Why women are natural leaders

It is the women who safeguard the core, and insure the risk. This is what business leaders should be doing, right?

By Malavika Varadan

Published: Thu 3 Mar 2022, 8:17 PM

Women’s Day is around the corner and the invites to events and manicure mornings are pouring in. Yet another March 8 will come and go, and while statistics will be published and graphs will be drawn talking about women at workplace — little actual change will be accomplished.

For the past week, I have been thinking a lot about women — the women in my family, the women at my workplace, the women friends and artists I know and love — and one thing binds nearly all their stories. They are resilient, powerful, passionate humans with strong will and kind hearts, and yet each of them tell me stories of times they didn’t think they could do it, a time when they doubted and felt like impostors.

Maybe it is because the story around leadership has always been told as the story of power and aggression and conquest. But we all know THAT is not what makes a good leader. It is, in fact, quite the opposite. Leadership is about listening, empathy and nurturing.

Think of the stories you have heard about your mothers, your aunts and your grandmothers, and their mothers.

These are all stories of leadership.

Simon Sinek, inspirational speaker and author, wrote a book called Leaders Eat Last. Well, our mothers have been eating last for centuries. No one instructed them to, but they would serve others before they served themselves — and in this daily practice, this ritual of putting others first would inspire a generation to (hopefully) practice the same.

We would joke about my grandmother turning everything in her kitchen into something of use. Onion peels would nourish her rose bush, the discarded plastic milk packets were saved under the kitchen sink to be recycled for discounts. Even the humble milk in our kitchen had a life cycle — milk would become curd, and cream, and butter and cottage cheese — and never was it thrown away.

Today, as the women of my family lead teams and manage budgets and run companies — it is the same frugality, the same zero waste policy, the same conscious spending that keeps their companies in the green.

I remember hearing the story of an Indian millionaire in Dubai. He spoke proudly of the business he had built and the wealth he had now accumulated — and told of a time when he had lost it all. He turned to his wife, who, in turn, sold her gold to be able to fund his comeback. This story is repeated, with names and numbers changed, in nearly every business family I know.

It is the women who safeguard the core, and insure the risk. This is what business leaders should be doing, right? Making sure everyone is safe, absorbing the impact.

My mother loved telling us the story of the ant and the grasshopper. I always imagined the ant to be a woman. And in retrospect, I can see why.

Traditionally, when women from my country get married, they leave the home of their parents and go to live where their husbands are. My mother, my aunts, my grandmothers — even before we had a word for it, knew what it meant to have to uproot, gather your resources and restart in a new geography. Face new storms, walk new roads, knowing only what you know — and making the best of it.

Isn’t this what we pay entrepreneurs to do? Expand? Imagine new futures?

At work and in business I need a team of people who will show up, work hard, do it with heart and collaborate. Work, business requires creativity, enterprise, nurturing relationships, creating an environment that people feel safe in. I need a team that will dig its heels into the ground in the face of a storm, and willingly move and take the shape that the future demands. And all the experts I know in these fields — are women.


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