An avid dreamer and achiever, Mannsi Agrawal says, “My biggest dream is to have a ‘rich’ life; one full of a gamut of fulfilling and varied experiences each day.” Agrawal is freelance international corporate trainer, communication coach and brand strategist. She connects with her audiences with dedication in her words, has achieved the Distinguished TM title, the highest accolade offered by Toastmasters International for Public Speaking and Leadership Skills, and is a Tedx speaker. She has over the years trained bankers, government employees, students and beauty pageant title holders. She says, “It always excites me to see how our words can change the world.”
In this edition of Business 360, Agrawal shares her thoughts on leadership.
What’s your definition of a leader?
For me, leadership is beyond tags and titles. A real leader needs none. Leadership, for me, is more than just strategising, or ‘managing’. It is the five Is: Informing, Involving, Interacting, Interconnecting, and most importantly, Inspiring.
Is leadership “in-born” or “acquired”?
Certain qualities may be innate, like, perhaps a commanding voice, but I believe that a large part of leadership comes from situational learning where one learns even without consciously deciding to. However, today’s world gives us access to a lot of formal ways to learn about leadership as well, and these tools and methods are certainly invaluable in ‘acquiring’ leadership skills.
Who comes to your mind as ‘an ideal leader’?
While a gamut of names come to mind, I would like to go ahead with Lee Kuan Yew, former Prime Minister of Singapore, not only for his diplomatic and strategic transformations in the country, but for inspiring an entire nation to believe that change was possible and work towards it. This kind of leadership, where one man’s vision transforms the mindset of an entire generation is very powerful for me.
Could you share with us any incident that tested your leadership ability?
The last few years have tested me umpteen times. However, a recent incident that comes to mind is when I was participating in Imagine Nepal. I was leading a team of eight, and we all started out as strangers. Among a few initial hiccups, I realised that one team member was highly unethical and would have gladly jeopardised the performance of the entire team. It took all my skills to get him to see reason, to allow him enough space to just do his bit, and then it took all my compassion to let him go scot-free in the interest of the project.
This incident made me realise that leaders need to be able to communicate with team members in the way they understand best and always focus on the larger picture to keep team goals above their own.
How important is it to have a good team to work with?
This is non-negotiable. However, over the years, I have found my definition of a ‘good team’ transform. Earlier, I made the mistake of believing that a skilled team was a good team. Later, I believed that a team with a good learning attitude was a good team, but today, I feel that ethics come over all else, and a ‘good team’ is firstly ethical, loyal and learns and grows well together. Skills can be inculcated and team mates adjusted as per requirement.
When should a leader hand over their position?
When they are sure that they have prepared a successor with not only the right technical information, but the right emotional and people skills to handle the responsibility.
How have your leadership qualities contributed to your personal and professional life?
I realise that what I learn about leadership from my day-to-day work is directly applicable to some parts of my personal life as well. Handling an 8-year-old child cannot be easy, and you need to be a negotiator, a strategist and an ace communicator to navigate through all the things that they have to share!
I also realise that even in situations where I am not the leader by formal designation, my internalised skill and ability to see things like a leader would allow me to be more empathetic and experience more meaningful interactions with people, whether it be waiting at the airport for a flight, or working in unfamiliar situations with unfamiliar groups of people.
How can a leader prepare for the unknown?
Everyone has to face the unknown. In hindsight, that is the joy and excitement of life. As a person, I am generally the most over-prepared in the room. As a leader, I am even more over-prepared. However, when faced with the unknown, I take it with a pinch of salt, pause, practice gratitude for having made it alive out of the situation, and then take a realistic stock of how I can buckle up and deal with it better.
- ‘People with authority do not necessarily have leadership qualities’
- ‘A leader is a person born with the potential to become one’
- ‘I believe that to have leadership qualities, one has to have attributes like empathy and sensitivity
- ‘I discovered that an individual is not a problem but the process of working is’