Why being comfortable with discomfort matters to Babita Baruah

We, at Adgully, have always saluted and honoured women managers and leaders across diverse fields. Women leaders bring their own individualistic touch in the workforce, in organisations, in tackling tough situations, and above all, bringing about disruption in way things are done, changing set perceptions and nurturing and encouraging future leaders. 

‘Women Disruptors’ is Adgully’s special initiative to bring to the fore some remarkable women achievers in M&E, Advertising, Marketing, Communications industries, how they think, how they manage things, how they lead from the front and much more. 

Featured in this article is Babita Baruah, Managing Partner, GTB India. Driven by passion and deep consumer thinking, Baruah has a rich and wide experience across categories in FMCG, Finance and Technology. With her strong leadership skills and team building abilities, she has helped build close collaboration within the WPP group both in India and overseas. She was one of the 12 women to be handpicked for the prestigious British Chevening scholarship in the UK on Women and Leadership. Further, Baruah was invited to the Harvard Business School as a speaker on Trends in India Marketing at the India Conference. Nurturing talent and mentoring young professionals has been her strong desire and she is continuously striving to train and inspire young managers of today to become leaders of tomorrow. 

Babita Baruah speaks to Adgully on what makes for an inspirational ‘Woman Disruptor’. 

Inspiring & motivating employees for leadership roles 

Inspiration sparks off within ourselves. The factors that influence inspiration in any work environment are the organisation culture, the leadership and the values. But the team member also has to find his/ her unique inspirations. Motivation is usually an external source that leads to action. 

At WPP’s GTB India, we have initiatives under a People Centric framework to expose our team to such powerful influences. We invite external speakers for #GTBTalks to share with us perspectives that are not within our regular work domain. We have been privileged to host authors, designers, fitness experts, Zumba dancers, a leader from The Positivity Company. We also invite leaders from the WPP OPCOs. We have initiated the #SheHour, an hour where women at work connect. We encourage our young team to constantly come up with ideas that lead to a transformational work place. Our Learning and Development includes Master classes by our senior leaders on trends, digital and media learnings, creative solutions. 

We have a robust reward and recognition system. I have never endorsed an umbrella strategy for rewards, and have believed in the concept of Stars – high potential talent who need to be fuelled. At the same time, if a performance is consistently not within acceptable parameters, we need Performance Improvement Plans. A workplace that doesn’t act against mediocrity will soon become one. 

We walk into GTB every day as one team with a common purpose – to make things matter, for people and business. This is our global GTB culture. 

Valuable tips for future leaders 

  • It starts with Care. Care for people. Care for the business. Care for partners. Caring may lead to a relook of rules, of accepted codes, of trying new initiatives that may be hard to get approvals. It needs a sense of stubborn and relentless pursuit. 
  • Leaders need to be Fearless. A tall task. We all have our vulnerabilities. Our weak moments.Times when we have to weigh the risks. But the spirit of a fearless leader can move mountains and command respect and love. 
  • My third learning is Supreme Confidence. This is what one of my seniors had advised me and I have always tried to inculcate in myself and my team. Supreme Confidence is being “comfortable with discomfort”. An enormous degree of self belief. 

These three values work together and build off each other. 

Role models who matter 

My role models have been those women who have climbed broken ladders every day and juggled multiple roles of life and work, to become successful. The women who have broken through new bastions. From sport, to business and profession, even spirituality. Women, whose stories have now become inspirations. 

I look at my own life and with all the challenges, realise it is nothing compared to what some others have to fight against as societal and cultural headwinds. And anyone who can rise above this with their smiles and spirit intact, is a role model. 

Nurturing& training future leaders 

The GTB culture inspires leadership. With opportunities, encouragement, exposure, young potentials are identified and nurtured with clear career paths and milestones. 

But that’s one part of leadership. 

The other is how we become leaders in life. What values can we influence that can make us leaders of the future, with the power to believe and express? To me, a ‘Find Your Voice’ session that we do as part of our initiatives with guest speakers is as important as our top leadership workshop. Because when we find our own voice, we can make things matter. 

Tackling crisis like a boss 

  • Lead from the front. Face the crisis head on.
  • But discuss and work out a solution as one team internally.
  • A crisis always finds a solution.
  • The more painful fallout is when we start isolating team members as being responsible for the crisis.
  • Unless it is an integrity issue, which is very individual, all work crisis is everyone’s responsibility. Like all celebrations are.

Also Read:

The prominent trends that shaped advertising & media in the decade gone by

Trend spotting 2019: Convergence & collaborations in a digital age


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