Name: Greshma Momaya
Title: Founding Principal
Organisation: Prarthana.in World School
Greshma is a highly accomplished education leader& parenting expert with a history of working in the space of children and education for more than 15 years. She is a sought-after keynote speaker, mentor & trainer who believes in innovating and inventing the best teaching practices and sharing them with educators, school leaders & parents.
She holds a Bachelor's degree in Human Development, a postgraduate diploma in School Counseling from the University of Mumbai, and a certification from Harvard University in School leadership.
She has a diverse background, starting as a Kindergarten and Primary teacher and holding various roles such as Preschool Coordinator, Operations Head, and Head of School. She has extensive experience in scripting curriculum, designing learning environments and training teachers, having trained over 2,500 educators and school leaders.
She is currently associated with Prarthana.in World School, Bangalore as Founding Principal
She is a thought-leader, an innovative academic leader focused on engaging with students & educators to meet learning objectives & drive student learning. She is further committed to providing empowering leadership through communicative practices & motivational strategies. She has also excelled in team building, culture improving & enhancing the happiness quotient of the school.
Her achievements –
1. Best Preschool Principal, India (South) by Early Childhood Development Forum.
2. Successfully completed school leadership course from Harvard University.
3. Awarded as Certified Microsoft Innovative Educator
4. Educational Ambassador at hundred.org from Finland & U.K
5. Represented at Global Educational Supplies & Solutions, Dubai in 2017
6. Ambassador of India for Child Abuse Prevention Program
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Greshma's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
As a young school leader, entrusted with the responsibility of a diverse student body and a team of experienced teachers, many of whom were older than me, I have encountered various challenges in my leadership role. While the experience has been incredibly rewarding, it's essential to acknowledge the difficulties I've faced along the way.
Gaining Respect and Trust: One of the most significant challenges I encountered was gaining the respect and trust of my elder colleagues. Many of them had decades of experience in education, and here I was, a relatively young leader. Establishing myself as someone they could trust to lead effectively required time and effort. I had to prove my competence and dedication through my actions and decisions.
Managing a Diverse Team: My team of teachers came from various backgrounds, each with their teaching philosophies and methods. It was challenging to create a cohesive teaching environment while respecting their individuality. Balancing the need for consistency in education with their unique approaches was an ongoing challenge.
Dealing with Resistance to Change: Introducing new initiatives and approaches was met with resistance from some teachers. Change can be unsettling, and I had to navigate this resistance while ensuring that our methods and curriculum remained up-to-date and effective.
Balancing Leadership with Approachability: Striking the right balance between being an approachable leader and maintaining authority was another challenge. I wanted my teachers to feel comfortable coming to me with their concerns and ideas, but I also needed to be seen as someone who could make tough decisions and enforce policies when necessary.
Work-Life Balance: The role of a school leader can be all-consuming, and it was a challenge to maintain a healthy work-life balance. It's easy to get swept up in the demands of the job, but I had to ensure that I took care of my own well-being to continue leading effectively.
Handling Parent Expectations: Parents often have high expectations for their children's education, and meeting these expectations can be a challenging balancing act. It was important to communicate transparently with parents while managing their expectations and ensuring that the best interests of the children were always the top priority.
Dealing with Emotional Situations: Leading a school means dealing with a wide range of emotional situations, from student behavioral issues to staff conflicts. Handling these situations with empathy and professionalism was sometimes emotionally taxing.
Navigating Budget Constraints: Managing the school's budget effectively, especially when faced with limited resources, was a constant challenge. Making tough decisions about resource allocation and prioritizing the needs of the school and students required careful planning and diplomacy.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
My journey into the world of education was profoundly shaped by the unwavering support and wisdom of my father. He saw something in me that I couldn't see in myself, and his guidance would ultimately lead me to a career as a teacher and, eventually, a school leader.
My father, who knew me better than I knew myself, had reservations about me working in a corporate environment after completing my education. He had a different vision for my future, one that involved molding young minds and making a meaningful impact as a teacher. It was his firm belief in this path that set me on an unexpected and transformative journey.
Despite my initial reservations, I trusted my father's intuition and embarked on a career in education. The decision was a leap of faith, guided by the wisdom of a person who had always been a pillar of support in my life. Little did I know that this choice would become the cornerstone of my life's work.
As I delved into the world of teaching, I quickly realized that my father's choice had been a stroke of genius. The classroom became my canvas, and education, my art. I discovered the profound joy in nurturing the minds of young learners, in igniting their curiosity, and in helping them discover their own potential.
