Recently, I spent an evening with the high performers, titled Pillars, in Mindtree. Pillars are the top 1% of Mindtree. Interestingly, 12% of my team in Australia are pillars. There were several other interesting insights that stared at me. 70% of the pillars in Australia joined us from an undergraduate engineering campus, and Mindtree was their first employer. Their relationship with Mindtree can be seen and felt, my customers would hire them in a heartbeat, they are the first folks I’d call if I needed to solve a problem or deal with a challenge, they did plan to be a Pillar, they continuously ask questions, and excuses, to them, are not a solution. It is passion and the impact of work that drives them.

That brought me to the million dollar question. What do you tell high performers? From experience, I know the best way to groom and grow high performers is to set an overall goal, and then get out of the way. They will figure out the “what to do” and “how to do it” pretty quickly.

The business world has become incredibly complex with platforms replacing bespoke solutions, collaboration replacing competition, big picture replacing silos, options replacing monopolies, results replacing effort, expertise replacing experience, power of one trumping segments. The ‘what to do’ and ‘how to do it’ is not enough to compete and grow. This environment has created a new set of challenges for companies. The leaders who will navigate companies through this era are the ones who ask and find answer to the ‘why should we do it’ question.

High performers to a large extent have become adept at the how and what. How do we write secure code, how do we ensure releases to production have no defects, how can we penetrate a must win account, what must we do to grow our partner business, what is the trade-off between two design choices, so on and so forth.

We are in an interconnected, collaborative, time poor, social feedback looped, and option filled world. We are increasingly moving to a winner (or the top two winners) takes all market, think Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, Alibaba, Didi Chuxing, AWS & Azure. Imitation is no longer the best form of flattery, and frankly there isn’t enough time to imitate. It is really authenticity (why) and execution (what and how) of an idea that sets you apart and quickly garner market share and goodwill. High performers who can answer the ‘why’ will become leaders of this era by a long shot.

Why gives purpose and meaning to our work. The what and how gives us confidence that we will succeed.

Controversial position: Those who haven’t mastered the art of how and what, can never ask and answer the why. That is why true leaders are such a rare breed.

I would love to hear your views.