• Subscribe to Meet The Leader on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
  • Meet The Leader is a fortnightly podcast from the World Economic Forum that features the world’s top changemakers, showcasing the habits and traits effective leaders can’t work without.
  • Wipro CEO Thierry Delaporte shares what it was like to start as a remote CEO during the pandemic, not being able to meet most of his teams in person for a more than a year, and the communication strategies he leveraged to make change happen and build trust.

Millions started new jobs during the pandemic, but most didn’t start in as CEO. In July 2020, Thierry Delaporte took on the top job at the information technology firm Wipro. Due to travel restrictions, he wasn't able to meet with most of his teams in person for more than a year. (In fact, he was only able to met his entire leadership team in person just this month).

As remote CEO, he needed to reshape and lead the organization. He also needed to build trust with more than 200,000 people in 66 countries -- all from a computer screen.

"The pandemic reframed everything," said Delaporte.

To make this work, Delaporte made the most of the time he no longer lost to travelling. Instead, he invested it into meeting more people remotely, in more areas of the world than might have been possible before COVID-19. In those engagements, he focused on connecting, listening and on the goals he wanted each conversation to achieve.

"What drives me in each of these interactions, is really trying to identify what the right next decision is to take, the right next course of action," said Delaporte.

That focus, he said, paired with the right balance of listening and getting a message across, can help remove a bottleneck, unleash a potential, or be the key source of comfort or confidence a colleague might need to go faster and further.

2020 kicked off COVID-19's cycle of tragedy and uncertainty. To navigate the unpredictability, Delaporte leveraged skills from a favourite pastime: sailing. Delaporte is an avid sailor and had planned to sail across the Atlantic ocean in 2020 before the pandemic and the Wipro opportunity emerged. He explained to Meet the Leader how sailing forces a person to steer through storms and persevere, and how its lessons could strengthen the mettle of any leader.

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