The Fearless Thinkers Podcast | Season 2, Episode 11

A leadership journey from promise to purpose

with Ravi Bhusate

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About the show

The Fearless Thinkers podcast, hosted by Rick Cheatham and Masami Cookson, personalizes BTS’s perspective on the people side of strategy.

Fearless Thinkers is produced by Gloria Breck and Aron Towner.

Special thanks to Joe Holeman, Chris Goodnow, Meghan McGrath, and Roanne Neuwirth for their invaluable help.

How do you channel your distinctive strengths, values, and life experiences in support of your organization?

“[That] my leadership purpose aligned with the organization’s purpose […] created an energy and enthusiasm within me,” says Ravi Bhusate, Partner, in this episode of Fearless Thinkers. Ravi and Rick Cheatham, CMO, explore the personal motivations that underpin exceptional leadership.

Defining purposeful leadership

Rick Cheatham: I want to know more about what you mean by purposeful leadership. But before we do that, I know that you had quite a journey in getting here in the first place, so I think it might be good for our audience to hear a little bit about your background or your story before we start getting into the meat of the conversation.

Ravi Bhusate: Let me take you back to my childhood. The first seven years of my life were wonderful, part of a warm, loving family. Shortly after my eighth birthday, my mother was taken ill to hospital and I couldn’t bear to be separated from her, so I visited her every weekend to keep her company holding her hands. I remember a few months in I visited her and she was different.

She was silent, stared at me and smiled like mothers do, and then what seemed like an eternity. She said, I want you to make me a promise when you grow up. Promise me you’ll always be like this. I was totally confused. What was she asking? So I pretended to understand. Nodded, smiled, squeezed her hand tightly.

Shortly before my next birthday, my mother passed away and it was as if a dark cloud came over me. I really struggled, especially at school. I was the child, Rick, that you’ll probably remember the loner. No friends. My teachers were really concerned about me. I wasn’t developing. So to compensate, they held me back a year thinking that would help.

Instead, it had the opposite effect. I was now in the same year as my younger sister. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed. I withdrew even further. I left school with no qualifications, no job, really low self-esteem. I think I hit rock bottom, but the one thing that kept me going. Was the promise I made to my mother. I wasn’t going to break that promise, and that promise proved to be my guiding light. It propelled me forward. I succeeded in getting a PhD in chemistry from Imperial College. I pursued a career in consulting to make a big impact in this world.

However, I struggled to find a genuine consulting firm. I navigated 17 years in the wilderness. Transitioning through nine consulting firms, changing jobs frequently just to survive. I took a significant step towards fulfilling my promise when I joined BTS on Monday, 11th January, 2010. It’s etched in my mind. In BTS, I found a sense of belonging, acceptance, and appreciation. For my authentic self, and that’s how I ended up here.

Rick Cheatham: If you wouldn’t mind going a little bit deeper into what is purposeful leadership even mean to you?

Ravi Bhusate: In joining BTS, I recognized I had a really strong connection between BTS’s purpose and my own, which is around empowering others on their path to leadership. As my leadership purpose aligned with the organization’s purpose, this created an energy and enthusiasm within me.

It was like a surge [of] fueling, a desire to produce something significant. The outcome was to create a multimillion dollar global leadership practice. My passion for purposeful leadership fueled me even further to create something meaningful. And that’s where I created Leadership Signature, a powerful approach to uncover and align individual’s purpose with the organization’s purpose.

Aligning organizational and individual purpose

Rick Cheatham: If I’m understanding you correctly, it really comes down to how do my values and my purpose even align with the organization’s purpose and. How when those things are aligned, I could do exponentially more correct spot on the quest to engage and align employees with the overarching purpose.

Ravi Bhusate: Many organizations often turn to conventional approaches. However, purposeful leadership happens through self-discovery, not through teaching models or lectures. What sets leadership signature apart is its simplicity. It’s rooted in the principles of discovery based learning. This methodology revolves around three interconnected building blocks: your own personal strengths, your own personal values, and your the life experiences that you’ve had anchored by the business purpose and strategy.

Your unique signature

Rick Cheatham: Could you maybe give us an example of what that looks like in action?

