An Attitude To Serve Brings Confidence

Updated: Mar 20 2004, 05:30am hrs
World Economic Forum executive chairman Klaus Schwab in many ways is one of the most powerful leaders in the world today. The Forum has close working relationship with global political, social and economic leaders. In an exclusive interview with The Financial Express, Professor Schwab outlined his thoughts on leadership and global trends. Excerpts:

On key aspects needed for outstanding leadership
One, perfection. For me, the Forum has to be the best in what it is doing. That is perfectionism for me. But that also not just enough. We have to have a value which is best expressed in our mission, including the state of the world.

We have to make a positive contribution. The second trait is passion. I feel very passionate about what we are doing because I feel convinced that we are doing useful work. I also feel that in some ways, the participants share this same passion. That is what creates the spirit of Davos.

On combining humility with toughness in leadership
For me, it is not really humility. But an attitude to serve. I think it is this service attitude that brings that confidence. I have always felt more as an academic and not so much a politician.

I always could have made my living as an academic. It is not so much modesty, but an attitude that you should not over-evaluate yourself. There are so many people who are doing great work. There are many other people who are doing snmall things which is certainly as important.

On India and China
You cannot compare both of them totally. India started opening up only ten years ago. And I would say that ten years from now, India would get same amount of investment that China would be getting. On the negative side, India still lags behind in terms of the social indicators like life expectancy and literacy. So India will have to invest lots more into the human infrastructure.

Having made this remark, in the long run, India has an advantage over China because it has a more dynamic and democratic population which will work more in its favour. As reports have already predicted, in about twenty years, India will possibly grow faster than China.

On World Economic Forums transition into the big league
I think the world of today is one of decreasing power as nations loose power. We needed an organisation to get the people together. After World War II, we had the Permanent Security Council. Today it is a much more complex situtaion, but it is much more difficult to really exercise power today. In such a situation, international cooperation was needed. This is the genesis of the growing importance of the World Economic Forum.

On the major milestones in this evolution
I would say that the first one was before the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Till that time it was a bipolar world. The second one was in the year 2000. This was the time that the stock exchanges collapsed. After that 9/11 also happened. Then everybody realised the need for peace. This created an in some ways an awareness about the need for appropriate structures. The World Economic Forum wasd considered the only platform. We could never be bought by a country or a specific group. That is the legitimacy of the forum. The legitamacy of the Forum is because of the trust of everybody. Governments trust us. Business trusts us. And NGOs all across the world trusts us.

On the future world view
I feel that WEF will be even more needed. I think in the Forum we should stick to economic agenda but these are inter-related to social and political issues. President Cinton said at the Firum meeting this year that strong convicton is that the world has global challenges which needs to have solutions through interdependence. You cannot see it a s a Ugandan or Indian or a South African problem. AIDS is a global problem. SARS is a global issue. Our role in this is not as a decision-making body but as an organisation which intellectually and in a proactive way looks at the problems and possible solutions. One example is child immunisation. It is a major initiative. We are creating a public-private partnership. We have done some research and found that there are about 200 global challenges or problems. Our criteria is economic issues and will keep away from political issues like fighting of terrorism in its narrow sense or fighting of crime. If it is money laundering, it will be different.

On whether he expected the Forum to be where it is now
No. But I think Forum was very good in anticipating what may come. You cannot say I want to be such and such an organisation in ten years. You can only say: the world is changing in such ways; how can I make sure that we lead that change.

On the chequered relationship between India and the Forum over the years
The notion of entrepreneurship is now well entrenched in India. Also, I think slowly that there is a feeling that development and entrepreneusrhip is not anti-poverty. It needs an enabling environment.

Also with respect to the bureaurcay there is a mindset change needed which is passing happeneing. Many people ask me what are the biggest assets of India. From our reaseach, I have found that the entrepneurial spirit of India is the biggest asset. It has to be aided, developed and nurtured. That needs ong term policies in terms of creating a stable environment and governance. A lot of these things, the liberalisation policies in India have brought forward.

On the Forum and its relationship with CII
It was always a partnership like what it should be. We share all the problems and also the joys ofcourse. We have always worked in an experience of cooperation. It is two organisations, but one team. For me the biggest test of our partnership was the strong loyalty and support we had at a short time when we shifted the Forum venue to New York. We were fully supported by CII. That was not evident because at that moment people were afraid and politically, not eeryone was in agreement that it was the right move. But for me, that was the best test of our solidarity.