There’s no such thing as Utopian work-life balance on a day-to-day basis:Archana Jayaraj
We, at Adgully, have always saluted and honoured women managers and leaders across diverse fields. W-SUITE is a special initiative from Adgully that has been turning the spotlight on some of the most remarkable women achievers in the M&E, Advertising, Marketing, PR and Communications industry. In the refurbished series, we seek to 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 conversation with Adgully, Archana Jayaraj, Director, APAC Talent and Head of India Operations for Wiley Edge, speaks about how the pandemic has highlighted the importance of empathy and compassion in leadership, why organisations must prioritise gender sensitivity and inclusion, women bring some the unique attributes that women bring to the table for successful crisis management, and more.
How do you think the role and scope of women leaders have widened in the current market ecosystem?
The role and scope for leaders of every kind has always existed. Specific to women leaders, opportunities have significantly widened due to increasing awareness and recognition of the need and gains to be realized from gender inclusivity. It’s encouraging to see the trend towards greater gender diversity and inclusion in leadership positions with women at the helm of affairs across different industries and sectors.
Women bring a unique set of qualities to leadership roles that are highly valued in today’s business ecosystem. Traits such as empathy, compassion, and humility are now recognised as important assets that can help leaders connect with their teams and make more informed decisions.
I have always believed that gender should not be a factor in determining leadership roles, and a leader should be judged on their abilities and qualities. I am hopeful that soon we would no longer have to employ the term “women leaders”. There would simply be leaders of all genders, recognised for their work and results, nothing beyond.
What has been your major learning from the pandemic period?
The pandemic period has taught us many lessons, and as a leader, my major learning from this period is the importance of resilience, adaptability, and empathy. The pandemic has challenged us in unprecedented ways, and it has forced us to think differently about how we work, lead, and live our lives. We have had to adapt quickly to new technologies, work arrangements, and communication channels, and we have had to find ways to stay connected with our teams and communities while physically distant.
At the same time, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of empathy and compassion in leadership. We have all experienced stress, anxiety, and uncertainty during this period, and as leaders, it's crucial to recognize and respond to the emotional needs of our teams. By showing empathy and being supportive, we can help our teams navigate through challenging times, build stronger relationships, and still deliver outstanding results.
What is your mantra for maintaining a successful work-life balance in the new normal? According to you, what makes women the best in crisis management?
Every professional woman (or man) out there has the unique challenge of balancing both personal and professional responsibilities. For most women, there are added familial and social responsibilities as well.
But I will take a rather strong position here – there is no such thing as the utopian work-life balance on a day-to-day basis. We would be setting ourselves up for frustration if we attempted to carve each day as a perfect balance of work and familial responsibilities. That is near impossible. But what is possible is that one can take a step back and attempt to achieve a sense of balance at a macro level. There could be days or even weeks when business responsibilities outweigh personal time, such as when working on a new project or fighting a crisis. Then there will be occasions when personal responsibilities like a parent’s health or child’s academics need more attention on a relative scale. It is fine to tilt the scales as needed from time to time rather than fixate on the idealistic 50:50. At the end of the day, harmony in all aspects of life contributes to positive leadership.
Secondly, it takes a village sometimes. And it is perfectly fine to ask for help from your extended support system to make things work.
In terms of crisis management, women bring some unique attributes to the table. Perhaps centuries of social conditioning have gifted women with the ability to harness their emotional intelligence, be extra perceptive and put themselves in the other person’s shoes. This coupled with the ability to see the big picture, multi-task, and prioritize ends up being quite valuable in high stake situations.
What are the five most effective leadership lessons that you have learned?
In my journey towards leadership, I have learned many lessons. However, here are my top five valuable leadership lessons:
- Leading from the front. It’s very important to lead by example, being the first to step up and take action when needed.
- Influencing without authority is a key skill. Basis your title and position of authority, it’s easy to instruct and influence. However, as a leader, it’s important to be able to influence others without relying solely on your title or position of authority.
- Your team is your greatest asset. No matter how skilled or talented an individual may be, they cannot achieve business success alone. It’s important to continuously develop your teams, foster ownership and accountability in pursuit of common goals.
- Pay attention to the details. The devil is always in the details. It’s important to be thorough and pay attention to the finer points, which can make all the difference between good and perfect.
- Change is the only constant. Tech, industry and business landscapes will change all the time. It’s important to have a certain elasticity in your structures and processes to be agile enough to adapt quickly and move ahead.
Gender sensitivity and inclusion in the new normal – how can organisations effectively encourage and groom women leaders in challenging times?
In order to encourage and groom women leaders, organisations must prioritise gender sensitivity and inclusion. This can be done through a variety of initiatives such as providing equal opportunities for women in leadership roles, creating an inclusive workplace culture that values diversity and promotes open communication, offering mentorship programs and training opportunities, and implementing flexible work arrangements that accommodate the needs of women. It is also important for organisations to address unconscious biases and promote gender equality at all levels of the organisation. By creating an environment that fosters the growth and development of women leaders, organisations can not only improve their bottom line, but also contribute towards building a more equitable society.