Are You the Leader You Want to Be

8th March is celebrated globally as International Women's Day and I thought of celebrating the day by celebrating women leaders. 

"Are you the leader you want to be?" is a book by two women leaders who are inspiring hundreds of women by their own example and also earning accolades especially from the leaders in information and technology industries. 

Manbir Kaur is an Executive and Leadership Coach based in India and Kathy Mitchell is a Certified Professional Coach currently based in Malaysia. 

In this tête-à-tête with Dr Amit Nagpal, Manbir Kaur shares the purpose behind the book and why storytelling is woven in the whole book. 

Dr Amit Nagpal- How is leadership in technology sector different from the other sectors?

Manbir Kaur- I have experience working for technology companies and I can definitely say that we in technology get conditioned in a certain way over the years and our brains and styles are greatly influenced by this. Some of us who have been into technology for decades, knowingly or unknowingly see our personal lives also from a project plan’s lens. This is natural and to be expected.

Technology Leaders are in general-Execution focussed, Tech minded, Tangible deliverable focussed and Deadlines driven.

The world of technology is facing a sea of change with AI and Machine learning leading the way. Leaders need to align and truly engage the teams in order to survive this fast paced environment.

Our book presents the HUMAN framework for helping leaders to build great teams. 

Dr Amit- You have used story telling to illustrate HUMAN framework, tell us what it is all about?

Manbir- Every component of the HUMAN framework is elaborated using a story of the journey of a leader, Arun, who is struggling to engage his team. Arun is a Project Director, who has recently joined this organisation and has been assigned to a new project. Before this job, he has been successful through his hard work and his personal drive to deliver. This current project, which he has been leading, is much bigger in scope, and he is struggling to deliver. His leader Anupam gives Arun a warning to “Either get in shape or get shipped out”. So, he is under significant pressure to survive. 

At this juncture Rohit, a senior colleague, who is also an old friend comes to his rescue and like a guardian angel, helps Arun transform into a great leader using the HUMAN framework. The story covers the journey including self-doubts of Arun, his challenges, the discussions he has with Rohit and how he realizes that great leadership is much beyond running a tight ship. 

Dr Amit- Tell us more about HUMAN framework 

Manbir- The HUMAN framework is a no-fluff way to help you engage and mobilise your teams when you work for a technology organisation, or if you have been a technologist yourself. This framework works elegantly to take out, to a large extent, the subjectivity and brings in the objectivity and measures around this critical area. HUMAN is a foolproof methodology, which lays down a step-by-step process to take care of your people engagement needs.

i. HUMAN starts with Heeding yourself, helping you to become aware of yourself, starting from within and looking at some fundamental traits such as your trustworthiness, competence, resilience etc. The idea is to enable you to see things from your own perspective.

ii. Once you become more aware of yourself, then Understanding your team members (part of framework) helps you to understand each of the team member.

iii. The Messaging part then helps you start crafting effective messages and communications to engage your team members more effectively at work.

iv. The Acknowledging part of the framework helps you create an effective program around recognizing and motivating your team members.

v. The Nurturing part of the framework will then prepare you to help team members reach their own potential, becoming great leaders by themselves.

In short, the HUMAN framework covers the complete aspects of being a great and effective leader who is known to have the best teams ever.

Dr Amit- Why have you used storytelling to explain your framework?

Manbir-There is no better way of experiencing the framework as a practical experience of a leader in a tough spot. The dialogues between Arun and Rohit will help dispel majority of the doubts that one might have when staring with a new framework. The progress of Arun, week over week and his success in learning the framework and putting it to an effective use, will give the reader an idea of what to expect and how much an effort it might take. 

It also brings out practical techniques like “accountability partner” and importance of being honest with the exercises. The story shows the transformational power of the framework.

Dr Amit-Tell us about how you and Kathy complemented each other.

Manbir- Kathy and I have a common interest in helping technology leaders. Both of us are equally passionate about leadership development and acknowledge the lack of specific literature in the technology space. Kathy, with her experience in HR and leadership development, greatly complemented my experience on the business verticals within technology companies. 

Kathy was the one who was instrumental in helping to decide the current “coaching style” of the book. Together, we have been on this journey for the past three years and the result of our labour is available today as our book.

Dr Amit- Please share the highlights of your journey with Kathy as co-authors.

Manbir-Journey with Kathy Mitchell has been really amazing. We started working together somewhere in 2014. Without her support this book would not have seen the light of the day. Together we worked hard to make the book to be easy to read, relevant, easy to implement, a no-fluff framework, a handbook that leaders can come back to anytime they want, full of examples, with practical tools etc. 

I am proud to say that the book is all that and more. I believe that book can help make a difference to millions of leaders! I hope that we can reach out to all them and help them be their best selves.

Dr Amit- Tell us who should read this book.
Manbir- Anybody who plans to be a great leader, and let’s just keep in mind that Leadership is title agnostic. It doesn’t matter if people report to you or not, if you want to lead people, take them along on the journey to success, you can use this book. 

You could be a CEO, a Vice President or a manager, as long you have a need in you, to improve, and help your team improve and make your team ready to face the fast changing environment and still come out winning, you can put the HUMAN framework to use. 

Dr Amit- All the best Manbir to you and Kathy for the success of the book.
Manbir- Thanks Dr Amit.

The book has received excellent reviews from eminent leaders and coaches including Marshall Goldsmith, Kulmeet Bawa, Vijay Rai, Rajan S Mathews, Andy Stevenson, and Ankit Agarwal among others.


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