Tag Archives: Leadership

Moment of Signal and Sreedhar Bevara

‘Keep Finding Your Signals’ Says Sreedhar Bevara In His Book

Learning is a process that never stops in our lives, and this is a truth not just for the laymen but for leaders too.

A quote from Indra Nooyi drives home that point with great force: “Just because you are CEO, don’t think you have landed. You must continually increase your learning, the way you think, and the way you approach the organization.”

The success and progress of any organization or nation are often attributed to the efficacy of its leaders. Leadership has been a part of human experience, and the traits that crown one as an effective leader transcend gender norms.

Sreedhar Bevara’s book Moment of Signal forays into the territory of leadership and discusses at length the qualities and characteristics of a leader. It is based on a very interesting yet simple premise which is presented in a unique way.

Signal is the catchword in Bevara’s book. The underlying thought is that life throws signals at us, and it is very important that we stay alert to receiving those signals in order to make our existence better. The author believes that the best way to excel is not to follow the signals but to find them ourselves.

Green Stop Light

The author’s story

It is impressive to learn how the author in his own life has identified the right signals that have paved the way for success. Born in a village in Andhra Pradesh, Sreedhar Bevara had felt the pangs of poverty as a child. He and his siblings were brought up by relatives. To make ends meet, he waited tables and worked as a milk delivery boy.

Rising from extremely humble origins, it was hard work, sincerity, and of course listening to signals around him that eventually helped him to climb up the corporate leader. Based out of Dubai, Sreedhar Bevara is a senior corporate executive in a Fortune 100 MNC. He is also a motivational speaker on leadership issues. On the way is his second book, The Roaring Lambs, which is a leadership fable of animals set against the backdrop of an East African jungle.

What is Moment of Signal all about?

With ample references to world leaders, CEOs, and entrepreneurs, Moment of Signal highlights what qualities make these individuals the success stories we talk about. These examples are found all over in different chapters to substantiate the importance of the trait that the author analyzes. He also cites instances from his personal and professional life.

Moment of Signal does not attempt to present an overtly intellectual discussion of leadership; hence it is not intimidating. The ideas are very relatable to anyone in the organizational domain, and this is what makes them intelligible. I would like to refer to some of the viewpoints which I find particularly appealing.

*** Sreedhar Bevara strongly feels that grace is one of the most important features of great leaders without which other traits are as good as empty. He says, “Grace costs nothing but buys us a lot of good will.” To exhibit grace in uncertainty, pain, and in the looming face of the inevitable is the sign of strength of a true leader.

*** Prejudice, lack of empathy, arrogance, and resistance to change are pointed out as some of the ills that a leader needs to avoid. The I-centric concept is discussed. Bevara emphasizes that anyone at the helm of affairs who has an “I know it all” attitude will end up in isolation.

*** The workplace flourishes with a collaborative mindset. It is very important that team members open-heartedly accept each other’s weaknesses and strengths and have a mutual understanding amongst themselves.

*** The ability to visualize beyond what is evident distinguishes a good decision maker from a bad one. The person who senses the signals around the corner and pictures the future emerges as the victor.

.*** A topic that perhaps many books on leadership might ignore is that of health. A fitness enthusiast himself, Sreedhar Bevara talks about health, which is “the highest religion of existence” and which should not be neglected nor taken for granted. Be it in the workplace or one’s own home, there needs to be a supportive environment that promotes health and well-being.

A practical, comprehensive guide to leadership

Moment of Signal is a comprehensive analysis of the various dimensions that help to shape a good leader. There is no foolproof recipe that makes a perfect leader, and the book asserts that. The author has a practical approach and mentions towards the end that the primary objective is “not guaranteeing a successful outcome.” He insists, “It is more to do with reducing the possibility of any negative outcome.”

A brilliant read in its entirety, Moment of Signal throws a bright light on leadership, entrepreneurship, and workplace issues, and manages to do so in a lucid, concise, and interesting way!


Rashmi Bora Das is settled in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA. She has written for various platforms including Women’s Web, to which she regularly contributes. 

Raising A Rennu: What Parents Should Know

Genius Kids founder Rennu Dhillon says our greatest fear after death is public speaking — unless we make some incremental changes in our education system while we’re alive. 

“Confidence is critical,” Dhillon says. “You have to learn how to take control of your life. Compassion, communication, eye contact — these are the kinds of soft skills that we as parents and teachers need to instill in our kids today.” 

Her personal odyssey — long before she became a Bay Area education mogul, Radio Zindagi talk show host, and community activist — is its own story of confidence and coming into one’s own. Dhillon grew up in a tightly-knit Kenyan suburb, much like our Bay Area cities littered with extracurricular activities and educational pursuits. 

