Top management & organisational structure need an overhaul: Misbah Quadri

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 M&E, Advertising & Marketing, PR & Communication 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.

Misbah Quadri is Founder & CEO, Monofys. She has a combined experience of 15 years to her credit as a media and brand image advisory expert. From FMCG to BFSI and Fashion & Lifestyle to Education, Quadri has worked with brands across the spectrum. An opinionated, strong willed woman, Quadri’s contribution to the external and internal online and offline brand reputation industry has been pivotal in driving the branding strategy for her clients.

In conversation with Adgully, Misbah Quadri, Founder & CEO, Monofys, speaks about the challenge and opportunities offered by the pandemic, charting unknown waters, how women are ready to take charge, and more.

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

At the risk of sounding insensitive, I will go on to say that while it’s been a bane, the pandemic has also been a boon in many ways. The way we function, both personally and professionally, has undergone an inconceivable transformation, leaving our world divided into two phases – the ‘pre-Covid era’ vs the ‘post-Covid era’ – the latter defining the course of our lives ahead, forever.

To be able to operate seamlessly in this post-Covid dimension, there have been contributions by all sections of the society in their respective capacities. One section of the society, however, has been at the forefront of challenging norms and shifting gears into an overdrive like never seen before – the women.

The way in which women have managed to tackle every aspect of their personal and professional lives is truly remarkable. Women all around me have been the captains of their ships and ensured a smooth transition – be it in the role of a home maker, or as the founder of a new start-up. We women must always ask ourselves, “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me?”

The rapid transition to digital, an uncertain economic landscape, charting unknown waters, working from home – how have you been navigating during the COVID-19 times? How are you maintaining work-life balance in the new normal?

“Are you crazy?” was how most reacted to my decision of quitting a plush corporate job in Mumbai. But I had made up my mind to build my own brand – to move to Goa – to start all over again. It was a difficult and critical decision – a defining moment for my career.

Charting unknown waters is kind of ‘my thing’ – just comes naturally to me. Also, rarely do opportunities offer themselves to you. Opportunities are mostly created, fought for, rebelled in to being accessible for all. So, I was ready to embrace the mess. As they say – when you are getting ready to launch into space, you are sitting on a big explosion waiting to happen.

The almost overnight transition to all-digital was surprisingly quite a smooth exercise – but the backdrop of Covid, lingering on like a dark cloud, was overwhelming. That period was just eerie (to put it mildly), especially having to experience the consequences of a pandemic alone, in a matchbox apartment of a sea sized city.

The only way to maintain my work-life balance was by drawing strict boundaries and not letting either side overlap with the other, giving utmost priority to my physical and mental wellbeing and most importantly, simply dealing with it like a woman and moving on!

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?

When a crisis hits, human instinct is to gravitate towards someone or something that offers not just a sense of order, but also empathy. You want to feel safe and heard. Women are able to lend this emotional quotient to any equation, especially when it is a time of crisis. So, well, I think the fact that women leaders are able to strike the right balance between being both compassionate and tough is what puts us in a better position to firefight like a pro.

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

  1. Lead by example: Begin with something as seemingly minor as expecting your team members to log in to work on time, while you breeze in half an hour late, every single day. If you do this, you are nothing short of a royal hypocrite and an unfit leader. I say this from having seen such “leaders” around me in the last several years of working with different agencies – please don’t be that person
  2. “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader”: Insecurity and the desire to remain the smartest mind in the room by letting go of those who are smarter than you is going to eventually create an echo chamber where you will get used to receiving ego massages, with no concrete contribution towards the collective goal. Create more leaders, especially woman leaders, not a room of ‘yes sayers’
  3. Be your own person: Copying behaviour, traits or decisions of others around you only because it seems cool is definitely uncool. Be your own person – personally and professionally. There is nothing worse than experiencing an identity crisis, which you eventually will, if you keep trying to be someone you are not
  4. Never say never: Keeping an open mind towards life in general is the way to go. As a leader, it is all the more essential that you are not rigid in your approach or perspective. Things change. People change. You will change. Trust me! You may want to do something today which you never would have imagined yourself doing about five years ago. And that is totally fine, as long as it makes to you. Be resilient, not resistant
  5. Don’t dress down for the clown: My ability to lead teams of people twice my age and half my caliber has been doubted simply because of the number of tattoos on me, or for the way I dress. People in positions of power have chosen to focus on my ‘glamour’ over my grit. And although that is not okay, I always choose to look beyond it, exit the stage when I can no longer entertain the ignorance and move on to the next battle worth fighting for

Gender sensitivity and inclusion in the new normal – how can organisations effectively encourage and groom women leaders in challenging times?

I think it’s actually the other way around. Women are pretty much ready to take charge, if organisations are willing to let women in on the corporate pie! It is not the women who are in need of grooming, it is the top management and organisational structure, which needs an overhaul. If there was ever a great time for change, it is NOW!


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