'I believe that to have leadership qualities, one has to have attributes like empathy and sensitivity towards people'

Chhaya Sharma

Founder & Chairperson of Nepal College of Travel and Tourism Management

Chhaya Sharma is the Founder and Chairperson of Nepal College of Travel and Tourism Management (NCTTM). A woman of versatile interests, she has been working at the forefront of women’s economic empowerment and leadership initiatives in the country having also served as the President of the Federation of Women Entrepreneurs Association of Nepal (FWEAN). She is also National Council member of the Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI).

With her current role at CNI, Sharma says, “I am actively participating, conducting programmes, and organising events in the Women Leadership Forum at CNI. Currently I am also more involved in social work.” Sharma serves as a board member of various NGOs.

She is a member of the Constituent Assembly, and also recently became the Country President of an international organisation called the Association for Business Women in Commerce and Industry.

In this edition of Business 360, we spoke to Sharma to learn about her views on leadership.

What is the definition of a leader?

I believe that the definition of a leader or leadership is a personal perspective. For me, a leader or leadership means ruling with your heart, rather than your head. I believe that to have leadership qualities, one has to have attributes like empathy and sensitivity towards people. If I were a leader, my role would help bring out the best in my subordinates. More importantly, putting others’ interests before yours is vital. These, for me, would be true leadership qualities.

Do you think leadership is inborn or acquired?

If you have leadership qualities, you can be a better leader because like I said if you can lead with your heart, you become more sensitive and empathetic towards people. If it is acquired, it is like running on a prescription and might not be as effective from within. I think leaders are born actually. Sometimes when we see and talk to people, they say “You are a born leader.” That means it is within you, you acquire it by birth.

Who comes to your mind as an ideal leader?

When we look at various sectors like politics, social, or economics, there are many leaders. I would not take names and say this person comes to mind in the current context. But the first person that I defined as a leader as a 6–7-year-old was Abraham Lincoln. He isn’t someone from our country but since we learned about him in history and associated with him in literature, he is the first name that comes to mind when asked about the first name that comes to my mind as a leader.

There are great Nepali women leaders who have fought politically across time. Yogmaya’s name comes to my mind. I would not say ideal leader, but she is a woman of great courage. When it was very difficult for women to come out, she was full of courage and was fighting for women. I think she was also in the cabinet. It takes courage for a person to come up and speak out in a patriarchal, male-dominated society. We are also not talking about the 21st century, we are talking about the 19th century or so.

An incident that tested your leadership ability

It may sound ideological in times like this but for me, as I already said in the beginning, others’ interests always came before mine. When I was running the college, I can relate an interesting story about a student to answer your question. It was back when our course was for three years long. This particular student who came from a very humble background had studied for two years already.

For the first year, he was on scholarship, somebody paid for him. His father managed to pay for his education in the second year. As his third year was approaching, he came to me and said, “Ma’am I cannot continue my studies”. When asked why, he said his father wasn’t able to pay his fees. I told him that it would be a pity if he left now since he only had a year left to complete his course. So, I told him to continue studying, give his exams, work and then pay later. That was my compassion, empathy, and sensitivity towards that student. And he did exactly that. He was very honest, he passed out from college, worked, and came back and cleared his fees. There are many incidents such as this, but this is stuck in my brain because I am very proud of this guy for keeping his word. I believe I am a good leader when I see my students get jobs and excel in their careers. Ours is a professional course, you have to be engaged for the degree to be useful. What is the use of completing your Bachelor’s and Master’s degree if it’s just to hang on a wall?

How important do you think is it to have a good team to work with?

I think it is very, very important. I will never be a leader without a team, whose leader am I going to be? My subordinates, staff, and people I work with make me a leader because without them, I am nowhere. I think teamwork, coordinating, collaborating, helping out, and bringing the best qualities in your team make a person a leader. A good team is very, very important, anywhere.

When should a leader hand over the leadership position?

A very interesting question, especially during the political scenario our country is going through. I have always felt that a person should retire when you are at your prime, or when you have achieved your goal because it is important to give a chance to others who are coming after you. You don’t have to wait till you are old and of a certain age to retire. After you have achieved some of your goals and dreams, I think it is time to retire and hand it over. In fact, share the experiences that you have gathered over the years with the juniors and groom them to become better leaders.

Teach them, counsel them, and mentor them on being better leaders with your experiences.

What do you consider your most significant accomplishment as a leader?

My biggest accomplishment would be, because this is a professional degree, once the students graduate, almost 98% get into jobs. Many start their own enterprises and they go abroad. My success lies whenever I get feedback that somebody has got a job. Our success for us is whenever students get jobs or go for internships. I do not believe in bringing students, teaching them, and giving them certificates. They have to be engaged in the field.

How can a leader prepare for the unknown?

A leader is always prepared and can handle any situation that comes by. That is why the person is a leader, because you are able to handle situations that come your way. This is why we say ‘you are a born leader’ because leadership is within you. A leader is visionary and definitely will always have backup plans for any situation. Backup plans are always there in a leader as an inbuilt software.

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Business 360 is a magazine that delivers on quality business news content, profiles of entrepreneurs and leaders, features on issues that matter, articles that assess and analyze policy and delivery mechanisms in the world of trade and commerce

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