“My mother, being the typical Indian mother that she was, enrolled me into practically everything from music, art, piano, and sports,” Dhillon says and laughs. “But my father, a medical practitioner and the local Deputy Mayor was very deep into politics. So one of the big things that he really wanted us, kids, to focus on was communication. They enrolled me into a drama school called the Little Theater Club at the age of three.” 

Dhillon’s childhood in Kenya marked the intersection of so many rapid changes, from an early wave of the feminist movement to political unrest in India following the death of Indira Gandhi. The young actress put pen to paper, drafting impassioned poems and letters for the local newspaper.  

“I was a very, very controversial figure in my town,” Dhillon says. “I mean, I was always expressing my views, especially when it came to women’s issues. And my dad didn’t even know half the time when I was writing to newspapers. It would only be when we would get anonymous phone calls at home threatening me about something that my dad would look at me and say, ‘did you write that?’ And I’ll be like, ‘yep.’ God, I caused so much drama at home.” 

Twenty years later, the outspoken Kenyan pre-teen, after completing her Pharmacy Degree in the United Kingdom, and Doctorate of Science,  launched into two very successful businesses of her own – a matrimonial dating agency and recruiting firm in the United States. She then ventured in Recruiting CEO’s for start up’s and went from hooking people and people to people and jobs. As a single mother navigating the labyrinthian American Dream, helping young men and women find love offered startling insight into the role of ‘soft skills’ within the South Asian American community.  

For Dhillon, the devil was in the details. From critiquing her client’s fashion choices to providing advice on eye contact and tone, she realized how the simplest features of personal interaction paved the way to success. Her experience as a dating coach and recruiter molded her vision when she opened up a Fremont-based daycare and accelerated learning center named Genius Kids. 

Unlike mainstream education programs, Genius Kids instills public speaking and collaborative skills in students from a young age. Founded in 2001, the organization quickly caught on among Bay Area parental circles. Dhillon’s effortless relationship with kids, paired with her knack of combining learning strategies with the latest technology, brought in more families than ever. 

“I think kids learn with smart and interactive technology,” Dhillon says. “We were actually one of the first preschools to ever introduce smart boards into the classrooms. Even the toddlers will come up on our stage, look at a screen, and point to the answer with their little fingers. These are our ways of teaching children. To stimulate students’ curiosity, I don’t want anyone memorizing stories in my classes. I want discussions. I want kids to tell me the story back in their own words — add their own flavor to The Three Little Pigs and use their own imagination. This is how we access a child’s voice and build on their confidence.” 

For the second time in her life, Dhillon embarked on a writing journey, this time penning a parenting book titled, Raise Confident Children: Today’s Kids, Tomorrow’s Leaders. The book has different sections dedicated to Dhillon’s ‘Cs’ — compassion, conflict resolution, charisma, control — the different elements that shaped her experience in both teaching and parenting.

“There’s a need to simplify parenting into its basic ingredients,” Dhillon says. “It’s not something that always comes naturally — especially now that we have all these distractions. The world was very different for my great grandparents, grandparents, and my parents. Now, we’re living in a crazy world — completely insane. And if you don’t prepare your child to be able to face a world of the unknown, your child won’t have any control over their life. So I’m a huge one for books. I’m always on the search for new material and information because learning never stops.” 

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, there may be no better time for Dhillon to release Raise Confident Children: Today’s Kids, Tomorrow’s Leaders. As lockdown restrictions force schools to adapt to a virtual learning environment, every parent must challenge their preconceived notions about testing, college admissions, and academic life. And perhaps there may be no better writer to release this book than Dhillon herself. As a woman who ventured across borders, within new industries, and into the lives of hundreds of children, Dhillon seeks to embody the very experience she chronicles in her book — a journey into the precarious unknown, where learning and adapting is always essential. 

“Don’t underestimate your children,” Dhillon says. “Let them pursue and find their path. And most of all, listen to what they have to say.” 

Stay tuned for Confident Children: Today’s Kids, Tomorrow’s Leaders, which releases on October 6th on Amazon! Click here for further details.


