Adam: What is something about you that would surprise people?
Sudheesh: That I’m an introvert and a nerd who experiences my share of socially awkward moments on a daily basis.
Adam: What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth and why?
Sudheesh: While I have many, more recent examples of failures that put me on a path to success, one instance that I recall in particular is a job interview I had in the early 2000’s. I usually ace job interviews, but I failed when I interviewed for the position of a security administrator at Fidelity Investments in Boston. I can still remember being very hard on myself during the Boston Coach ride back to airport. However, I realize now that if I had received that job, I wouldn’t have moved to the West Coast or been exposed to the startup ecosystem where I’ve achieved so many of my goals. All told, I certainly wouldn’t be the person I’m today.
The idea that everything happens for a reason, and that the reason will eventually reveal itself as a good one is easy to understand but very hard to live by. It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that I’ve failed (and learned) my way to where I’m today.
Adam: What are the most important lessons you learned from earlier jobs and how have you applied them?
Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader?
Sudheesh: Leaders can have many defining qualities and one leader may differ somewhat from the next. However, in my experience, most great leaders I’ve come in contact with embody some, if not all, of these qualities:
Adam: How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?
Sudheesh: Taking leadership to the next level can be achieved in many ways. One very important way is through radical transparency in decision making. Leaders often have to make hard and unpopular decisions, and many assume that being disliked for that decision “comes with the territory”. However, radical transparency gives leaders the tools to not only make the difficult decision, but also do so in a way that produces an outcome where her team both respect and like her. To do so, leaders must make the decision they deem appropriate, but also consider their responsibility to explain the entire context, constraints, and decisions-points in all its gory details to everyone who wants to hear it. They should do it in exec meetings, then in an all-hands meeting, and then pull aside non-believers in 1-1s and do it all over again.
Leaders who take the harder path of carefully explaining and justifying their decisions know that being liked is the not the reward they seek. Rather, in the more difficult path of radical information transparency, being liked becomes just an after-effect, which is not bad because every human being wants to be liked by others; sometimes leaders more than others.
Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?
Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?
Sudheesh: I honestly can’t remember any single piece of advice that I’d consider the best I’d ever received. That’s because you don’t learn something truly transformational from one single conversation, but instead through examples that repeat themselves. I don’t usually learn much from a single piece of advice. I am slow that way…
Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?
Sudheesh: Every person in every walk of life has an opportunity to have a positive impact on another individual’s life. One great way that executives and other leaders can have that impact is by mentoring someone.
Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?
Sudheesh: One of my favorite hobbies is hiking. I love the physicality of it and the fact that it can force one to disconnect from technology, and more importantly, the outside world in general. Hiking and being among nature always has a way of putting everything in perspective for me.