A very nice article about Dhirubhai Ambani on rediff.com. Reproduced verbatim below.
Original Link: Dhirubhai gave management a whole new 'ism'
Dhirubhai gave management a whole new 'ism'
A G Krishnamurthy in New Delhi |
February 03, 2006 06:06 IST
Dhirubhai Ambani was no ordinary leader. He was a man who gave management a whole new "ism".
is a new "ism" that I've been meaning to add to the vast world of words
for quite a while now. Because, without exaggeration, it's a word for
which no synonym can do full justice: "Dhirubhaism".
the truly phenomenal Dhirubhai H Ambani, it denotes a characteristic,
tendency or syndrome as demonstrated by its inspirer. Dhirubhai, on his
part, had he been around, would have laughed heartily and declared,
"Small men like me don't inspire big words!"
There you have
it - now that is a classic Dhirubhaism, the tendency to disregard one's
own invaluable contribution to society as significant.
sure everyone who knew Dhirubhai well will have his or her own little
anecdote that illustrates his unique personality. He was a person whose
heart and head both worked at peak efficiency levels, all the time. And
that resulted in a truly unique and remarkable work philosophy, which
is what I would like to define as Dhirubhaism.
Let me explain this new "ism" with a few examples from my own experiences of working with him.
Dhirubhaism No 1:
Roll up your sleeves and help. You and your team share the same DNA.
Reliance, during Vimal's heady days had organized a fashion show at the
Convention Hall, at Ashoka Hotel in New Delhi.
As usual, every
seat in the hall was taken, and there were an equal number of impatient
guests outside, waiting to be seated. I was of course completely
besieged, trying to handle the ensuing confusion, chaos and protests,
when to my amazement and relief, I saw Dhirubhai at the door trying to
pacify the guests.
Dhirubhai at that time was already a name
to reckon with and a VIP himself, but that did not stop him from
rolling up his sleeves and diving in to rescue a situation that had
gone out of control. Most bosses in his place would have driven up in
their swank cars at the last moment and given the manager a piece of
their minds. Not Dhirubhai.
When things went wrong, he was the
first person to sense that the circumstances would have been beyond his
team's control, rather than it being a slip on their part, as he
trusted their capabilities implicitly. His first instinct was always to
join his men in putting out the fire and not crucifying them for it.
Sounds too good a boss to be true, doesn't he? But then, that was
Dhirubhaism No 2: Be a safety net
for your team. There used to be a time when our agency Mudra was the
target of some extremely vicious propaganda by our peers, when on an
almost daily basis my business ethics were put on trial. I, on my part,
putting on a brave front, never raised this subject during any of my
meetings with Dhirubhai.
But one day, during a particularly
nasty spell, he gently asked me if I needed any help in combating it.
That did it. That was all the help that I needed. Overwhelmed by his
concern and compassion, I told him I could cope, but the knowledge that
he knew and cared for what I was going through, and that he was there
for me if I ever needed him, worked wonders for my confidence.
went back a much taller man fully armed to face whatever came my way.
By letting us know that he was always aware of the trials we underwent
and that he was by our side through it all, he gave us the courage we
never knew we had.
Dhirubhaism No 3: The silent
benefactor. This was another of his remarkable traits. When he helped
someone, he never ever breathed a word about it to anyone else. There
have been none among us who haven't known his kindness, yet he never
went around broadcasting it.
He never used charity as a
platform to gain publicity. Sometimes, he would even go to the extent
of not letting the recipient know who the donor was. Such was the
extent of his generosity. "Expect the unexpected" just might have been
coined for him.
Dhirubhaism No 4: Dream big
but dream with your eyes open. His phenomenal achievement showed India
that limitations were only in the mind. And that nothing was truly
unattainable for those who dreamed big.
Whenever I tried to
point out to him that a task seemed too big to be accomplished, he
would reply: " No is no answer!" Not only did he dream big, he taught
all of us to do so too. His one-line brief to me when we began Mudra
was: "Make Vimal's advertising the benchmark for fashion advertising in
At that time, we were just a tiny, fledgling
agency, tucked away in Ahmedabad, struggling to put a team in place.
When we presented the seemingly insurmountable to him, his favourite
response was always: "It's difficult but not impossible!" And he was
right. We did go on to achieve the impossible.
Both in its
size and scope Vimal's fashion shows were unprecedented in the country.
Grand showroom openings, stunning experiments in print and poster work
all combined to give the brand a truly benchmark image. But way back in
1980, no one would have believed it could have ever been possible.
But though he dreamed big, he was able to
clearly distinguish between perception and reality and his favourite
phrase "dream with your eyes open" underlined this.
let preset norms govern his vision, yet he worked night and day
familiarizing himself with every little nitty-gritty that constituted
his dreams constantly sifting the wheat from the chaff. This is how, as
he put it, even though he dreamed, none of his dreams turned into
nightmares. And this is what gave him the courage to move from one
orbit to the next despite tremendous odds.
Dhirubhai was indeed
a man of many parts, as is evident. I am sure there are many people who
display some of the traits mentioned above, in their working styles as
well, but Dhirubhai was one of those rare people who demonstrated all
of them, all the time.
And that's what made him such a
phenomenal team builder and achiever. Yes, we all need "Dhirubhaisms"
in our lives to remind us that if it was possible for one person to be
all this and more, we too can. And like him, go on to achieve the