Kanchan Naik is a senior at the Quarry Lane School in Dublin, California. Aside from being the Youth Editor for India Currents, she is also the editor-in-chief of her school newspaper The Roar, the 2019-2020 Teen Poet Laureate for the City of Pleasanton, as the Executive Director of Media Outreach at Break the Outbreak. Connect with Kanchan on Instagram: @kanchan_naik_

Mother’s Wisdom: A Civic Leadership Panel

Ding Ding TV, in partnership with India Currents and Civic Leadership USA (CLUSA), presented the next panel in a series to create a dialogue around how average citizens evolve from their roles as parents to civic leaders. In a panel moderated by Jeff Chow, Associate Vice President at Morgan Stanley, on September 27, 2019,  the attendees of the event and the speakers explored education as a means for entering current community activism. The panelists were Nancy Alvarez , College Access Family Liaison at East Palo Alto Academy; Pragati Grover, former Board member for the Saratoga School District and Team4Tech Operations Manager; and Anjali Kausar, former Board member for the Cupertino School District and current CEO of the Cupertino Chamber of Commerce.

Emcee Vandana Kumar

Three impressive women, mothers, and immigrants are bound together by their thread of passion for education. All three happened upon this mutual interest through their own children. Alvarez, who came from Mexico twenty two years ago, found herself advocating for her children who had been placed in an ESL (English as a Second Language) class. Her children were regressing and falling behind because they were in ESL. She proposed that her decision to pull her kids out of the class eventually benefited them; she has one student at Stanford and one at UC Merced and continues to advocate for the next generation of under-resourced students at East Palo Academy. 

Similarly, Anjali Kausar and Pragati Grover, began working in their children’s classroom and discovered that the teachers faced many difficulties. In order to be proponents of change, both became board members for the school district in their region. Kausar came from Africa thirty years ago and found it hard to navigate the school system. It was when she became entrenched in the school that she found not only a means to support her children but also her identity as an American. Grover shared this sentiment and stated, “One should give their time, not their money” and that “I want to give back because this is my community.” As immigrants, they both found their sense of belonging and identity by being a part of the school system and having a voice in their communities. 

Once the panelists left the stage, we were graced by storytelling through the art of Bharatanatyam by Nirupama Vaidhyanathan. She came with a narrative that continued the message woven throughout the discourse of the night–a narrative of resilience, passion, and social activism. Her first performance was a journey in time to her ancestors who took part in the Salt Satyagraha with Gandhi. Her grandfather protested against the salt tax imposed by the British and had exchanges with other revolutionaries on the caste system, sanitation, and other barriers that Indians were facing under colonial rule.

Vaidhyanathan’s second piece was based on a Tamil poem by Sugathakumari. The poem encapsulated the evils of pollution on the environment and was interspersed with the Indian myth of Shiva churning the ocean to drink the poison created by the evil on Earth. It was clear by the end of the performance that this forum had left an impact on every person in the room.

In a day and age in which civic engagement may seem like a fruitless task, it was wonderful to see engaged and empowered women of color take the stage. One can only hope that the next generation can embody the tenacity of the three women who spoke on the panel. Keep checking in with India Currents to see when the next panel discussion will be and how you can become an engaged leader in your community.

 

Would You Want to Know You?

While revisiting some of my favorite TED Talks the other day, I was reminded of how important it is to make an intentional first impression, one that says a little bit about who we are when we meet someone for the first time. Whether we like it or not, within the first 5-10 seconds of meeting someone, they’ve already decided a few things about who we are.

“She didn’t look me in the eye when she said hello. Does she have something to hide?”

“He didn’t shake my hand and he’s awfully quiet. He doesn’t seem very friendly.”

As humans, we are assumption-making machines. That’s just a fact. It’s how we make sense of the world. We take in what’s around us, apply an explanation, and make decisions about a person or a situation based on that explanation. Right or wrong (and very often we’re wrong)… it’s just what we do. 

Those impressions come super-quickly. And when they do, we (sometimes unconsciously) decide how to interact with the person we’ve just met… regardless of whether, or not, our assumptions are correct.

The challenge can be particularly difficult if you come from another country and/or English isn’t your first language. What if you have a heavy accent? Or maybe your name is unique and uncommon in the US? Now, you’ve added another layer of complexity to the first-impression dilemma.

If you’re foreign-born and have an accent, a long or uncommon name, or one that’s hard to pronounce, you may have noticed confused looks at times, or hesitation about asking you to repeat your name. Or maybe you’ve noticed they just avoid using your name altogether. Perhaps they just feel awkward trying to pronounce it

If any of those sound familiar, try some of these tips to make it easier the next time you meet someone new:

  1. Pay attention to your pace and tone as you say your name. Slow it way down and enunciate. After saying it once, repeat it again. It often helps folks to hear and see you say it a couple times.
     
