Manager and Mentor - Sunder Aaron


As Anon puts it: 'A real leader faces the music, even when he doesn't like the tune'. Pix business head and AXN, Animax India country manager Sunder Aaron tells Nidhi Jain that in today's business scenario one has to play a dual role, that of a manager and mentor.

Lessons you learnt

First and foremost - in India it has to be kept in mind that it has a very young corporate culture, because business culture has been around for just 10-20 years. It is a very important thing to be kept in mind while managing people. The work force is predominantly very young, so lots of inexperienced, na?ve people come in. We have to give them lessons not only on business but also life. Therefore, a lot of compassion and empathy is required.

I have to be a good manger and mentor on a personal basis too. We, all of us, not only have to improve our lives, but also get better jobs. I cannot prevent anyone going to a better company for a better life. I have to groom these people so that they can go on to have better lives, not just be a better employee for me, but also to do better in whatever they do.

We also need to delegate, give others responsibility, which often doesn't happen. There's a lot of fear in organizations. It's just the nature of the business. Organizations are also political creations. As we all are humans and have egos, politics is bound to enter.

India has a history and tradition of being bureaucratic. When people are always too eager to please, fear enters people and organizations. We have to try our best to remove those obstacles.

I encourage my staff to make mistakes, make a decision, and gather all information you can. Juggling balls means you are not doing anything and that's the worst being in business. We should be fast and determined.

Method of pacifying madness

Things do get out of hand when there is so much of stress. The best way is to personally have discussions with the team, about what they are feeling and thinking. Even five minutes on that can calm everything. Retrieve time outside office too.

Max DePree - "Leadership is much more an art, a belief, a condition of the heart, than a set of things to do. The visible signs of artful leadership are expressed, ultimately, in its practice".

People that influenced

In India, (Set India CEO) Kunal Dasgupta has been a big influence. He is calm, controlled and has a great vision. (Times Now CEO) Sunil Lulla is a strong inspiration, the way he manages people, and is very successful.

We ought to maintain a balance between personal and professional life. Mumbai can be hard city. Just like New York, it's always about 'moving' very fast. We have to make real commitments also to other things like being healthy, staying active in sports, staying close to the closest friends. My friends in the US have fundamentally had a lot of influence on my life. We should not dilute our relationships because of work. There are periods when we work harder and take a lot of time, and then communication becomes important. We have to work and maintain those relationships.

Strategies at Work

Sometimes it's very frustrating, and it is visible also. One of the simple strategies is to calm down. So think and relax before saying anything or dealing with people. Being impatient is certainly not the best thing.

In the market, I am in favor of doing unique things, strategies or approaches for people in business. We have to think out of the box.

For instance, when we were launching our new movie channel Pix, it was coming into an already crowded market. Our approach was to emphasis on stories in the movies with no big stars, budgets. A famous book on screenwriting called Story was where I got the inspiration to launch a channel focusing on the fundamentals. Movies are human experiences and watching them is so human. Like parents telling us stories, caveman told stories by engraving. We strive and communicate through storytelling.

As the Pix example shows, an idea doesn't always come from conventional sources.

Changing rules of work

Rules have not been formed yet. Being motivated does not work in a company that we don't want to work with. I am in this industry because I love film and TV. I enjoy my work and am good at it also. It's important to be balanced; we shouldn't overspend life within the office because it will be no good for anybody. One needs to bring freshness to work.

Charles S. Lauer - "Leaders don't force people to follow - they invite them on a journey".

Ensuring that team delivers

Communicate what is expected of the team. Juniors have a hard time communicating to their seniors. After delegating, we need to monitor also. They should not be intimidated that you are peering over their shoulders. You should be a mentor to help them do their jobs.

Fun part of your business

Almost everything. It's very competitive working with creative, bright people instead of a bunch of dumb, boring people. TV is an enormously growing industry.

Max DePree -"The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality".

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