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Sahara was founded in 1978 by Subrata Roy, the son of a mill worker, in Northeast India with just 2,000 rupees (about $40). It began as a doorstep business, which offered shopkeepers, hawkers and cart pullers, savings opportunities for their spare change. It now owns satellite TV channels, an airline, a weekly newspaper, 33,000 acres of real estate and employs 700,000 people. Sahara attracts 32 million customers and Subrata Roy is a billionaire.
The modest rural savers are now funding Amby Valley, a lavish complex of swimming pools, hotels and villas; an hour from Bombay, and the Sunderbans project, a floating city near Calcutta with water sports and a Tiger conservation scheme.
The company has announced plans to expand into life assurance, and to capture the Indian expats in Europe and America, and ultimately the whole world.
Sahara means "support" and Pariwar "family" in Hindi.
"I believe I am the guardian of this family, who has the right to love and scold all members", Mr Roy told the Times of India recently. Sahara boasts that employees are not union members, and staff at Lucknow greet each other by placing their right hand across their chest saying, "Sahara pranam" - greetings Sahara.
For such a vast company there is a shortage of financial information. It is private, a family affair with "no owner", the profits re-invested or distributed to good causes. The website reports, "Our employees are not employees. They are family members. All belongs to Sahara and Sahara belongs to all".
To what extent can the leadership style used within Sahara be transferred to other types of organisation?
Factors that affect leadership styles
- The leader's personality - for many this is set and unlikely to radically alter. So, a dominant individual will tend to be more autocratic than someone who listens carefully to others. If the business wants to change direction, then it will probably have to look for a new leader.
- The leader's skills and abilities - much of what a leader can achieve will rest on their ability to illustrate sufficient skill and charisma. Respect and loyalty normally have to be earned and as we have seen in the styles of leadership section different individuals go about achieving these in different ways.
- Circumstances - some rise during a crisis, whilst others are better in less chaotic circumstances.
- Culture - the ways in which a business is run can also affect what style of leader it works best under. Some prefer a more open, consultative way of doings things, whilst other use a more autocratic way of running affairs.
- Task - the nature of the task, such a highly technical one, might also determine who leads and how.
- The workforce - if it is prone to laziness or poor standards then a more dictatorial style of leadership may be needed.
It is important to recognise that there is no appropriate style of leadership for all situations. It is common in IB examinations for candidates to state that democratic leadership is 'good' and autocratic leadership is 'bad', and, therefore, autocratic leaders should become more democratic and 'nicer'. In most circumstances individuals cannot simply change their styles (even with training), nor would their teams perceive a sudden change in style as genuine.
Other leadership styles
The IB does not require the SL student to go beyond the identified styles described so far, but you may wish to investigate the following leadership styles: