Q&A: Prakash Menon: “The more failures you have, the more successful you become”

Author: Kirsty Tuxford | Date: 13 Apr 2016

Aspiring leaders should learn from their mistakes and stop expecting instant results, says the author of Fail Smart

PK MenonWill a culture of mentoring take off among Gulf businesses? People Management spoke to Prakash ‘PK’ Menon, a Dubai-based speaker, author and mentor who specialises in personal brand building, leadership transitions and career acceleration.

How well understood is the concept of mentoring?
The mentoring concept is relatively new in this part of the world. However, I was asked recently by one large retail organisation to mentor one of its senior leaders, which is great – it shows mentoring is slowly catching on here. Until recently, there has been a mentality of 'instant coffee syndrome', where people think they can be successful overnight.
 
Does mentoring work for everyone?
A mentoring culture has to come from the top: if you have support from senior leaders, the culture is embedded in the organisation. The environment has to be conducive. Some organisations don't see that because some people are romanticising the way they achieved things 25 years ago, and still thinking that’s the way to do it. That's OK, but we live in the 21st century now, and back in the late eighties the roles of manager and leader started to become one.
 
In most of the corporate structures you'll find CEOs, supply chain directors and marketing directors. They are like samurai warriors in that they are restricted by their boundaries. Samurai warriors came from the elite class and they would employ ninjas from the lower classes to do their work for them, but the ninjas were better than the warriors. Ninjas didn't worry about the director of finance or of the supply chain – all they were interested in was to go and get their work done. In the 21st century, if you want to be a game changer, it's not about samurais any more; it's about creating ninjas, people who go beyond their functional expertise and beyond the boundaries. They are inspirational and tech savvy, and they have strong business acumen – the essential traits of a 21st-century leader.
 
You have developed a programme to help people transform failure into triumph. How does it work?
The harsh reality is that the more failures you have, the more successful you become – I'm glad I had so many failures because I learned from them.
 
First, it's about self-leadership – your self-belief and internal system. Almost everything we do is because of self-image – if, deep down, your self-image is not right, then there's no way you can go on to become a good leader. You also need to build the confidence to lead others. The final step is to transform and leave a legacy.