As I honed my skills in teaching, I also learned to embrace leadership roles within the school. It was during this journey that the opportunity to become a school leader presented itself. I seized it with enthusiasm, carrying with me the passion for education that my father had instilled.
My father's vision for my career, once a source of uncertainty, had turned into a lifelong commitment that I was grateful to have undertaken. His wisdom and foresight had led me to a career that not only fulfilled my own aspirations but also made a profound difference in the lives of countless students and the school community.
The journey that began with my father's vision had evolved into a story of impact, transformation, and leadership. It taught me that sometimes, the people who know us best can see our potential more clearly than we can ourselves, and the paths they set us on can lead to the most extraordinary destinations.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
My approach to structuring my work days revolves around a harmonious blend of productivity, personal development, and self-care. It's a delicate balance that helps me make the most of each day and keeps me grounded and focused. Here's an overview of my daily routine:
I start my day with a gratitude practice, taking a moment to appreciate the blessings in my life. This sets a positive tone for the day ahead.
I continue my morning with nurturing activities like watering my plants and sharing a quiet breakfast with my husband. This is also when we discuss current affairs, fostering a sense of connection and staying informed about the world around us.
During my commute to work, I take the opportunity to speak with my parents and siblings. These moments of conversation provide a sense of connection and help me start the day on a positive note.
My most productive hours are in the morning, so this is when I tackle my most important tasks. I find that this focused approach allows me to concentrate on deep work without distractions.
To maintain focus, I incorporate the use of mudras (hand gestures) into my work routine. They help me maintain mental clarity and energy.
In the afternoon, I shift my focus to routine tasks, emails, and meetings. This is also when I make my daily to-do list for the following day. Having a clear plan in advance helps me start the next day with purpose.
After work hours, I disconnect from professional tasks and immerse myself in personal development. I dedicate time to learning, which may involve reading research articles or exploring new pedagogies and educational trends through webinars and workshops. What's unique is that I dedicate time to share what I learn on social media. It's a practice that not only helps me retain knowledge but also adds value to my online community. As they say, the more you share what you learn, the better you retain it.
Quality time with family and leisure activities take up the early evening hours, providing a work-life balance that is essential for my overall well-being.
I reserve the evening for relaxation and self-care. I spend time in quiet reflection and meditation to end the day on a peaceful note.
Adequate sleep is a non-negotiable for me, so I aim for 7-8 hours. It's during this time that I review my to-do list for the following day, ensuring I am ready for a productive start when I wake up.
The culture of work-life balance starts from us, and I make it a point not to call my colleagues after working hours, setting the tone for a healthy work-life balance. This daily structure ensures that I make time for learning, personal growth, relaxation, and productivity. It helps me maintain a sense of balance and clarity in both my personal and professional life. With a well-structured routine, I always know how my next day is going to be, and that predictability brings a sense of order to my life.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
As a young school leader, I have had the privilege of learning many valuable leadership lessons, but one that recently hit home with profound impact is the significance of empathy and the power of meaningful connections.
In my previous school, I had the incredible opportunity to shape the culture of the organization over 8.5 years. During this time, I made it a priority to establish a work environment where every team member, especially my teachers, felt respected, heard, and valued. Little did I know the lasting impact this would have on my leadership journey.
After I moved on from that school, I received a flood of heartfelt messages from my former team of teachers. They spoke about how my leadership style had been distinct and deeply meaningful to them. They mentioned how I had not only given them respect but also a genuine listening ear. They highlighted how they had never felt apprehensive about approaching me for anything, and how I had consistently motivated them to learn and grow. Most importantly, they appreciated that I had genuinely respected their opinions, even when they differed from my own.
These messages served as a powerful reminder that, at the core of effective leadership, lies the fundamental importance of building relationships and nurturing connections. It was an affirmation of the idea that empathy is not just a leadership trait but a guiding principle.
In my experience, the ability to connect with those you lead on a human level, to understand their challenges, aspirations, and concerns, is the bedrock of great leadership. It fosters trust, encourages open communication, and builds a sense of belonging within the team. When people feel seen and heard, when they know that their leader genuinely cares about their well-being, they are not only more motivated but also more loyal and dedicated to the organization's mission.
