CEO & Founder, Shenomics Believes that Leading with Self-Compassion is Most Important
In the conversation with BW People, Bhavna Toor, CEO, and Founder at Shenomics discussed female being leaders and how it impacts the leadership for any company, and also she shared her thoughts on the recent changing dynamics of values, culture, and leadership.
There has been a spike in conversations in recent weeks on how women make better leaders. What are your thoughts on the matter?
I am not sure if we can say that women make better leaders simply by virtue of their gender. That may be equally as biased as the assertion that men make better leaders. However, research has shown that given a combination of certain inherent as well as socially-conditioned traits, many women tend to lean more towards what we typically call feminine leadership traits, such as empathy, humility and in general, a more collaborative style of leading, and those qualities are particularly relevant in times of crises. Women leaders, who have combined those qualities with the more traditionally masculine leadership traits of being decisive, when needed, and taking appropriate risks, have proven to particular effective in helping people navigate the current crisis. For example, Erna Solberg, the Prime Minister of Norway, showed great empathy in holding a press conference just for children. While leaders such as Jacinda Ardern have made it abundantly clear that a leader can be both compassionate and strong. That is the kind of leader the world needs, and that is why we need more women leaders.
The dynamics of leadership is changing. Do you see any distinction when women lead an organization?
The kind of world we are moving towards is one where people fundamentally want a more egalitarian culture, where everyone feels valued, where everyone’s voice matters and is heard, and where everyone feels the full freedom and a sense of belonging to be able to contribute at the highest level. The days of a command-and-control style of leadership are long gone.
John Gerzema and Michael D'Antonio, who wrote the Athena Doctrine, surveyed 64,000 people across 13 countries, asking them what kind of values they would want to see in an ideal modern leader, and the responses overwhelmingly pointed to traits such as a collaboration, intuition and patience, among others. These are all traits that are typically associated with women, and to the extent both women and men can harness these traits in their leadership style, they would be well suited to lead in the kind of world we are all want to live in.
What are those things that make Shenomics standout and the organization's role in creating mindful women leaders?
At Shenomics, we believe in following a holistic approach and focus on both the inner work and the outer work we need to do to show up as more conscious and mindful leaders, through all of our various programs and initiatives. In our signature programs, we anchor the inner work with a variety of mindfulness practices to help women cultivate greater self-awareness of who they are and the vision
of themselves and of the world that they would most like to work towards. We then move on to the outer-work of building the entire gamut of capabilities that we would need to hone as mindful leaders, whether that is building a mindful brand, building a mindful presence, or learning how to communicate mindfully with everyone around us so we can create more collaborative and win-win outcomes. Our focus is on helping women get clarity around their ‘why’. Once you are firmly anchored in your why, the ‘how’ becomes that much easier.
What are some of the best practices women entrepreneurs/ leaders need to imbibe to become successful leaders?
There are three things that I would prioritize above all else: 1) Leading with a combination of masculine and feminine traits, b) Leading with values, and c) Leading with self-compassion.
Leading with a combination of masculine and feminine traits is something we talked about earlier, and the idea is that we don’t need to pick and choose one or the other, but we can exhibit the best of both masculine and feminine traits to the extent they feel authentic to us.
Leading with values is at the heart of mindful leadership. It is important that each of us identify the values that we would want the ideal version of us to embody, and that we do the work of cultivating and expressing those values at the highest level every single day. For example, for me, a core value is courage, and a question I ask myself, every year, every month, and every day is - where in my life could I exercise greater courage? Simply asking that question has allowed me to do so much more because I am intentional about it. Our values are the most enduring aspects of our identities, and they are also our strongest guides when it comes to making decisions that are most aligned with who we are.
Finally, for women in particular, I feel there is nothing more important than leading with self-compassion. As women, we are great at showing compassion towards others, but do the exact opposite with ourselves, by holding ourselves up to punishing standards and then being harsh on ourselves when we don’t meet those standards. How could we possibly do our best work, or show up more fully, when a large part of our energy is getting used up in either self-doubt or self-loathing? Self-compassion can be our strongest ally in helping us love and accept ourselves fully, and in helping us do our most courageous work as women leaders.
Who is your role model and why?
I don’t have one specific role model per se, but I do seek to learn from a wide variety of inspirational women and men. In general, I love women who have a strong voice and find the courage to be their unapologetic selves, like Chimamanda Adiche, women who balance that strong voice with warmth like Michelle Obama and Jacinda Ardern, and women who lead with a strong sense of conviction, like Indra Nooyi.
What is your powerful message for budding and aspiring women leaders?
My biggest message for all budding women leaders would be to practice self-compassion. Self-compassion, by definition, is the desire to relieve one’s suffering, and if there is one thing I know from my own experience and that of countless other women whom I have had the privilege of working with, it is that we suffer when we deny our truth, we suffer when don’t live up to our own, most cherished ideals, and we suffer when we suppress our voice. When you come from a place of compassion and kindness for yourself, you will naturally be driven to give the best of yourself to the world.