From Indra Nooyi to Priyanka Chopra: 7 life lessons from powerful lady bosses
If lady bosses like Priyanka Chopra and Sheryl Sandberg have taught us anything, it’s that women making it to the top of their profession are pioneers on many levels — they break the glass ceiling, they pave the way for other women to move forward, and they serve as an inspiration to pursue your dreams. And when these women talk, we’re all for listening carefully and taking notes. Their unique experiences offer us valuable insights on dealing with various difficult situations — be it personal or in the boardroom — that could help you navigate your career and life goals quicker.
Here’s what we can learn from successful women such as Kangana Ranaut and Chanda Kochhar.
You may have made it to CEO but the challenges that await you are entirely different from anything else you may have done before. Nooyi was never one to rest on her laurels though. “The one thing I have learned as a CEO is that leadership at various levels is vastly different. When I was leading a function or a business, there were certain demands and requirements to be a leader. As you move up the organization, the requirements for leading that organization don’t grow vertically; they grow exponentially. When I was president of the company, I said, ‘Okay, I can do this–piece of cake.’ Then when you are the CEO, the responsibilities multiply enormously because you worry about everything,” she said in an interview.
Women across the world are familiar with the age-old conundrum of having to choose between work and family. ICICI Bank's CEO, Chanda Kochchar, is of the firm belief that you can, actually, have it all. She's been quoted saying, "I urge all women to believe in themselves and in the fact that they are capable of running a successful professional life as well as family life... I chose to be a working wife and mother. Why should I compromise on either?” Words to live by.
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Mayer, who until recently called the shots at Yahoo as CEO, was criticised for returning to work soon after giving birth. The mother of three had rejoined work as quickly as two weeks after delivering her baby. But Mayer clarified her move by tweeting "I understand I'm the exception", adding that she finds "other ways/times to bond with my kids." She also pointed out that she does not expect others at Yahoo to follow suit, and that 75% of new mothers at the company took full maternity leave.
Facebook's chief operating officer (COO) lost her husband Dave while vacationing in Mexico in 2015. Sandberg had to take care of herself and also parent two young children. In an interview, she revealed how sharing her feelings helped: "I was coming to the 30-day period after the burial, which is the Jewish period of mourning for a spouse called "sheloshim," and I felt worse and worse. So I wrote a post on what I would say if I was to be honest with everyone about how I felt. Then I went to bed the night before thinking, "There's no way I'm posting this, this is too raw, and open and revealing. Then I woke up the next morning and I just felt so horrible. I thought, "This is not the end of mourning. I could not feel less like it's the end of mourning." I just said to myself, you know what, it's not going to get worse, but it just might get better. And I hit "post." That sharing was one of the better things I did, because it really changed the reaction of the people around me.
Looking at Chopra's poise on the red carpet or while tackling the press, you'd never guess that she struggled with conviction. "I taught myself confidence. When I’d walk into a room and feel scared to death, I’d tell myself, ‘I’m not afraid of anybody.’ And people believed me. You’ve got to teach yourself to take over the world,” she says. The actor is slaying it in Hollywood today but as a newbie in the American industry, she had no qualms starting from scratch. "I am an artiste, and when I go to another country I have no problem introducing myself as – ‘I’m Priyanka Chopra and I am an Indian actor’, to people," she says.
According to the former Axis Bank MD and CEO, there are three choices she made that defined her life and helped her achieve great success — taking the road less travelled in her career, picking the right life partner and opting for the principled path. It may be a cliché to say that who you choose as your life partner is the most important decision you'll make, but she acknowledges it as true. Sharma, who is married to her IIM-A batchmate Sanjaya (former CEO, Tata Interactive Systems), says, "Sanjaya and I are very different people. He is widely read, divergent thinking and creative, I am a lot more linear thinking and introverted. But we have similar core values". And that is reason enough for a relationship to work. She added, "When you are out there looking for a partner, don’t choose them for their looks, their success, their style. The durability and strength of your relationship is not going to come from your partner’s personality — it is going to come from their character. So remember to look well beneath the surface."
The firebrand actor is known for speaking her mind, be it about social issues or addressing nepotism in Bollywood. It translates to her actions as well. "My father slapped me for the first time at 15 and I told him, ‘If you slap me, I will slap you back’. I felt raising your hand on anybody is inappropriate and I always had a high regard for myself," she said in an interview. Abuse is never okay and while not everyone would feel comfortable reacting aggressively, it's important to not put up with abuse and find a way out.