India is no longer considered the land of snake charmers. The Indian society has evolved and so has the Indian woman. The Indian woman has proven that she can do extra-ordinary things beyond her home chores. She has led by example in domains that were beyond imagination. Today let me share the stories of five women leaders who proved that anyone can be a leader, no matter her background.
Chandro Tomar is an octogenarian who proved to the world that you can master any skill irrespective of your age. She is a sharp shooter from a village in Uttar Pradesh. With her laser-like focus and a steady hand, she has done wonders with her pistol. The surprising thing is that she competed with the DIG of Delhi Police and won the contest too. Leaders can take a piece of learning from Chandro’s story that age is just a number. If you have the will, you will acquire the skill at any age. From Robert Noyce from Intel to Ray Kroc of McDonalds, they proved that leadership has nothing to do with age. They succeeded in their business ventures post their 40s. Have a look here for a list of successful entrepreneurs who started late and succeeded.
Shanti Devi has broken the glass ceiling by proving that a woman can become a truck mechanic too. A job restricted to only men earlier is now seeing a new paradigm shift. Shanti Devi works as a truck mechanic in Delhi, and you can see her fixing a 50 kg tire puncture all alone on a normal working day. She learned the skill by watching her husband and other mechanics at work. She has proven that women leaders can break the glass ceiling in any field and stand eye to eye with their counterparts. Today we live in the world where we see leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May leading a nation. If you love to read, check out the book by Sheryl Sandberg in which she touches on various aspects of woman leadership – Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
With a shield and a sword in her hands instead of only bangles around her wrists, Meenakshi has proven that one can master any art if one is ready to practice. She is a master in the field of Kalaripayattu, an ancient art of martial arts that originated in Kerala. She has spent a staggering 68 years practicing and teaching this art and has also won a Padma Shri Award. Leaders must practice their art to become masters. Dedicated focus, getting up every day and practicing their art makes them unique in their fields. See Meenakshi’s here.
If you are interested in reaching peak levels in your field you must read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, where the author gives an account of people who were massively successful because they practiced their art for more than 10,000 hours. Read the book to know more.
Neerja Bhanot was a flight attendant who thwarted the hijack plan of one of the Pan Am flights in 1986. She went beyond the call of duty to help in the rescue of 359 people out of 379 and was later shot by the terrorist. She gave the last ounce of her blood in saving the passengers of the flight even when she was wounded. She was posthumously awarded the highest Indian gallantry award, the Ashok Chakra, and several other awards by other countries. Leaders can take a lesson from her story of courage; leaders must go beyond the call of duty they set an example for other people. Sir Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa and many other leaders have proven that when you go beyond your job responsibilities you begin to create a new life for yourself and others.
Arunima Sinha, first female amputee to scale Everest
Imagine a woman losing one of her legs in a train accident and then deciding to scale the world’s highest peak. This is the story of Arunima Sinha, who was mauled by thieves in a train while she was travelling to take an examination. Sinha recounts, “I resisted and they pushed me out of the train. I could not move. I remember seeing a train coming towards me. I tried getting up. By then, the train had run over my leg. I don’t remember anything after that.” While recovering from the injury she resolved to climb Mt. Everest, which ultimately made her the first female amputee to scale Everest. As a leader, one must have bounce-back power as shown by Arunima. It’s all about bouncing back from failures and winning again that makes a successful leader. This reminds me of Amitabh Bachchan who went through a bad patch in business when his company ABC Corp. was not doing well. He didn’t give up. Instead he persevered and came up with India’s leading television show, Kaun Banega Crorepati. Leaders make the best out of tough times and then they make it big.
These five stories are a reminder that leadership is everyone’s business. It is all about acquiring a certain set of behaviours that can refine you as a leader and make you stand out from the crowd. If you are excited to read more stories, do check out these other blogs on leadership –