According to you, what are the most important characteristics of a leader?

The ability to inspire, I believe is amongst the most important characteristics. A leader must possess values that stimulate intense attitude of positivity, honesty, confidence and team spirit. It is important to be committed to excellence and strive towards being the best. People are most inspired when they feel they are working for an organization in which excellence is expected, recognised and rewarded.
My strong belief is that in a leadership role, an optimum combination of hard skills and soft skills plays a big role. Hard skills can be outsourced or delegated, but soft skills such as respect, listening, attention cannot.  Great leaders should equally invest and apply soft skills in their work environment.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I consider having a Collaborative approach. I believe in working through critical solutions along with the team, encouraging equal participation, providing opportunities to come up with solution oriented strategies, and involving the team in the decision making processes. Working through challenges together with the team goes to the heart of great leadership.
It is important to create an environment where people feel united in a common vision and a common set of values. As team members are given more responsibility, they become more involved in the process and leaders emerge from within the team. This also works best for the organisation and over a period of time issues are dealt with more effectively and swiftly.
What are the different ways in which you keep your team motivated?

Teams often comprise diverse individuals, and each individual is often dealing with a distinct set of circumstances. A one-size-fits all approach therefore just does not work in an environment where employees are from different backgrounds and are faced with different situations. As a leader, I think it is extremely important to understand what stimulates individual team members, be sensitive to the diverse interpersonal needs and wide ranging aspirations. 
A leader must clearly articulate the common vision, focus and objective to keep a diverse team channelised in the same direction. Setting high goals, holding brainstorming sessions, encouraging feedbacks, rewarding good performance, encouraging creativity, supporting new ideas and fostering a happy work environment - all of this goes hand-in-hand in motivating the team and achieving the larger organisational goal.

How do you encourage creative thinking within your team?

While, as General Counsel I am focused on ensuring transaction structures are compliant with applicable laws, I also firmly believe that most seemingly complex roadblocks have solutions.  We work with cross-functional business teams and it becomes important to, quite literally, keeping the doors open for new ideas.
Enabling team members to think creatively and involving them in the problem solving process is critical to developing solutions. I am constantly challenging the team to find alternatives and actively solicit ideas for new challenges. It is important to recognise that creativity and innovation are not easy - innovation threatens the comfort zone of status-quo! As the legal team, we are tasked with striking a balance between protecting the ‘rules of law’ and being flexible to accommodate innovative solutions. This balancing act is no doubt complex but if approached correctly it can result in a highly rewarding experience.
There are several instances when we have brain stormed together with business colleagues and found alternate resolutions to critical issues. Likewise, our business colleagues have been open to having positive conversations about understanding the legal consequences & likely impacts of proposed solutions. This inspires diversity and motivates the teams to come up with different perspectives.

Being the General Council for IFIN, how do you balance the softer human elements while dealing with the dynamic requirements of various business teams and external Court matters?

Firstly, I focus on finding solutions and fostering resolutions. Secondly, I concentrate on providing proactive counsel, early support to decision making and timely alternatives for legal issues.
The greatest challenge for a General Counsel is being the legal gatekeeper, ensuring compliance with the constantly evolving legal and regulatory regime. This of course requires remaining tuned into the legal developments. More importantly, it also requires partnering very closely with business, understanding the business drivers, being pragmatic and finding legal workable solutions.
Effective communication is key to managing a dynamic environment. It is imperative for a General Counsel to have first-class communications skills, to be able to break down complex legal issues, to think ahead and identify possible consequences in early stages of the discussion, and to express solutions simplistically. 
As General Counsel, I often find my day packed with a myriad of different situations ranging from intense client negotiations in-office, to handling complex litigations at Court. Being firm, assertive, forceful is one way of deal with the issues and sometime required, although I believe any of these in excess are counter-productive. Applying soft skills to high pressure situations often helps to effectively and harmoniously resolve matters.
Most importantly, there is tremendous support from the senior management and business heads which enables a collaborative atmosphere. 

As shared with IFIN Panorama Editorial Team

Damini Marwah


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