Ravi Bhusate: My leadership signature is “True friend, catalyst, for polishing pearls to shine.” When I recognized that this was my leadership signature, one of the first things I started to do was, how can I aim this within the organization? And that’s often what leaders do in discovering their true purpose for leadership, and it’s around where do they want to aim that gift to create the biggest impact.

Rick Cheatham: It sounds to me, obviously a uniquely personal experience, but we all know that organizations are systems of individuals. I understand what my unique leadership signature is, how does that play with other leaders and potentially in the way that I interact with my team… Once you’ve discovered your leadership purpose, you also discover your peer’s leadership signature.

Ravi Bhusate: It’s often done with a small, close-knit team that help you really hone in and sharpen what is your leadership signature. It is so unique to you. It has to be built from your strengths, your values, your life, and as they hear stories. About your personal strengths, your values, where they align, where they don’t align with the organization, the life experiences that you share, they’re able to pinpoint.

Exactly which strengths and which values were present during those pivotal moments that shaped you as a leader. Often you find a bridge from where you are as a leader to connect to parts of the organizational strategy, vision, and purpose that you feel that you can accelerate.

Driving dynamic leadership

Rick Cheatham: We saw organizations through the pandemic really begin to focus on the wellbeing of their people. Probably more than we ever have before, given the macroeconomic conditions. A lot of organizations are bouncing back in the other direction. When I think about leadership signature and how organizations are constantly evolving — how does that play out potentially as the organization’s culture or priorities shift with the current environment?

Ravi Bhusate: If you think about effective leadership, it, it extends beyond just financial success or just doing a job for, or the monthly paycheck. And that’s the realization that most leaders don’t have, is that they actually have the resources within them. To shape their future. Often leaders get stuck in a vacuum and they see all the changes that are happening around them, and they feel isolated around doing anything about it.

I would say to those leaders who are stuck in that position: take that first step in uncovering your leadership purpose. We never ask any leader first, we just give them that role; but these are fundamental in helping each leader understanding the footprint that they can create within this world.

Rick Cheatham: Gosh, Ravi, that feels like such a tremendous gift to give to someone early in their career, because I know so many leaders that get closer to the stage of life that we’re in, frankly, and they look around and say, “What am I leaving behind? What is my legacy?” That’s where the demand is coming from. From the next generation of leaders, they have a cause. However, the majority unfortunately have been led or are being led by old-fashioned leaders who are stuck in their way and determined to deliver just financial outcomes.

Both of us being part of a consulting firm, we tend to have many new junior consultants coming through, and we see so many people minimizing those values in those younger and career folks and not realizing that it is not only a missed opportunity and maintaining talent, but also in building a sustainably growing business.

Ravi Bhusate: In response to that, Rick, purposeful leadership isn’t something nice to have. It should be part of how a business runs itself. If you think about the next generation, they’re not gonna stick around for too long if they start to see that decisions are being made that are purely financially driven. And it’s not having a positive impact on society and the world at large.

Think about, “What is my purpose as a leader, and the difference that I want to make within this business, but also outside of this business?” The power of going through this process… It’s not just something that I do with clients, it’s something I’ve done within BTS. And there’re many colleagues in BTSs who have been through this process, and many of them are from our Strategic Alignment/Business Acumen part of the business. Having gone through this process [helps] them to understand their leadership footprint and the difference that they want to make in this world.

Rick Cheatham: I actually get the concept of the power of doing this within my organization and with the cohort. I think there’s enormous amounts of brain science out there that says people don’t necessarily shift their core beliefs unless they’re able to have conversation about it.

Three takeaways

That said, there’s probably [much] opportunity for individuals to begin this journey, potentially even on their own. What would you want to leave our listeners with? What’s the key takeaway for them today?

Ravi Bhusate: I think that they are three key takeaways. The first one I would say is: imagine a world of authentic, inspired leaders, with unwavering purpose driving business and societal outcomes. This is possible for everyone to take their leadership to a legendary height; to leave a lasting legacy. I would say embrace your leadership signature. It’s unique to you. It is your gift to the world to make a difference. Don’t wait. Start now.

Rick Cheatham: That is an awesome call to action, my friend. It is always such a pleasure getting to spend time with you, so thank you.

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