The W-Suite | Think and act as a creator, not a victim: Lynn de Souza

With a rapidly evolving business and economic landscape there is a dire requirement of fresh thinking, new skill sets, greater flexibility & adaptability, more collaboration as well as the ability to think on one’s feet.

Gone are the days when the thinking was more on the lines of 'get a man to do this job'. 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.

And yet, the perception about the ability of women leaders to get things done remain not too encouraging. Women continue to be scrutinised as much for style as for substance. Hence, a hundred per cent gender equality in leadership positions is yet o be achieved.

But there are way too many trend-setters and convention-breakers. And we don’t have to look far, as there are several inspiring women leaders in the Indian advertising and media industry, who have achieved much and paved the way for many to follow.

AdGully proudly presents ‘The W-Suite’ (taken from the C-Suite), our feature series wherein we will be featuring 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. The initial plan was to have one comprehensive report, however, the response has been so overwhelming that we have decided to create a series out of this, wherein we will feature one woman leader at a time over the next few weeks.

Our woman leader this week needs no introduction. Advertising and media professional, animal welfare activist, social entrepreneur, national tennis champ, prolific writer and public speaker – Lynn de Souza dons several hats. de Souza has had a long innings in advertising media, having worked for Ogilvy, Grey and Lintas. She is one of the most influential women in the country, featuring regularly in the power lists of top media titles for several years. Animal welfare is dear to her, and she serves on the board of many non-profits. After a four-year term as the Chairperson and CEO of Lintas Media Group, she stepped down to focus her energies on driving reform through the power of communication. Born out of this, was Social Access – a first of its kind communication company that works purely to fuel social change. The company’s vision is to help build a more equitable society with informed and involved participation from key constituents, that is, NGOs, Corporates, Government and Society.

Adgully: What defines a woman leader in today’s ecosystem?
Lynn de Souza: Any woman who wields a positive influence over a group of people in a situation or a project or a movement is a leader. It does not have to be in a business or corporate context. Teachers, creative artists and sportspeople for example make excellent leaders.

Adgully: Why do you think a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions?
Lynn de Souza: That is no longer true. The percentage of women staying on in careers and moving up the ladder is growing significantly. Indeed, over the last 50 years, the success rate among women as a proportionate group is higher than that of men.

Adgully: Do you think women leaders are still scrutinised as much for style as for substance?
Lynn de Souza: I think style is important for both men and women. It isn’t more important than substance, but having a strong and distinctive personality is very important. Gandhiji had his own unique style, Modiji has created his own style. In fact, today I think men are paying far more attention to their personal styles than ever.

Adgully: Do you think the leadership effectiveness of women is higher than men? Why?
Lynn de Souza: Leadership is an individual trait that can be enhanced by proper training. Both women and men can benefit from the right leadership training. The effectiveness of a leadership style is linked more to the behaviours being used – coaching over managing, team building, having and executing a vision, inspirational acts and so on – and this has nothing to do with gender.

Adgully: Women leaders in the 80’s and 90’s and women leaders today – what are the key differences? And what are the things that haven’t changed much?
Lynn de Souza: Today’s women have more confidence, and this increases with each passing decade. This has come about with better education, more opportunities, more support from earlier generations, and more exposure to the ‘outside’ world.

Adgully: How do you maintain a balance between career goals and family responsibilities? How frequently do you have to sacrifice one for the other?
Lynn de Souza: If one has a good support system, then managing not just a career with a family, but also making time for other developmental areas such as hobbies, travel, leisure and exercise are possible. The challenge is in developing and creating a good support system. Not everyone can manage this from within the family itself, and there now quite a few start-ups offering such services in child care, elder care, daily home chores, etc.

Adgully: Do you think pay parity exists in our corporates today across levels? What about pay parity at the leadership levels?
Lynn de Souza: No, we are still far from achieving parity in pay scales across all sectors, excluding perhaps the government. Where there are institutionalised pay scales in large corporate, for example, there is some evidence of parity, but when it comes to customised compensation, for example, Bollywood, consultancy services and so on, men get a significantly higher rate.

Adgully: What would be your advice to women aiming for the C-suite?
Lynn de Souza: Don’t ‘aim’ for it. Work hard, prepare yourself with the right skills, focus on the today – the tomorrow will come to you as you deserve.

Adgully: What, according to you, are the three important lessons new women leaders need to learn?
Lynn de Souza: 1. If you believe in equal opportunity for all, you will get it. The key is self belief first. Don’t think like a victim, think and act as a creator.

2. Growth comes by helping others to grow, by constructive and not predatory behaviour.

3. Be prepared. There is no substitute for being prepared to take anything that comes your way. Obstacles are just opportunities in disguise.

Posted by: Shanta Saikia []  and Tanushri Upandhyay []


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