If today’s fast changing business ecosystem could be likened to a vast galactic swirl, then how would a woman, whether as business leader or entrepreneur, carve her space as a luminous star?
Borrowing from the world of science and technology, where I started my life before embarking on my personal journey of strategy consulting, business leadership and intrapreneurship across diverse sectors and my alternate career as an author, I can think of a few salient lessons.
Luminosity: This intrinsic property of a star can be equated with the capabilities of a star woman. It is an oft-repeated aphorism that successful women work harder than their counterparts – male or female. This work ethic results in sharper knowledge and deeper skills, which hold women in good stead. I recall being inspired by a statement from Padmashree Warrior. She said that she always found roles and domains where she did not have established expertise. This trait allowed her to learn continuously. Today, we value learning agility and as business dynamics change fast, it is an essential skill to develop.
Brightness: The perceived brightness of a star can be likened to our ability to create and manage our impact. It encompasses our ability to speak and negotiate for ourselves. It is about discovering our voice and getting heard. We go through the educational system relying on visual memory, which helps us to synthesize written information. Women often shy back from speaking up for themselves. Lean In is certainly the modern age mantra. In many cultures including India, social mores and codes of behavior encourage obedience and blending in. But real life is like a cacophonous opera. Until we learn how to act, react and interact and be fast auditory learners, we cannot project our innate luminosity.
Stellar Temperature: Bright hot blue stars could be the emblems of managing ourselves within organisations. Leaders with better emotional quotient lead to happier workers and better productivity, suggest new business studies. Especially when leading younger and flatter teams, the way we manage our own emotions and those of others around us leads to success. Women have always been consensus builders. I have found myself being selected for certain assignments because I could channel the right degree of warmth and dispassion – enough to motivate teams and yet enough to manage tough decisions and transitions.
Energy: Reinterpreting Einstein’s famous equation, the mass occupied by a woman leader (and no, I do not mean physical weight here) in her ecosystem, depends on the energy she displays. Research conducted by Boris Groysberg, professor at Harvard Business School, suggests that women leaders exhibit
portable skills deriving from their ability to network outside their organizations. Success requires an ability to connect the dots, hold conversations, transpose ideas and build effective relationships with people across multiple domains. Much like speaking up, in traditional cultures, networking is not encouraged. For
me, business and personal domains have always intersected and business conversion often happens outside traditional work settings at social events like events or even weddings. We find many role models of success in India who leverage networks to build their business and achieve greater impact.
Collapse: This refers to the phenomenon when stellar gas clouds ‘collapse’ under their own gravity to create the core of a new star. There is a certain autologous synchronicity of behavior, which is mimicked by the ability of a leader to get teams and individuals to coalesce around her and the vision she creates. There are two key points here. Firstly, a star woman has ideas and viewpoints on how she wants to grow her business or create an impact. Secondly, she is not a shy solo performer, rather inculcates the ability to shape team behavior. Star women often embody the very brand they represent. When I had moved into heading the India business for a publishing multinational, my global HR Head gave apt advice – as important as it was to have a vision and set the strategy going forward, the power of influence – of being able to convince the entire ecosystem: global management, team, supply chain partners and influencers – to share the vision was more crucial in implementing change and achieving desired outcomes.
Hydrostatic Equilibrium: A star reaches stability when the temperature of its core reaches fusion temperature, barring which it remains a brown dwarf. This can be translated to a woman learning how to map her journey and balancing the various aspects of her life, while not losing momentum at work. Today we have role models who want to have it all and many do. This requires persistence through the tough ‘family’ years, finding a way to making that phase a comma and not a full stop. Even as children are born and grow older, parents and spouses need attention, and their personal passions ask for nurturing time, star women create dialogue and coalitions that enable them to do what they want, without giving up. I define my identity as much from my business role as being an author, but I am mindful of life beyond – I have sat at airport waiting areas, doing homework on the phone with my kids while waiting to catch a flight. I sometimes map a spider chart of my multiple roles – at certain times, some elements need greater focus. Perfect balance would imply stagnation. But over time, this evolving spider diagram ensures that through planned imbalance I achieve results while giving attention where needed.
Clusters: Gravitationally bound stars are typically born from a single burst of star formation. Likening this to organizations, through a right mix of mentoring, coaching, and environmental facilitation, many successful performers can emerge. Financial services industry in the previous decade focused on diversity
and empowerment, and today we see many star women leaders in that space. Several women entrepreneurs have found a supportive platform through Hopscotch that allows them to reach consumers, exchange ideas and leverage resources. Recognising the power of macro conditions and system enablement is crucial, and successful women seek mentors, organizations or industries where they can flourish.
Star women are born as much from their environments as from sheer personal
determination. Young women today dream big. Persistence will take them
About the Author- Amrita Chowdhury is Managing Director for DY Works. She has been the Country Head & Publisher for Harlequin and Associate Director Education for Harvard Business School. Prior to this, she was a strategy consultant and innovator in the US and Australia. She has authored two books and contributed to an anthology.