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What the CEO really wants from you
The 4 A’s for managerial success

Today, there are several books on leadership. But there are very few on how to be an ideal subordinate.

R Gopalakrishnan (RG)
, formerly with Unilever and now with Tata Sons, tells us what subordinates should master to succeed in the corporate world. RG says that often the subordinates expect more than what they deserve and that it is  this asymmetry that’s the cause of many job related problems.


THE 4 A’s:

Practical intelligence is crucial. This can be gradually attained by adopting the Four A’s namely: accomplishment, affability, advocacy and authenticity.
Subordinates have to evolve from being accomplishing executives to affable persons and then slowly start advocating innovative ideas and ultimately should become authentic leaders.


RG says, that “results matter.” That you must “Enjoy what you do and do what you enjoy.” And that this would automatically produce top quality results.

Subordinates must “find the way out.” They are expected to be creative and flexible. To find a solution for a problem, be subjective, without being too argumentative. The objective should be to find solutions by using innovation at an acceptable level without slowing down the entire workplace systems.

A career is always a journey of continuous learning. Along the way, there might be various problems. To carry on undaunted, “practical intelligence along with dynamism is a must.” Dynamism should not be construed to be displaying over-confidence. There is always a subtle difference between “taking charge” and “taking over.” Bosses always want subordinates to take charge and not take over. At the same time, displaying too little energy also sends the wrong signal. Dynamism as such should be in the right mix.


It is human to think of self before anything else. But, it is advisable to “balance self interests with organisational interests.” Incivility at work should be avoided and it is often the reflection of people placing self-interests above the organisational interests. 

Disagreement, per se, is not bad and there is always a way to express it politely. It is advisable to understand the stakes and react accordingly. Arguments should always be on issues and never turn personal.  “Disagree without becoming disagreeable.”

Emotion earns love and intellect earns respect. In a survey conducted, it was found that people prefer a loving and caring leader to an intelligent leader. Subordinates should ideally develop a “right mix of intellect and emotion” to be successful in the corporate ladder.


The real value addition in the corporate world happens when we succeed in communicating with people, convincing them and ultimately carrying them along. The demands of advocacy evolve into widening circles as the progression in career path happens. Effective story telling is one of the most interesting ways to advocate any new idea. The mantra is “communicate and interact.”


Any relationship to which a person bestows attention is bound to succeed. The boss-subordinate relationship is also one of nurturing and managing. To be authentic, reality should be accepted and confronted. We usually associate authenticity with sincerity, honesty and integrity. To be authentic, words and actions should always match. It’s all about doing the thing that has to be done in the way it has to be done. 

In a nutshell, every subordinate aspiring to occupy the hot seat should develop the 4 A’s gradually which will automatically propel him to the pinnacle of corporate ladder. 
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