This recent leadership lesson has been a poignant reminder that, irrespective of the position we hold or the titles we bear, what truly matters is the impact we have on the lives of those we lead. It's about creating an environment where everyone feels valued and respected, and where they are empowered to reach their fullest potential. The lesson of empathy and authentic connection is a timeless one, and I carry it with me as a guiding principle in my ongoing journey as a school leader.
In summary, the experiences I have had and the lessons I have learned have reinforced the belief that genuine relationships and empathetic leadership are the cornerstones of a thriving workplace. By prioritizing the well-being and growth of our team, we create an environment where everyone can flourish, and that, I believe, is the essence of effective leadership.
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 had a profound impact on my leadership is "The Leader Who Had No Title" by Robin Sharma. This book has been a transformative guide in my leadership journey.
The story of how this book influenced my leadership began when I was seeking a fresh perspective on leadership beyond traditional titles and positions. "The Leader Who Had No Title" introduced me to the idea that leadership is not confined to a specific role or authority but can be embraced by anyone, regardless of their position in an organization.
The book's protagonist, Blake Davis, embodies the concept that leadership is not about a title but about a mindset. It taught me that each one of us has the potential to be a leader in our own right, irrespective of our job description.
The central message of the book, "You don't need a title to be a leader," resonated deeply with me. It prompted a shift in my leadership approach. I began to focus on leading by example, taking initiative, and inspiring those around me. I realized that true leadership is about character, influence, and impact.
"The Leader Who Had No Title" encouraged me to embrace a more holistic and empowered style of leadership. I started to lead with purpose, passion, and a commitment to making a positive difference. This shift had a remarkable impact on my team, as they began to recognize that leadership isn't about having a title but about demonstrating leadership qualities and qualities every day.
This book has been a guiding force in my leadership journey, reminding me that leadership is not defined by a title but by the impact we make and the positive change we inspire in those we lead. It has allowed me to be a more effective and influential leader, inspiring both my team and myself to reach new heights of success and personal growth.
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, it would be this: Never stop learning and evolving.
Leadership is a journey, not a destination. To thrive in this role, you must continually seek knowledge, expand your skills, and adapt to the ever-changing landscape of leadership. Stay curious, be open to new ideas, and remain committed to personal and professional growth.
Leaders who embrace a growth mindset and actively seek improvement not only become more effective in their roles but also inspire their teams to do the same. Remember that leadership is not a fixed set of traits but a dynamic, evolving practice. By making a commitment to lifelong learning and growth, you'll not only enhance your own leadership but also create a culture of continuous improvement within your team and organization.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
The story of the teacher who found solace in the school during a challenging personal time is a poignant reminder of the profound impact a supportive and nurturing work environment can have on individuals.
It was a day like any other when I received news that one of my dedicated teachers had taken leave to tend to her son, who was admitted to the hospital. Three days into her absence, I was taken aback when I spotted her walking into the school premises around 1:00 p.m. My immediate concern was for her well-being and that of her son, so I approached her to inquire about her return.
Her response was nothing short of heartwarming. She looked at me with gratitude and said, "Ms. Greshma, this is my safe place and stress reliever. I have come here to school to relax for a bit away from the hustle and bustle."
This teacher's words struck a chord within me. They spoke volumes about the kind of school environment we had cultivated together. It was a place not just for work but a genuine sanctuary for our team members. It was a place where they found not only professional growth but also emotional support and comfort.
She went on to explain that the school, for her, was not just a workplace but a place where she felt a profound sense of belonging. It was where she had formed strong bonds with her colleagues and felt an extended family, where she was not just an employee but a valued member of a community. It was a space where the familiar faces of her colleagues and the comforting surroundings provided a much-needed respite during a challenging time in her personal life.
In that moment, I realized that our school had transcended being merely a workplace; it had become a second home and a source of solace for our staff. It had grown to symbolize a community, a family, where individuals could find respite from the challenges life threw at them.
This story is a testament to the culture we had built—a culture of empathy, understanding, and support. It's a reminder that as leaders, we have a profound role in shaping the work environment. When we create a place where people feel not just valued but also emotionally connected, it becomes a source of strength during difficult times.
This teacher's decision to return to school during her personal crisis reflects the trust and comfort she found within our school community. It serves as a reminder that as leaders, our actions and the culture we foster have a lasting impact on the lives of those we lead.
In the end, it's not just about managing a school or an organization; it's about creating a space where people feel heard, supported, and where they can find strength in the face of adversity. This story reaffirms the importance of cultivating a work environment that goes beyond professional growth to embrace the holistic well-being of the individuals within it.