Recently, I had the opportunity to speak and interact with 2500 students of Jyoti Nivas College. For those of you who are not in or from Bangalore, this is one of the oldest women’s colleges in the city.
I was invited to be at their investiture ceremony and speak to them about leadership. I didn’t want it to be a preachy talk with giving them inputs on how to be a better leader. That usually doesn’t work and what I chose to do instead was look at my own life and use my personal experiences to tell them what had helped me on my journey to be a leader to begin with and to be a better one as I grew in my career.
I had to first manage a team of two in 2008, I had just started my career, two years into it in fact, it was in my first full-time job and four months in the role and I ended up managing the function by the end of that. So, I had to learn early on what it meant to manage people and ensure that you played a role larger than that of a boss and contribute to their careers long term.
As part of my address, I decided to jot down some words that I would use to tell them my story and how they could use these words to propel them in the right direction on their personal journeys.
I thought I should pen them down and share them here and here’s the first part of the series:
Courage and confidence
When you are a leader, you can’t let fear hold you back. If I had at any point thought that I am too young and thought about hierarchy and not stood up and had stayed in the by-lanes, I would never have been heard. I was also straightforward and didn’t know filters, so I spoke my mind then and I speak it now. I do this knowing fully well that I could be wrong or that there could be as powerful opinions as mine on the exact opposite side of the spectrum and that I am always learning.
You need both courage and confidence to do the right thing and speak your mind and stand up and say it! This has truly helped me every step of the way. Having the confidence to approach anyone, to speak the truth, to take conflicts to the source and the courage to live by example and stand up not just for yourself but for people around you.
Exposure, experience and teamwork
Often, people tend to confuse the number of years a person has spent doing something with the true experience the person has. I have had a lot of situations in my life, when people judge me basis my years of experience and don’t look at the actual body of work I have managed to do. I have also been told on two instances, of two job interviews at the closure stages that I was not picked because I was too young, and the existing team had people with more years of experience than I did, who would have to report to me.
So, know that exposure and experience are paramount and every opportunity that comes your way is a way to learn something new and challenge the status quo and use it to glean all that you can.
Teamwork is a great teacher; it gives you so much insight into people and the way they work and you cannot work alone even as an entrepreneur, so its always good to learn how to manage and work with teams, alongside them, leading from the front or leading from the back… I have worked with the best of teams across my career and I have had teams who have been supportive, encouraging and enthusiastic with all my madness and ideas and I am sure I have learnt a lot more from them than they probably have from me.
In my next, I talk about sensitivity and compassion, failure and resilience and some more stories…