I often get asked, “What is the secret to successful leadership?” And my answer has always been: there isn’t one. Contrary to what many people think, success and leadership aren’t goals to strive or hope for. I believe success is abundant within us, that all of us are leaders. We only need to know the right techniques to unleash it.
All my life, I have been teaching people techniques that are helping them achieve unstoppable success and develop an unshakeable leadership mindset. In my 21 years of service to people and organisations, speaking, writing books, and traveling, I have gathered many career lessons. I call them my leadership ‘gold mine’. Let me take this opportunity to share with you five golden pieces of advice from this gold mine.
1. Success is meeting your potential
In June 1998, I graduated from LLIM-Mumbai after completing my Masters in Business Administration. The entire class of 1998 was on their way to find their dream job, and I bagged a marketing job at a massive global restaurant chain. It certainly wasn’t my dream job—I actually knew nothing about marketing! But then, work is like a traditional Indian arranged marriage: the perfect boss and dream job do not exist; you have to create perfect conditions with your hard work and by staying committed. Within a few months, changes began to happen, and before I knew it, I was given charge of an entire department. There was no looking back after that.
My friends began to ask me my secret to success. It was actually quite simple. First, reaching your potential requires you to focus on your current work better than anyone else. I was never fixated with getting a senior role; I just focused on whatever task came my way with such determination that the management began to notice me and my strengths. Second, know that money is a byproduct of your work. It will eventually come, if you’re committed. Third and most important, always be aware of what’s happening around you, but always stay above organisational politics.
2. Uneasiness can be useful- it changed the trajectory of my life and brought me immense fulfillment.
Given that I was doing well in corporate life, transitioning to being a leadership speaker wasn’t something I had ever planned. Mine is a story of big dreams in small-town America. Twenty years ago, when I moved to the US, everyone told me I was going to the land of opportunity. But the reality was very different. Despite all the resources and opportunities, most people were struggling to make it through the day, some were well settled in their jobs or businesses, and only a few were super successful.
As I made my way into corporate America, looking forward to achieving the American Dream, I began to feel uneasy and dissatisfied. I saw that people around me were frustrated with their jobs and lives. As I delved deeper into the cause of this enormous gap between the “successful few” and the “unsuccessful many”, I realised that it was a global phenomenon. I began exploring different philosophies and techniques to achieve better satisfaction and results in life and work. I shared these findings with my peers and friends, and the results were great. I then decided to make this system available worldwide to help more people know that achieving success is not rocket science. In the process, I discovered some compelling tools and wrote about them in my book, Success Is Within. That launched my career as a leadership speaker and author.
All the uneasiness inside of me formed the springboard of the leadership, training, and coaching company I founded in the USA, which has to date helped numerous people and organisations become better, more fulfilled leaders.
3. Your focus mustn’t be what people think about you. Your focus should always be what you want people to think about you.
Success does not discriminate between men and women; people do. What meaning you give to the events in your life, and what you do with them are choices each of us must make. For me, leaders are born out of challenges. And the #1 challenge for me as a speaker and executive coach was being a ‘woman of colour’ in the States. So while white American women were coming up against what is famous as the “glass ceiling,” women like me were hitting a “cemented ceiling”, which is much harder, and where you have no clue what’s on the other side!
I remember how when I approached organisations with my work, there would be a look of shock on people’s faces. I was even directly told, “It’s very uncommon to see an Indian woman in the field of speaking in America.”
There’s no way you can accomplish anything of any value without encountering challenges. I feel blessed today to be often recognised as the only woman of Indian descent to be a sought-after leadership speaker and author in America (and now globally). And I say this not to impress you, but to express to you that your focus must not be what people think about you. Your focus should always be what you want people to think about you. Once you know that, speed up in that direction.
4. Take the best-possible next step
Whenever you think of a transition into a new role or new venture, stand back from that task and check your feelings and thoughts. If the thoughts are of worry, if you lack determination, or possesses a negative attitude, that means you are not internally happy, and probably aren’t ready to start the task. Positive, powerful, and happy thoughts fuel everlasting success. Also, when transitioning into a new business or job role, don’t do it purely to win quickly. Instead, ask yourself: ‘How best can I serve people and the organisation?’ Very often, we get overwhelmed while making a decision towards a big transition. The solution is not to think of all the moves ahead of time. Just plan the best-possible next move, and then from that space, plan the next one.
5. Never stop learning
Too many people, once they have reached a certain level in their careers, begin to believe that they know it all. Learning is something you keep doing; whether you are a baby or a hundred years old, you will never ‘know it all.’ There is always something new and exciting to find out. If we decide to rest on our knowledge, our ego will close all doors to improvement. Don’t let ego take over, and keep learning new things.
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