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7 Questions on Leadership with Ms. Sapna Pavani

Name: Ms. Sapna Pavani

Title: Managing Director

Oranisation: Fenuegreek (K) Ltd

My name is Sapna Pavani. I am a Kenyan Citizen. My roots are from India. I graduated from the University of Sunderland UK having a Degree in Computing Science. I started my own business in 2008 for computers and having an opportunity to expand, I started a restaurant business for my family.

My stars changed when I met a friend from Dubai (Suraj Gautam) with whom we started FMCG Business in Kenya called Fenuegreek (K) Ltd and a Dance Studio called Ganesh Acharya Dance Studio (Franchisee of a very renowned Bollywood No 1 Choreographer - Ganesh Acharya) and a Yoga Studio called Karuna Nilayam Yoga Studio (Yoga of Compassion) with my beloved Guruji (Swami Omkaranandaji) from Rishikesh "Yoga Capital of the world" without the guidance of my spiritual Guruji who is my teacher, my guide and my mentor, I would not have succeeded and reached so far.

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

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


Jonno White

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

As a leader, I have found one of the most challenging aspects to be balancing the needs and expectations of my team with the overall goals and objectives of the organization. It can be difficult to navigate the different personalities, and work styles, finding the right people in a team at times is the most challenging and motivations of individual team members while also pushing towards a common vision and mission.

Finding the right balance between being supportive and pushing for excellence can be a delicate tightrope to walk, but it is essential for cultivating a strong and successful team. I have also found it challenging to adapt to the ever-changing dynamics of my team, as well as the external factors that impact our work.

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

I became a leader through a combination of experience, mentorship, and personal growth. From a young age, I found myself taking on leadership roles in various organizations, whether it be in school clubs, sports teams, or community groups. This early exposure to leading and guiding others sparked my interest in honing my leadership skills.

As I continued to grow and develop, I sought out mentors who provided valuable guidance and insights into what true leadership entails. Their mentorship helped me understand the importance of communication, empathy, and integrity in leadership. I also sought out opportunities to take on increasing levels of responsibility, whether it be through volunteering for leadership positions or actively seeking out leadership development programs.

Through these experiences and mentorship, I learned how to inspire and motivate others, how to effectively manage teams, and how to lead with empathy and authenticity. I also learned the importance of continuous self-improvement and development as a leader. From IT to a leading restaurant to a Yoga studio and FMCG trading, running a renowned dance studio of its kind, through dedication and hard work, I have been able to refine my leadership skills and make a positive impact on those around me. Ultimately, my journey to becoming a leader has been marked by a commitment to continuous learning and growth, as well as a passion for empowering and inspiring others.

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

My typical work day begins with waking up at 6:00 am to ensure I have enough time to start the day off right. I prioritize my morning routine, which includes Yoga, Dance, exercise, breakfast, and plenty of time for reflection and mental preparation. Once fully awake, I dive into work around 7:00 am, dedicating the first few hours to tackling the most challenging tasks on my to-do list.

As the day progresses, I schedule short breaks in between work to stretch, relax, and refocus my energy. These breaks allow me to maintain a high level of productivity and prevent burnout. I also strive to incorporate healthy meals and regular hydration throughout my workday to keep my energy levels stable.

In the afternoon, I focus on less demanding tasks and try to wrap up any remaining work before dinner. After work, I use the evenings for personal time, including hobbies, relaxation, and spending time with loved ones. I make sure to wind down before bed, which is usually around 11:00 pm, to ensure I have a restful night's sleep.

Overall, this structured approach to my work day allows me to maintain a healthy work-life balance, prioritize personal wellness, and achieve maximum productivity in my professional endeavors.

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

Eat that Frog! Yes, that’s the book I always read when I am focused, that brings me to the center.

One recent leadership lesson I have been reminded of is the importance of adaptability and flexibility in leading a team. As a leader, it is crucial to be able to adjust and respond to changes in the business environment, market conditions, and team dynamics. Recently, I learned that even the most well-thought-out plans can be disrupted by unexpected events, and as a leader, it is my responsibility to navigate through those disruptions in a way that minimizes the impact on my team and the organization as a whole.

