For a leader who is in the business of technology, Madhav Sheth, CEO of realme India, VP, realme and President, realme International Business Group, loves to understand ancient civilisations and societies. He believes the solution to modern day problems lies in our history. For instance, there is much to learn from how manpower was strategised and coordinated to be deployed for wars, especially given the limited scope of communication systems they had back then.
Sheth defines himself as the ‘CEO next door’, meaning a leader whose is accessible and provides comfort to his team. Sheth co-founded realme, the smartphone and electronics brand, with CEO Sky Li in 2018. He has worked with Synopsis Inc and Priority Business Group in the US, before moving to India where he’s worked with Perfect Communications and OPPO.
Gurugram-based Sheth talks about being a mindful leader, how he efficiently manages time and why he likens his team to a lotus. Edited excerpts:
Who do you consider your mentor and why?
My list of mentors includes a few college professors from Harvard Business School. Linda Hill, chair of the Leadership Initiative, who taught me the essence of becoming a good leader and how to steer through work, and Stephen Thomke for inspiring me to bring innovation and disruption with anything I do.
Another mentor who has played a crucial role in my life is Steve Jobs. I have always looked up to him, his mindset and philosophy of “think outside the box”. It inspired me to launch realme.
What does being a mentor mean to you? How do you mentor your colleagues at work?
Being a mentor is a responsibility of taking the legacy forward, and inspiring and guiding your team at every possible step. Mentors are the ones you aspire to be one day.
Over the last three years, all my efforts have been focused on cultivating an environment that enables my team to grow in their personal life, thoughts and professional life. I like to get an understanding of what works for an individual and what doesn’t, and accordingly, I guide them and help them change their perspective of looking at life. I consider a team to be like a lotus, they will protect themselves if there are threats around, but will bloom if the environment is nurturing and conducive. And I want them to bloom by being happy to learn from their mistakes.
What's your morning schedule after waking up?
I wake up by 5 am and start my day by practising some simple, deep breathing exercises. This is followed by a workout session, which includes yoga, strength and core training at the gym, and swimming. I dedicate half hour to read a book or learn something new.
I set targets for the day after completing the first part of my morning routine and write down a to-do list to keep my objectives for the day clear. I also try to spend as much time as possible with my family, either before starting my work for the day or when we sit down for meals. I also ensure that I remain offline for some time in the morning—it’s part of my digital detox regime.
I strive to create a positive atmosphere around me—at home as well as at work—because that motivates me to work on my projects with a renewed sense of intent and enthusiasm. This routine has played a major role in it.
What's the one positive work routine you have developed during the pandemic?
Over the last two years, I have gained a deeper sense of empathy and understanding of diversity from a cultural perspective. It has helped me connect better with my team, developing full-hearted, meaningful relationships with all of them.
What are some of the productivity hacks you have honed over the years?
I divide my day for different tasks. Planning, meeting and meeting key customers and stakeholders take 30% of my day each. And the remaining 10% of the time is for leisure. This discipline helps me with managing my time better.
The other thing I ensure is to have clear agenda for meetings. PowerPoint presentations are a big ‘no’ for me. I ask my team to highlight key points and actions.
Any book/podcast you would recommend about mentorship and workplace growth?
I love reading biographies and anthropology books. I would recommend everyone to read The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier. It helps an individual understand how to navigate situations and become a successful leader.
Monday Motivation is a series featuring founders, business leaders and creative individuals who tell us about the people they look up to and their work ethics