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40 years of leading by learning


“To me learning and leadership go hand in hand. It’s important to keep learning so that you can continue to grow, understand yourself as a leader and the brand you want to build for yourself.” Vishnu Shahaney.


Vishnu Shahaney.

On 1 August 1980 in India, Vishnu Shahaney stepped through a stern wooden door, beneath a rampant green elephant, into Grindlays Bank to begin his very first job out of university as a Management Trainee.


Never did the fresh graduate imagine that 40 years later he would be celebrating his 40th year anniversary with ANZ, as Head of Southeast Asia, India and Middle East, and Country Head of Singapore.


After his years of experience in banking it’s easy to assume Vishnu has ‘seen it all’, having navigated major crises like the Asian Financial Crisis and the Global Financial Crisis and the SARS outbreak.


But despite these world-changing events, Vishnu says he is still learning every day, particularly now as the banking industry - along with the rest of the world - deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.


Over time, Vishnu says he has come to realise the importance of embracing change and challenges, and how learning and leadership go hand in hand.


Reflecting on his milestone with ANZ, Vishnu Shahaney  tells us only one thing is for sure: change – and not just in banking.


Position yourself for opportunity


It often seems easier to stay within our comfort zones and keep doing what we’re good at – but not according to Vishnu. He believes it’s critical to keep looking ahead and positioning yourself for new opportunities that will help to further shape your experiences and broaden your skillset.


Throughout his time with ANZ, Vishnu has taken on many different senior management positions spanning diverse areas of the business including corporate, private and institutional banking. He has experienced working in various geographies in ANZ’s international network including Australia, India, Indonesia and, currently, Singapore.


“I have been fortunate in being able to take on new roles and in doing so, take on different challenges and work in different markets in Australia and Asia” Vishnu says. “The leadership of the organisation has also backed and trusted me by giving me more responsibilities over the years.”


Vishnu adds having such colourful and diverse experiences has continued to provide him with job satisfaction and fulfilment, key factors in his motivation for staying with ANZ.


Vishnu’s top 5 leadership lessons learnt


Vishnu thinks of leadership as being about mindset and behaviours, not simply about playing a role. He shares his top five leadership insights:


1.   Bring your whole self to work and be comfortable and self-aware with who you are as a person and a leader.

2.   Invest in yourself and be prepared to take risks both for yourself and your people.

3.   Never compromise on your personal values and be clear on your personal brand. Be authentic.

4.   Be as comfortable with the ‘on the ‘balcony’ strategy as well as the ‘on the dance floor’ approach while communicating and executing the strategy.


5.   Banking and leadership is about people. Building teams and relationships with people matters.



Mutual understanding and respect


As a leader of culturally diverse teams with wide-ranging backgrounds and experiences, Vishnu is known to be fiercely passionate about building a valued-based culture where people are highly engaged. He highly values team spirit. Vishnu has always referred to banking as a “people’s business” and his philosophy is simple: treat people the way you expect to be treated and always encourage open communication.


“Ensure you continue to understand what people really want, communicate extensively, listen effectively, coach and mentor talent, influence organisational change in frameworks where appropriate and importantly, push the teams to deliver their potential.” he says.


“I feel very blessed to have worked with some really fantastic leaders and extremely talented and passionate people through the years. I’m most energised when engaging with people and seeing teams collaborate closely. Whether we’re delivering for our customers around the region or solving issues, the way our people support each other really helps make ANZ a great place to work.”


Embrace change – don’t wait for things to happen


Vishnu concedes the reach and scale of disruption caused by the current COVID-19 situation is unlike anything he has even seen before. But however difficult it is, he believes it is important to have the courage to face in to change and focus one’s energy on staying positive.


“We cannot avoid change, that’s a fact of life. But we can strive to respond to it as positively as we can and find ways to make the most out of the situation.” Vishnu says.


“Start by asking yourself where you want to be in all of this. I believe being adaptable and putting yourself at the forefront instead of waiting for things to happen will be key in ensuring you’ll be well positioned to thrive in the ‘new normal’.”


“To me learning and leadership go hand in hand. It’s important to keep learning so that you can continue to grow, understand yourself as a leader and the brand you want to build for yourself.”



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