  2. Try breaking your name down into separate syllables. For example, if your name is ‘Srithika,’ you might say, ‘Hi, I’m Srithika, that’s Sri-thi-ka.’ Encourage them to try saying it and help them adjust their pronunciation.
     
  3. Point out a word or short phrase that sounds like your name. It’ll give them something to associate it with and help them more easily commit it to memory. So, if your name is Shuba, you might say, ‘I’m Shuba – it rhymes with Scuba!”
     
  4. You may want to offer up a nickname you’re comfortable with that’s shorter or easier for them to pronounce. Whereas Chandralekha could be a challenge for some unfamiliar with the name, the nickname Chandra might be a welcome alternative.
     
  5. Remember to keep a sense of humor! Being playful and at ease goes a long way toward releasing any awkwardness that might occur. You’ll both feel more comfortable, and it’ll make it easier for them to let you know if they don’t understand you later. That’s always better than getting that blank-face-half-smile-and-nod response.

Watch for those subtle, non-verbal cues that seem to communicate “What did you say?” Intentionally shifting a potentially awkward introduction into a moment of ease and connection, can make all the difference in that first impression. Presenting yourself as approachable, while demonstrating your ability to help remove barriers, will lay the groundwork for a strong and fruitful business relationship.

 

P.S. For more tips on how to introduce yourself, check out Laura Sicola’s TED Talk, Want to sound like a leader? Start by saying your name right. About halfway through her talk, she discusses “strategic tonality” and how to use it when making a self-introduction. It’s well worth a listen. 

Marie Bankuti, PCC, CPCC, PMP, Founder of Tether Free Vision Inc., is a business coach with more than three decades of experience in technology and leadership coaching and training. She specializes in helping foreign-born professionals acclimate, so they can thrive in U.S. companies. Find out more at TetherFreeVision.com

 

 

Indian American Impact Fund Announces First 2018 Endorsements

The Indian American Impact Fund (“Impact Fund”) endorsed the following top-tier candidates in closely watched upcoming elections:
  • Maryland State Delegate Aruna Miller in her bid for Maryland’s 6th Congressional District. An engineer by trade, Miller has served in the Maryland State House since 2010 where she has worked to invest in STEM education, streamline the regulatory process for small businesses, and bring 21st century jobs to Maryland. Miller has been endorsed by EMILY’s List, 314 Action, all four sitting Indian American members of the House of Representatives, and a number of state and local elected officials. If elected, Miller will be the second Indian American woman to serve in the United States House of Representatives.
  • Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval in Ohio’s 1st Congressional District. In 2016, Pureval won an upset victory, defeating a member of a powerful political family and claiming a seat that had been held by the other party for over 100 years. A former federal prosecutor and attorney for Procter & Gamble, Aftab has already delivered for his constituents by overhauling the Hamilton County Courts website, expanding its hours, opening a legal help center, and streamlining operations in order to return over $800,000 to the county’s general fund.
  • Ram Villivalam in his bid for Illinois 8th State Senate District. Villivalam is taking on an incumbent State Senator who was recently stripped of his leadership position and found to have violated the Ethics Act by the Illinois Inspector General. The 8th State Senate District has the highest percentage of Asian Americans in the state of Illinois. Villivalam has earned the endorsements of several Members Congress, including U.S. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi and U.S. Congressman Ro Khanna as well as constituency groups such as the Sierra Club and Equality Illinois PAC. If elected, Villivalam would be the first Indian American ever elected to the Illinois state legislature.
“Not only do these individuals showcase the talent and patriotism of the Indian American community, they also represent the next generation of American political leadership,” said Deepak Raj, co-founder of Impact and chair of the Impact Fund. “Voters are hungry for fresh faces and new ideas. These candidates are well-positioned to be part of a new wave of national and state leaders who will help fight back against xenophobic rhetoric and regressive policies and fight for economic opportunity and a stronger, fairer economy.”
In addition, Impact Fund has endorsed for re-election all four Indian American Members of the U.S. House of Representatives: Ami Bera (CA-07), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08), and Ro Khanna (CA-17).
Added Raj Goyle, co-founder of Impact and former member of the Kansas House of Representatives, “These four Members of Congress exemplify what it means to be an Indian American elected official. Not only have they fought tirelessly for their constituents, they have provided bold leadership for our entire country. They are proof that our work matters.”
A political action committee, Impact Fund works with experienced operatives, campaign strategists, and donors to endorse candidates based on their viability and commitment to advocating for the needs and values of the Indian American community. Impact Fund continues to track nearly 60 Indian Americans running for office in 2018, including over 20 first-time Congressional candidates, and will issue further endorsements in coming months.