It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
If I ask you to close your eyes and envision a “Leader”, who do you think of? Narendra Modi, Gandhi, Nehru or even Subhash Chandra Bose? I cannot read your minds but even if one of you said Rani Lakshmi Bai, I would be the happiest person right now.
Since I was introduced to her, Rani Lakshmi Bai has been the single most powerful woman who I think of, when I speak of women leaders. The famous picture of her fighting in a Sowar’s uniform with her son tied to her back, till today gives me goose bumps. What was it about Rani Laksmi Bai that made her fight with all her might? What was the madness, the crazy spirit that made even the British officers bow down to her in respect? Times have changed but the underlying truth remains the same. It is still that streak of passion, hard work, compassion and assertiveness that make women leaders stand out from their male counter parts. When US Senator Barabara Boxer was a part of a study of women leadership by Caliper, a management consulting firm, this is what she had to say: “Women do have a more inclusive way of leading. We try to bring more people along with us.” Source : Caliper
Unfortunately, leadership is traditionally considered a field of male dominance. In today’s times, we find a large number of women employees in the lower levels. But as one climbs up the career ladder, one hardly meets a lot of women who sit in the position of a leader. So what happens on the journey upward? Sheryl Sandberg provides perspective. In her book, Lean in, she says, “We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self confidence, by not raising our hand, by pulling back when we should be leaning in”. Women get in their own way of revealing how competent leaders they can be. They lead their families; they fix a budget and more than manage in it. They multi-task already! Competency has never been a question here. All women need to do is to come out and make their presence felt.
Indira Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo talks about the conflict a woman faces ,“Just as you’re rising to middle management your kids need you because they’re teenagers, they need you for the teenage years. And that’s the time your husband becomes a teenager too, so he needs you. What do you do? And as you grow even more, your parents need you because they’re aging”. Source: Forbes
She cannot be more right. The vicious circle goes on. However, this did not stop Nooyi from being the leader of a major corporate company. Nooyi, also talks about the 5 C’s of leadership — Competence, Courage, Confidence, a strong moral Compass and strong Communication skills.
Naina Lal Kidwai, the group general manager and country head of HSBC bank talks about how her passion has been her only driving force to success. “We need to be passionate and driven to achieve any goal we choose,”She said. Sometimes, we need to be our own driving force to achieve what we need!
As you can see, all these women leaders talk about qualities that are gender neutral. Leadership should be from the mind and not from muscle. I have also had women leaders in my career. More often than not, all these women have come across as great listeners, wonderful decision makers and yet, surprisingly hard task masters.
Five years down the line, I see myself up there too. Because I believe in my abilities. And the one person who taught me to live with such a strong conviction is my favorite leader in the whole wide world — My Mother. She might not have been introduced to the corporate world, but she already has superior leadership skills. The most amazing thing is that she never sat me down to “teach” me lessons in life. She has always led us with her own examples — silently. I never saw her give up, sigh and sit down. She is always up and about. She is either re-arranging her already spick and span home, cooking a scrumptious meal ,visiting the local library or shopping for either her or someone else (More often than not, for me!) All she needs is 10 minutes in a day all by herself in the morning, when she calmly sips her tea from the saucer, reads her newspaper and listens to Hemant Kumar on the radio and then, she is ready to charge!
Before I leave you with a lot of food for thought, I would like to quote Sheryl Sandberg once again. “I want every little girl who’s told she is boss to be told that she has leadership skills”. I hope we can build realities out of Sandberg’s statement. I wish we can identify leaders in little girls while they start out, so that they know themselves better, so that when they set out in a journey to discover themselves, they are already armed with knowledge that they have it in them to lead, that they can change the world and that the world is ready to embrace their thoughts with open arms.
This blog post is for a blogging competition held by www.shethepeople.tv on the topic ‘#EveryWomenIsALeader‘ and the winner gets a all paid expense trip to an exciting destination. Read more about the competition here.
Do leave your comments on which women leader has inspired you and what keeps you motivated in life to be a leader! We would love to know.
Stay Active, Awake the Leader in You!