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Life's Lessons for the Leaders of Tomorrow

Life's Lessons for the Leaders of Tomorrow

I feel this is an incredible time to be a career woman. India is one of the youngest countries in the world demographically, and offers tremendous opportunities to the growing workforce.

Photo: Vivan Mehra Photo: Vivan Mehra

I feel this is an incredible time to be a career woman. India is one of the youngest countries in the world demographically, and offers tremendous opportunities to the growing workforce. I have nothing but increased enthusiasm, optimism and confidence for women who are looking to mould and develop themselves as future leaders. In my career of more than three decades, the following life lessons have been my driving force, and have brought me to where I am in life today. I hope these lessons will encourage and motivate more women business leaders to achieve success in their professional lives.

Survival of the Fittest

This has been my guiding principle and is applicable to internal and external environments. In today's dynamic business landscape, it is imperative to think out of the box and stay relevant to all - customers, employees and partners. As a leader you need to be aware of the changes that are taking place around the world and adjust your business strategies accordingly. It is equally important for you to have the right leadership team - to work and collaborate together, and move the business forward.

The emphasis has also been on innovative business models and new technologies that are disrupting the way business is done. Keeping your business model flexible to change can help you stay competitive today. From Netflix, Uber and Ola, to WhatsApp, digital disruptors are everywhere. We have already seen how Ola and Uber have brought about a positive change in the public transportation model in India, by putting the customer at the centre of all actions.

The big lesson to learn is to embrace change, as it will not be the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive, but the fittest who will, by being able to manoeuvre their way through disruption.

You are as Good as Your Last Job

I firmly believe that to succeed in today's highly competitive market, one needs to not only do their jobs with utmost sincerity and passion, but also continuously keep learning and growing. As executive coach, Marshall Goldsmith says in his bestseller, What Got You Here Won't Get You There, success depends on our ability to tackle the now, not on our past achievements. So, just because you were the best salesperson does not guarantee that you would be a very successful marketing head, unless you learn everything about your new position and train yourself to excel at the new job.

Leaders stay ahead of the curve by keeping their performance levels consistent quarter-on-quarter. They do it by unlearning some traits that helped them achieve success in the beginning, learning some new traits and constantly reinventing themselves to stay in the game. We have witnessed some great examples in the field of sports - we have seen many great sports personalities, but very few have achieved the stature of a Sachin Tendulkar, Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt. The one common factor is that all of them have performed time and again, consistently, and against all odds, to become legends.

Be Paranoid to Survive

Paranoia is great for success. As Jim Collins writes in Great by Choice, the most successful business leaders have a trait called 'productive paranoia'. I always tell my team that as leaders, you need to be paranoid to survive, else competition will win. You need to know your competitors as well as they know themselves, and be paranoid that they will outdo you in the marketplace. One must realise that change is inevitable. You need to feel anxious and need to want to know more about how changing business trends, technology and customer perceptions will affect your business. Hence, one cannot stay in one's comfort zone for too long as only the paranoid survive.

Have Good Mentors and Coaches

In your professional journey, you will often meet individuals who inspire and motivate you in more ways than one. Different people impact your career during various phases of your work life. Further, it also depends on what you learn from your mentor and how it is applied to be successful at work. As a CEO or an entrepreneur, it is great to have a mentor to discuss various ideas and thoughts. Mentors also help you understand how to tackle challenges and help you arrive at innovative solutions. Having an informal coach or mentor to track and guide your career progression will help you give better inputs to your ecosystem of partners, customers and employees who, in turn, will appreciate your inputs that are relevant to them. A strong network is equally important and joining various networking groups can help.

Build a Strong Team

Investments in building a strong leadership team make all the difference to an individual and an organisation's long-term success, because you are as good as your team. I have been fortunate to work with some of the most talented and committed individuals in my career and they have played an important role in my success. I feel it is extremely important for a leader to not only identify and nurture high-potential employees, but also provide on-the-job and formal leadership training to develop their leadership capacity to build a talent pool within the organisation.

Spell Out What Success Means to You

To me success has never been a position; it has always been about doing any job well. As goes the saying by Sir Winston Churchill: "However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results." Success is all about great execution, and not only strategy.

I encourage all the future women leaders to spell out what success means to them and pursue it with passion and fervour. That will lead them to be successful in today's corporate world.

The writer is Managing Director India, Hewlett Packard Enterprise