‘Take a panoramic approach to diversity’ – leadership lessons from Rupal Kantaria

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Rupal Kantaria inclusivity diversity

The director at management consultancy Oliver Wyman has spent most of her career giving businesses strategic advice. She reflects on the principles she has learnt along the way, including the importance of inclusivity in British businesses after Brexit – and the idea that ‘busy is the new stupid’

Dynamic entrepreneurs can still have an amazing quality of life. My dad came to the UK with nothing and he became incredibly successful. He washed dishes in an Indian restaurant, sold ice cream at Selfridges and ran a T-shirt-printing business. But he was always home at 5.30pm, we always had dinner together and I never saw him work on a weekend.

Don’t be afraid to create your own job. None of my previous four roles existed before I occupied them – they were created for me. This is significant, as there’s a lot of research indicating that we don’t yet know what skills our children will need for the workplace of the future.

Develop your own personal boardroom. Zella King and Amanda Scott, authors of the 2014 book Who is in your Personal Boardroom?, set up a business based on the concept that any aspiring leader should look beyond having a single mentor or sponsor. Your personal boardroom should include a supporter, a “navigator”, someone who inspires you and someone who helps you to solve difficult problems.

Effective leadership is all about your ability to work with others. I used to think that being a good leader was about always having the right answer. I’ve since realised that, even if you do have the right answer, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to make an impact with it. Making an impact requires a leader who brings other people along with them to create the right solutions together.

Inclusivity is particularly important in a post-Brexit world. The UK is looking at its position on the global stage and hoping to build relationships and negotiate trade deals with countries outside Europe that have dissimilar cultures. If your business takes an inclusive approach, this can enable it to better connect with potential new customers and suppliers worldwide.

Take a panoramic approach to diversity and inclusion. Progress in business has been pretty glacial so far. A panoramic approach means tackling the issue across your entire organisation, rather than in parts of it. Until chief executives treat diversity and inclusion as a core part of their corporate strategies – covering their firms’ customers and suppliers as well – we aren’t going to see real change.

Cognitive diversity matters. There’s no point in having 10 people in a room who are diverse in terms of gender and ethnicity if they still all think the same way. The commercial environment is naturally set up in favour of extroverts, while introverts are considered shy and lacking in confidence. To get around this, Oliver Wyman set up a network focused on introversion. This has been really educational, helping me to understand how best to lead different types of people.

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. Wayne Dyer, the bestselling self-help author, said this. It makes you realise that you can see the good in anything if you choose to.

Busy is the new stupid. People are starting to question what success really means. Is it being in professional services and working 100-hour weeks? Or is there a new model under which I can enjoy work and still have time for myself and others? If you’re so busy splitting your time across a million different things and worrying about tomorrow, you’re losing the joy of the now…

Feb-Mar 2020 Cover Jon Geldart

The full article can be read in the February / March 2020 issue of Director magazine

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Sam Forsdick

Sam Forsdick

Features writer, Director magazine

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