur said that he threw out all his prepared que cards and started anew by asking the two future leaders in his house – his 20 and 16 year-old daughters – how they perceived the working world they were to enter. “The Gen Y’ers – 8 to 30 year-olds – are the future,” he stated. He spoke from the experience he has gained in his role at Hewlett Packard where he is “provocative” in the demands he puts on his teams. “Each company goes through phases,” he said, “and change is constant and can be disruptive.” In his opinion, a leader has to be comfortable with, and be a catalyst for, change, inspire others, be technologically savvy, leverage the power of information, communicate and be open, learn through reverse mentoring, and lead from behind.

The conference ended after a brief question and answer period handled by each one of the panelists and was followed by a buffet lunch catered by Mayuri restaurant.