Good leaders are gender-agnostic, says Vinita Bali

Parimala S Rao Chennai | Updated on January 19, 2018

Beyond gender Vinita Bali, Chairperson, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition and former MD, Britannia Industries, speaking at Great Lakes Institute of Management, near Chennai

Humanity demands that we don't accept what is not equitable, she tells students

“I’m sick and tired of strange statistics being thrown at me saying that women are great and how under-represented they are on corporate boards. Unless the conversation moves from gender to competence, one cannot achieve quality. Good leaders are gender-agnostic. The sooner management schools recognise this, the more successful they and their students will be,” said Vinita Bali, Chairperson, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and former MD, Britannia Industries, to resounding applause from a huge hall packed with students and faculty at Great Lakes Institute of Management , near Chennai.

She was delivering the inaugural address at the 10th annual ‘Successful Women in Management (SWIM)’ conference with the theme ‘How do successful leaders nurture their personal brand?’

Gender, said Bali, was only one aspect of the several issues in this context. “We should all work towards being part of a larger change, to realise one’s full potential.” And that effort should be characterised by equality and courage, hard work and compassion.

Willingness to learn

Applauding Great Lakes Founder, Dean and Chairman, Dr Bala V Balachandran’s enthusiasm, constant curiosity and willingness to learn from anywhere, Bali said if people imbibed such leadership qualities, they would be successful in anything they chose to do.

Speaking with the conviction and zeal of a new-age guru, Vinita Bali said a sure way to be unhappy is to live your life by other people’s expectations of you.

Instead, she advised, students must introspect on what is truly meaningful to them and what they want to be a part of. They should then pursue that goal till they are great at what they do, without worrying about what ‘society’ says or thinks of them.

Looking at this from another angle, Dr Suj Chandrasekhar, Founder, Strategic Insights Inc, in her keynote address, told the gathering that such clarity emerges from a series of ‘agency moments’, that are a powerful motivating force.

“One can consider several divergent paths but, at some turning point, the role of agency imparts a decisive influence in one’s life and helps one crystallise the core values that transform a person into a brand,” she said.

Such agency moments, said Suj, are what propel a person to take a leap, to move seriously towards what excites and interests one, whether it’s a great corporate job or a commitment to a larger community and the desire to help people and make a difference.

Personal brand

In the panel discussion that followed, Gowri Mukherjee, CMO and co-founder, CreditMantri, said: “There are so many opportunities now and a very different entrepreneurship ecosystem is in place. So, don’t give up. Hang on to whatever you are doing as long as you love and value it.”

Mitu Samar, Founder at Eminence and a reputation management expert, said becoming a personal brand is gender-neutral. It is a recognition of one’s essential self that stems from clarity about what one stands for and wants to achieve.

“And this may well change at different stages of your life, as your perceptions of life keep changing,” she added.

Aarati Krishnan, Editorial Consultant, The Hindu BusinessLine, said: “One way of diversifying one’s talent and growing your brand is to embrace opportunities to do something different. Take on new roles, if offered, and don’t be rigid in sticking to your defined job description and being unwilling to explore new avenues.”

Preetha Subramanian, Associate Director at IFMR Capital Finance Private Ltd, spoke of her experience of straddling identities in spheres ranging from the corporate world to the entertainment arena, highlighting the various ways through which a personal brand can be built.

Published on January 24, 2016

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