DBS Bank's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Piyush Gupta expounded on his work philosophy and the importance of taking accountability as a leader in an episode of CNA's podcast series "The Leader's Chair".
"The buck stops here"
When asked on the challenges of being a CEO, especially in light of the recent DBS app disruptions, Gupta highlighted the importance of a leader stepping up to take responsibility.
He shared that he is a big believer in the phrase popularised by former U.S. president Harry Truman: "The buck stops here".
Truman kept a sign with the phrase on his desk as well.
"... At the end of the day, the buck stops with you," Gupta said.
Gupta explained that whether the problem lies with a third party or an errant employee — the islandwide disruption in May was due to "human error in coding the programme" — as far the customer is concerned, "I'm the CEO of the bank, so I've got to fix it".
"I tell young kids, when people are looking for what it takes to be a leader, I tell them individual accountability is the first thing I look for."
Providing air cover
One of the hardest challenges when it comes to leadership is maintaining the balance between making sure people take accountability, and providing "air cover" to one's team, Gupta said.
In the leadership context, providing air cover refers to defending one's teams from external pressures and potential negative consequences, while giving them the support they need to get through a tough period.
Gupta noted that many companies have a "blame culture", which could lead to negative outcomes as "it makes people fearful".
On work-life balance
CNA podcast co-host Crispina Robert followed up with a question:
"When something happens and then you get scolded for it or whatever, you get taken to task for it, and then the person says 'It's work, it's not personal'. But I always feel like it's always personal because work is such an important part of your life."
Gupta agreed, replying that with the amount of time one spends working, "your friends are there, your colleagues are there, your impact is there, your growth is there, your income is there".
"How do you divorce that from life?"
This ties in with Gupta's belief that there is no such thing as work-life balance.
He described it as "all baloney", but went on to explain that "it's not because [he] want[s] people to work all the time".
"It's just that I believe that work is a part of life," he concluded.
Top photo from Piyush Gupta / LinkedIn