This lesson was reinforced when our team faced a significant setback due to a sudden shift in our industry's regulations. I quickly realized that our existing strategies and plans had to be re-evaluated and adjusted to align with the new parameters. It required me to be open-minded, responsive, and willing to make tough decisions to pivot our approach. Through this experience, I understood the necessity of embracing change and leading by example during challenging times, to empower and inspire my team to do the same.

Ultimately, I learned that adaptability and flexibility are not only valuable qualities for a leader but necessary skills to successfully navigate through adversity and lead a team to success.

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 "work the System” by Sam Carpenter. This book explores the concept of selfless leadership and how effective leaders prioritize the well-being of their team members above their own needs.

The impact of this book on my leadership was significant. It prompted me to reevaluate my approach to leading others and inspired me to prioritize the development and support of my team members. I was struck by the idea that true leadership is not about power and authority, but rather about serving and empowering others. This realization has shifted my mindset and approach to leadership, leading me to focus on building a culture of trust, collaboration, and support within my team.

As an avid reader and a learner of life, I have come across several books that have had a profound impact on my personal and professional growth. One such book that has left a lasting impression on me is "The Upanishads", an ancient Indian spiritual text that delves into the depths of human existence and the nature of reality. Its profound and timeless teachings continue to inspire me to seek a deeper understanding of life.

Another book that has significantly shaped my mindset and habits is "Atomic Habits" by James Clear. This insightful book has provided me with practical strategies for building positive habits and breaking negative ones, ultimately leading me to achieve personal and professional success.

In the realm of public speaking, "The Art of Public Speaking" by Dale Carnegie and Joseph B. Esenwein has been an invaluable resource for honing my communication skills and mastering the art of persuasion.

Additionally, "Eat That Frog" by Brian Tracy and "Obvious Adams" by Robert R. Updegraff are two more books that have left a lasting impact on me. The former has helped me prioritize tasks and overcome procrastination, while the latter has offered valuable business lessons in a concise format.

In conclusion, I believe that these books are essential reads for any entrepreneur or aspiring business professional. Their timeless wisdom and actionable insights have the power to transform one's mindset and skill set, ultimately leading to long-term success and fulfillment.

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

If I could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, it would be to prioritize empathy and understand the importance of emotional intelligence. In a world where the focus is often on productivity and results, it can be easy to neglect the human aspect of leadership. However, the ability to empathize with and understand others is crucial in building strong, positive relationships within a team.

Leaders who possess emotional intelligence are better equipped to communicate effectively, resolve conflicts, and motivate their team members. By demonstrating empathy and understanding, a leader can create a supportive and inclusive work environment where employee well-being is valued. This, in turn, can lead to increased job satisfaction, productivity, and overall success for the organization.

Furthermore, empathy and emotional intelligence are essential in decision-making, as they allow a leader to consider the impact of their choices on others and make decisions that benefit the team as a whole.

In conclusion, I believe that prioritizing empathy and emotional intelligence is the most important piece of advice I could give to a young leader. By doing so, they can create a positive and impactful leadership style that will benefit both themselves and those they lead.

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

One meaningful story that comes to mind is the time I led a team through a challenging project that seemed nearly impossible to complete within the given time frame. The project required intense collaboration, innovation, and quick decision-making skills.

Despite the odds being against us, my team and I worked tirelessly, overcoming numerous obstacles and setbacks. With a strong sense of commitment and dedication, we empowered each other and continuously supported one another through the trials and tribulations of the project.

Through effective communication and strategic planning, we successfully navigated our way through the complexities of the project and ultimately achieved our goals within the designated time frame. It was a testament to the power of teamwork, resilience, and unwavering determination.

This experience taught me the invaluable lesson that with strong leadership, teamwork, and perseverance, anything is possible. It also reinforced my belief in the importance of fostering a positive and supportive team culture. It was a defining moment in my leadership journey, and it continues to inspire and motivate me to lead with passion, empathy, and determination.

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