My Evolution As a Leader
July 19, 2022
I woke up a few days ago to a Google notification – “check out this memory from 5 years ago.” I clicked on it and watched the video that popped up. It was a video I had submitted to Roshan and Ilaina, co-founders of Amani Institute, as part of the recruitment process for the Country Director role in India. The video left me with a barrage of emotions and a beautifully pensive mood, culminating with this letter.
A little over 5 years ago, I took a chance, followed my heart, and applied to this wonderful organization called Amani Institute. And after the most enriching recruitment process I have experienced to date, Roshan and Ilaina took a chance on me and offered me a role to lead the organization in India. Even having spent ten years in the private sector as a trainer on leadership skills, little did I know about the depth of the leadership journey I was about to embark on. And what a journey it has been! To honor the path that I have walked over the past five years, I’ve decided to pen down my top 5 learnings in my evolution as a leader:
- Being a leader requires one to manage polarities everyday – this has been a game-changer for my personal leadership journey. Requiring ‘both/and’ thinking, I’ve gained multiple insights on what it takes to manage the polarities of structure and flexibility, mission and profit, continuity and change, implementation and planning, challenge and support, and many others. Accepting that there is no ‘perfect balance’ and that we’re always managing two dynamic poles that are often shifting and both relevant and important has been of tremendous help.
- There is no substitute for authentic leadership – A journey of self-reflection, of leading from my strengths and growing to be comfortable in my own skin are gifts that I received with this organization. It’s a blessing to be able to bring your most authentic self to work everyday and discard the masks that are thought to be necessary for growing as a leader. In living my most authentic self in my role, I have been able to design a work life that is fully aligned with my values, with the values of the organization and with the impact that I seek to create in the world.
- People make the organization – A few months into my career at Amani Institute, I joked with Roshan and Ilaina that I think I may retire out of there. Five years into my career at Amani, as I now transition into a global role in the organization, I still have conviction in that joke. I owe a large part of this feeling to the people I work with or have worked with in my journey here. It’s important to spend time building the team of your dreams; it takes time and a lot of effort and in the end, reaps multiple rewards.
- It’s lonely at the top, but it doesn’t have to be – Possibly one of the toughest parts of a leadership journey is how lonely it can be. Add to this the global pandemic and the increasingly virtual nature of our work, and it’s a recipe for feeling more disconnected and alone. Asking for help is something I haven’t been very good at, but I’ve improved thanks to the army of people I’ve had by my side. Be it colleagues, coaches, advisors, friends, or clients who became friends – I’ve become very intentional with how I build and nurture relationships, and there’s not a single day that passes by where I’m not grateful for this.
- Living a life of meaning and purpose isn’t only restricted to our dreams – It simply requires taking a chance and a leap of faith, just like I did, and Amani did for me. I’ve met so many people in the past few years who’ve expressed feelings of admiration and/or envy regarding the type of career I’ve built and the alignment I feel with my work life and personal goals. Having supported 100s of people to design such careers for themselves, I know with full confidence that this isn’t restricted to our dreams or to retirement plans. Everyone has the opportunity to wake up every morning and say ‘I love my job’, and really mean it, just like I do.
Five years in, I’m ready for my new challenge as Chief Operating Officer for our global organization. I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved so far, and I can’t wait to contribute further towards increasing our impact in service of our vision – a world where making an impact is why people go to work. I’m also very excited to be handing over my responsibilities as Country Director for India to Varun Mukerji, who is poised to grow the India organization to newer heights.
Last, a massive thank you to everyone who has been a part of the Amani Institute India story and to my personal journey – you’ve contributed in one or more ways to each of the points I’ve mentioned above, and I’m taking your best wishes and support along with me as I now prepare for my new role in the organization.
With all my gratitude,