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The W-Suite | Leadership is an attitude, there’s no formula for it: Leena Duwadi

Diversity in the workforce has become a necessity today, and more so in the leadership positions. It can’t be denied that women bring a high level of creativity and empathy while solving problems and handling crises. Women leaders bring to the table a different level of dexterity. 

AdGully’s ‘The W-Suite’ series features interactions with influential women leaders in India, who share some deep insights on what being a woman leader means in India’s business landscape, the mantras to succeed, achieving work-life balance, pay parity and much more. 

Leena Duwadi started her career as a popular Radio Jockey from Nepal, before becoming a TV anchor and now the Editor-In-Chief of WittyFeed, India’s largest content marketing platform. Duwadi is responsible for managing 1,200+ pieces of content every month that is distributed through dozens of social platforms. At WittyFeed, she leads and mentors a team of new age storytellers who are inspiring millions of people around the world.

How would you define today’s woman leader?
No doubt women today are more evolved, smarter and up front. They have the guts to follow their passion and take the responsibility of bringing some good change in their own and others’ lives. Hence, today we are witnessing more women leaders than the earlier times. In my personal opinion, today’s women leaders are the true face of feminism. They are making this world a better place for everyone, most importantly, for girls and women. But, the leader term should not be limited to the professional front. A woman who is a homemaker is also a leader. Leadership is an attitude, an attitude of uplifting the people around and motivating them to do good things. A leader creates more leaders. And I am so proud to share that I lead a team where 70 per cent of the members are females. Many of them are at the managerial level. It’s a matter worth boasting about. At least I believe so.  

What are the foremost attributes that women leaders in today’s business ecosystem must possess?
I believe, leadership attributes are the same for every genre. No matter which sector you belong to. But when we are talking about the business ecosystem, some of the qualities one must have are: farsightedness, visionary, strategic ability, positive diplomacy, charismatic personality, etc. But not to forget, discipline, integrity, and humility are the basics. If one is not disciplined, nobody is going to respect her. If a woman leader doesn’t have integrity, she won’t be able to justify her professional existence. In today’s business ecosystem, where there is so much competition, the qualities that I have mentioned are must-haves. And I see that female leaders are aware of what they are supposed to do.  

Despite the qualifications, aptitude, and experience, why do you think we don’t see the expected number of women business leaders, especially when it comes to boardroom decision-making?
As I expressed earlier, things are changing, positively changing, but there’s a lot that still remains. Our country has been male dominant for decades, but the scenario is changing now. There is going to be enormously positive changes in the days to come. I recently read somewhere, according to a recent survey by LinkedIn, 35 per cent of increment has been observed in women’s entrepreneurial leadership since 2009. This is a good sign. Also, as I mentioned, 70 per cent of my team consists of females, and in many ways they are a part of the decision-making process or are decision makers. I see many of them going on to make it to boardroom decision making in the near future. I know you will not have this question in your list in the next few years! 

What more do Indian organisations need to do to encourage and groom women leaders?
Identifying the right talent and giving them the liberty to grow. Providing women employees the right kind of training and grooming with respect. This is exactly what WittyFeed does. And I am so proud to be a part of it. I may sound odd, but a lot of other growing companies should follow WittyFeed. The way WittyFeed has a culture that respects and grooms women in its team is truly appreciable.  

According to you, what are the Do’s and Don’ts for today’s women to break through the glass ceiling?
For me, there are no don’ts. A woman has the right to do everything that falls within her integrity. First and foremost, a woman should be able to break the barriers that exist inside her mind. And when it comes to the workplace, a woman should be aware of her rights and authority. If she feels she is deserving but is not being treated equally as male colleagues, she should speak out. Not raising one’s voice is one of the don’ts. I keep on receiving messages from a lot of ladies where they raise the similar concern. I tell them that until and unless you take a stand confidently, no one is going to take you seriously. Be it your family, your circle, society or your workplace, have the guts to break the stereotypes.  

How acute is the gender pay gap issue in India today? What needs to be done to address this in an effective manner?
I don’t think so. The situation is not what many people assume it to be. My experience and observation state that there is no as such criticality in gender pay gap issue. Those who are deserving, get paid with respect. To make this paying culture much more effective, both the parties have equal responsibilities. We have a lot of examples like Deepika Padukone, who was paid more than two fellow male actors in ‘Padmaavat’. Also, women should speak out if they feel they are the victims of injustice. See, I may repeat my views here, but a lot of things depend on the woman herself. For example, I am aware of what I deserve and what not. I should drag the management’s attention if I sense something is not justified. Not only this, it’s my responsibility to give a shoulder to other women who share a similar concern but are not able to raise a voice.  

Do you think the leadership effectiveness of women is higher than men? Why?
Of course yes. I may sound a bit biased here, but this is on the basis of my work experiences with multiple leaders and organisations. At the same time, I am not showing doubts over male leaders’ capability and impact. There’s no doubt that female or male, it all depends on the leadership qualities that a person possesses. Every leader has his/ her own way of dealing with people and situations. And it’s so good to see that with time, the respect and preference for women leadership has increased. I have seen this actually happening. 

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

  • Respect should be earned, it cannot be just expected. 
  • Leadership is an attitude, there’s no formula for it.
  • Have integrity, it will keep your confidence high.
  • Do not expect anything from your people until and unless you have inculcated it in your own life.
  • It’s not about gender, it’s all about how much you keep yourself deserving.

How challenging has it been for you to maintain a balance between career goals and family responsibilities? What is your mantra to maintain that balance?
Honestly speaking, I am among those lucky people who have no bondages in life. In fact, ever since I started working after completing my 12th, I started seeking no-bondage circumstances. Situations happened the way I shaped them. There were struggles and hurdles, but I was able to manage everything because I had the passion (and still have) for the things that I dream to achieve. And I know what I want to do in life.  

Another thing is that I have always believed that there’s nothing like personal and professional balance. Whatever is associated with you is your personal life and it includes both work responsibilities and other family stuff. For me, every single task that I am supposed to do is my profession. Be it content leading or my household chores. So, my mantra is – I take responsibility as responsibility. I don’t differentiate things as personal and professional.  

How proactive has your organisation been when it comes to addressing a serious issue like sexual harassment at the workplace?
This is a serious concern. As we are becoming more advanced in many aspects, more of such issues have been raised. It’s because women are more aware now. They have started raising their voice, which is a very good change in our society and the workplace. Like WittyFeed, organisations now have a women’s cell in their workplaces to take care of such issues. The existence of such women’s cell is a very remarkable step. Companies are now aware of the need for such a cell. So, the only need is that women should be more vocal about things that they do not like.

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