The W Suite | Strategy without execution is hallucination: Anita Kotwani
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.
A prominent face in the media industry, Anita Kotwani’s experience in the industry spans across two decades. She has managed the media portfolios for several brands spanning consumer durables, financial services, FMCG and MNCs. She began her journey as a management trainee in Stratagem Media and currently holds the position of Senior Vice President - New Business at Mindshare. In this role, Kotwani leads the mantle of driving the growth agenda for the agency. She has been instrumental in bringing in new clients, nurturing their ambitions and growth plans, ensuring that they are future ready for this dynamic changing eco-system.
She has been a part of the jury at various industry forums such as the EMVIES and the Goafest Media Abby.
How would you define today’s woman leader?
I feel that today’s women leaders are more nurturing and more action oriented towards team building than their male counter parts. They are hard as nails, very purpose driven and profoundly intelligent. What sets them apart is that they make for very good listeners and have a high emotional intelligence.
What are the foremost attributes that women leaders in today’s business ecosystem must possess?
Attributes that woman leaders must possess are:
- Honesty and integrity
- Relationship building
- The ability to communicate effectively
- Develop leadership skills
- Strong awareness of business process to learn what works and what doesn’t
- Positivity, a positive attitude is contagious
- Ability to deal with egos and insecurities of their colleagues
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?
In certain industries, it is very evident that only “the men’s club” at the top management level will prevail. It’s probably got to do with their comfort levels of working with men and their somewhat outdated perception of women professionals. I cannot say with certainty, but this is the understanding.
Speaking for myself and from my personal experience, whether I am in the board room or not, we have a very collaborative work culture, where all leaders are given the opportunity to be part of the larger decision making process that impacts businesses and the way we work.
What more do Indian corporates need to do to encourage and groom women leaders?
They have to realise that grooming leaders is critical, whether male or female is secondary. That is the only way they will be able to do better than what they are currently doing.
One sees potential in the individual based on the work he/ she delivers, meritocracy is to be rewarded keeping gender biases at bay. We all have the same opportunity given to us to be groomed as leaders as our male counter parts. Onus lies on you to drive your career trajectory. If you are an outstanding performer, you will be rewarded and recognised.
According to you, what are the Do’s and Don’ts for today’s women to break through the glass ceiling?
- State your ambitions upfront
- Charter your growth trajectory
- Perform with consistency
- Continuous learning is critical
- Challenge the status quo
- Profile yourself internally and externally
- Wait for the system to work things for you
- Keeping a low profile and being a silent worker might not always work
How acute is the gender pay gap issue in India today? What needs to be done to address this in an effective manner?
I do not see that as a reality in our industry at all, there is level-wise pay scale agnostic of gender.
Do you think the leadership effectiveness of women is higher than men? Why?
No, I don’t think so. The leadership styles may differ, but I have had the privilege to work with both effective male and female leaders.
What are the five most effective lessons that you have learned as a woman leader?
5 important lessons:
- Strategy without execution is hallucination
- The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Sean Covey, using this framework to drive the organisation vision
- Time management and Listening is an art that you have to master
- Team management is key to success; inclusive leadership is a key trait for leaders
- Unlearn, Relearn and Learn – the key for survival
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?
I am blessed to have a family that has been super supportive; I have never balanced work and personal life (been a workaholic), but they have been amazing.
You don’t need a mantra to maintain the balance. I love this quote by Confucius, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”. So, with over 2 decades in the industry, I still love coming to work every single day.
How prevalent are the instances of sexual harassment in work places in India? What should the industry collectively do to tackle such a serious issue?
Having read a lot of that in the media recently, I am sure there is work to be done in this space. Each organisation has, at their own level, recognised the importance of tackling such issues and have built in an action plan. In the case of GroupM, we have created an ICC (Internal Complaint Committee) for POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment), which will address such issues and take appropriate action. There is regular training and town halls to create awareness on the subject as well as specific forums like Right to Speak (RTS), where individuals can seek redressal.