An effective leader is an extremely careful and patient listener: Anu Sikka

We, at Adgully, have always saluted and honoured women managers and leaders across diverse fields. Last year, we launched our unique and distinct program, called WOMEN DISRUPTORS, which drew a lot of attention and was highly appreciated by the industry. W-Suite is a special initiative from Adgully that has been turning the spotlight on some of the most remarkable women achievers in M&E, Advertising & Marketing, PR & Communication industry. In the refurbished series, we will find out how women leaders have been managing their teams and work as well as how they have been navigating through the toughest and most challenging times brought about by the global pandemic.

In this interaction with Adgully, Anu Sikka, Head – Creative, Content & Research, Kids TV Network, Viacom18, highlights the challenges that working women are facing in the pandemic era, as well as how they are adapting to the changing environment.

How do you think the role and scope of women leaders has widened in the post-pandemic world?

Women can be the most vulnerable to sudden changes, while at the same time they can also be in the strongest position to face new challenges and to adapt to the changing environment. This crisis has shed light on the inequalities that we had thought we had overcome. During the pandemic, there is no denying that a lot of working women were overtly stretched due to their hours of balancing work, child care responsibilities, remote schools of the kids. As a result of the strain caused by the balancing act between work and home life, women are dropping out of a labour market, thus threatening to set back all the efforts of creating a gender inclusive working environment across sectors.

Having said that, we have also witnessed many women successfully carrying out their responsibilities during this period. It is essential for all leaders to acknowledge the fine balance between work and family that women have to maintain, which is essentially double duty. In order to continue our efforts in creating a gender inclusive environment, as leaders we should work towards providing flexible working hours, technologies, access to regular time offs and be empathetic at human level. The pandemic and its long term effects on how we work and live could either boost or dent the progress we have made on gender equality.

The rapid transition to digital, an uncertain economic landscape, charting unknown waters, working from home with no modes of the usual contacts. How have you been navigating during the COVID-19 times? What were the challenges that you faced and how did you tackle them?

Well, I can only talk of my own field, which is the Kids genre and of course, the animation industry. The whole process of working from home was extremely sudden, but at the same time the mindset of adapting to this new reality was equally swift – both for the channel and the animation studios. For us, the work never really stopped, although in the first 2-3 months, it did slow down. But once the technical mechanics of shifting the work of animation to people’s home was set up, the work and its pace was back to normal.

Yes, one does miss people to people contact and one has understood the importance of that as well, but then one has to accept the fact that life, as was known to all of us pre-COVID-19, will not be the same in near future and most of us have adapted reasonably well to this new reality.

How challenging has it been for you to maintain a balance between managing the team & office work on the one hand and family responsibilities on the other as boundaries blurred while working from home? What is your mantra to maintain that balance?

In the beginning of the lockdown, all of us were taken in by surprise, which took some time to come to terms with this new reality. There was no start and an end time to the office work. But as people settled in with this new lifestyle, a certain amount of discipline started setting in and everyone started creating a time schedule which gave a good balance to the work and as well as time to the family.

Multiple studies have shown how women leaders performed better during the COVID-19 crisis. According to you, what makes women the best in crisis management?

I think adapting to any new situation comes easier to women, and multi-tasking has always been a necessity for us. So, while working from home and looking after the family, the lines do get blurred at times, but at least they were spared of the commute time every day.

What are the five most effective lessons that you have learned as a woman leader?

I would like to address this without categorising them by any gender. In my opinion, if you truly want to be an effective leader – first and foremost you need be an extremely careful and patient listener – be it to your client, audience or your team members. This enables you to have your ear to the ground, which gives you better understanding on what is required for the growth of your business.

Secondly, you need to be an extremely effective observer of the changes which are happening in the society around you which gives you an insight to the changing trends – socially, culturally and economically. For someone like us, who are responsible for creating content, this is the key to the success for our business.

Thirdly, the best of ideas can come from anywhere and anyone and one needs to have an open mind about it. People should not be categorised or boxed in their respective job profiles or departments.

Fourth – as a leader one should be open to being challenged with the ideas which might not be a part of your original thinking. This enables you to broaden your thought process.

And lastly, if one truly aspires to be an effective leader, one cannot be scared of taking risks and tread an unchartered territory, of course this has to be a calculated risk. Replicating the successful strategies of others might bring in certain degree of success your way as well, but you will never be a trend-setter and you will never create anything NEW.


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