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7 Questions on Leadership with Ankur Agnihotri

Name: Ankur Agnihotri

Title: Manager

Organisation: JSW Group

Ankur Agnihotri is a Manager at JSW Group, located in the vibrant city of Mumbai. He is a alumnus of the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, India, holding a Master's degree in Material Science and Engineering. With a career marked by a rich tapestry of international experiences, Ankur has seamlessly collaborated across various global regions.

During his leisure hours, Ankur passionately curates an engaging Quora blog and chronicles his adventures through a captivating travel blog on Instagram. His compelling insights and unique perspective have garnered an enthusiastic following, boasting over 30K+ LinkedIn connections.

Beyond his professional pursuits, Ankur is a published author. His poetry book, "Kahti hai lekhani, kucch khaas likhoon," has been celebrated and featured in The Hindu and The Times of India Magazines. Furthermore, he's diligently crafted a romantic novel titled "Wonder! Why People Fall in Love," which currently awaits review by a renowned publishing house and eagerly anticipates its future release.

Ankur's love for exploration extends to his extensive international travel record, having journeyed through six captivating countries thus far.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Ankur's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

As a manager in the Research and Development department, the hardest thing for me has been finding the right mix between taking care of my team and getting good research results.

At the start, I was mainly focused on getting our research work done, and I didn't think enough about the people on my team.

Over time, I realized that looking after my team is important too. But then, I had a tough time deciding which was more important - the team or the research. I learned that it's not about choosing one or the other. Both are needed.

In the long run, our research's success depends on how well we support and work with our team. And, we can't do a good job for our team if we don't reach our research goals. The real challenge comes when there are conflicts between what the team needs right now and our research goals. When this happens, I try to think about our long-term goals and then work out how to balance taking care of the team and reaching our research goals.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

My journey to leadership began from a management trainee position, and it was forged through a combination of experience, unwavering dedication, and an unrelenting pursuit of personal development. I committed myself to excellence, learned from my mistakes, and actively sought opportunities to lead various projects and teams. As the years passed, my competencies and self-assurance blossomed, ultimately resulting in recognition and elevation to leadership roles. It was a voyage marked by perpetual learning, a readiness to embrace challenges, and a steadfast commitment to personal and professional growth that ultimately guided me into the realm of leadership.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I structure my workdays to balance productivity and personal well-being. I wake up early, prioritize tasks in the morning, take short breaks, and have a longer lunch break. Afternoons are for less demanding work and meetings. I aim to finish work by 6:00 PM, and my evenings are for personal time and relaxation. I go to bed around 10:45 PM to ensure sufficient rest for the next day.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

I recently learned the value of vulnerability as a leader. In a challenging situation, I admitted to my team that I didn't have all the answers, and I asked for their input and ideas. This vulnerability not only strengthened our team's trust but also led to more innovative solutions than I could have come up with on my own. It reinforced that as a leader, showing vulnerability can foster collaboration, build trust, and lead to better outcomes.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

One book that has profoundly impacted my leadership is 'Leaders Eat Last' by Simon Sinek. This book transformed my perspective on leadership by emphasizing the importance of putting the well-being of my team first. It stressed that great leaders prioritize the people they lead and create environments where everyone feels valued and safe. This lesson inspired me to focus more on the personal and professional development of my team members, resulting in increased team engagement, collaboration, and ultimately, improved performance. 'Leaders Eat Last' has been a guiding light in my leadership journey, emphasizing the significance of servant leadership and the positive impact it can have on both the team and the organization.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

If I could offer just one piece of advice to a young leader, I would say, "Prioritize continuous learning and adaptability. The world is constantly changing, and as a leader, your ability to learn, evolve, and embrace new ideas will be your greatest asset. Never stop seeking knowledge, be open to feedback, and remain flexible in your approach. This commitment to growth will not only make you a better leader but also inspire and empower your team to thrive in dynamic environments.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

One particularly meaningful story from my time as a leader was when our team faced a complex challenge. We were up against a tight deadline and the odds seemed stacked against us. However, the team came together with unwavering dedication and creativity. Everyone contributed their unique strengths and ideas, and we managed to not only meet the deadline but also exceed our initial goals. This experience illustrated the incredible power of teamwork and the importance of fostering a collaborative and innovative environment. It reinforced the belief that a motivated and united team can overcome any obstacle and achieve remarkable results.

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