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7 Questions on Leadership with Naila Rais

Name: Naila Rais

Title: Strategic & Outreach

Organisation: Sustainable Living Guide

Current Role: Strategic and Outreach at Sustainable Living Guide, Austin, USA Meet Naila Rais, a dynamic professional with a passion for driving positive change and a relentless commitment to sustainability. Currently serving as the Strategic and Outreach Professional at Sustainable Living Guide in Austin, USA, Naila leverages her strategic mindset and outreach expertise to promote sustainable practices and eco-friendly living within the community. She is committed to making a difference and actively engages with local stakeholders and organizations to foster a culture of environmental responsibility.

Before taking on her current role, Naila honed her skills as the marketing manager at Profound Writers in India, where she made significant contributions during her rewarding two-year tenure. Working in the dynamic world of writing and education, she played a pivotal role in crafting and implementing strategic marketing initiatives. Naila's time at Profound Writers allowed her to blend her passion for effective communication with a focus on education, contributing significantly to the growth and success of the organization.

A young business enthusiast since the age of 15, Naila Rais has consistently demonstrated her dedication to driving impactful initiatives that inspire and contribute to a more sustainable and mindful way of living.

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

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


Jonno White

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

Leading a diverse team has been one of my most challenging yet rewarding experiences as a leader. Each team member brings distinct languages and skillsets to the table, making the management of this diversity both enriching and demanding.

Communication proves to be a primary challenge, given the team's multilingual composition. The potential for misinterpretations and information loss in translation requires a concentrated effort to establish clear communication channels and foster open dialogue.

Cultural sensitivity is crucial in creating a harmonious and inclusive work environment. Recognizing and respecting varying cultural perspectives, norms, and expectations are essential elements in building trust and collaboration within the team.

The team's diverse skillsets offer both advantages and challenges. Maximizing individual strengths while addressing skill gaps involves strategic planning and a deep understanding of each team member's capabilities. Balancing assignments to optimize the collective skillset requires careful consideration.

Documenting assigned tasks, especially for new interns, becomes challenging due to multiple languages and diverse skill levels. Establishing standardized procedures for task documentation is crucial to ensuring clarity and precision. Investing in training to enhance written communication skills proves to be a worthwhile effort.

In managing a diverse team, I believe inclusive leadership is paramount. Actively seeking input from all team members, encouraging diverse perspectives, and creating an environment where everyone feels valued are essential components. Acknowledging and celebrating the diversity within the team fosters a strong sense of belonging.

Adapting leadership styles and strategies to accommodate the evolving dynamics of a diverse team requires continuous learning. Remaining open to feedback, demonstrating flexibility in leadership approaches, and investing in ongoing professional development are crucial for overcoming challenges and promoting team growth.

Effectively leading a team with diverse backgrounds and skillsets demands my commitment to clear communication, cultural understanding, and cultivating an inclusive and collaborative environment. It's an ongoing process of learning and adaptation to ensure each team member can contribute their best to the collective goals of the team.

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

Hello, I'm Naila Rais, and my journey into leadership began at the age of 15 when I joined Free Pads for India, a non-profit organization focused on menstrual hygiene. Starting as a social media marketing and outreach intern, I was passionate about making a meaningful impact. Through my efforts, I not only helped raise awareness but also initiated campaigns to provide free menstrual pads to underprivileged communities.

My dedication and innovative social media strategies caught the attention of the organization, leading to a Letter of Recommendation that fueled my desire to contribute even more. Buoyed by this experience, I sought new challenges and joined Profound Writers as a Social Media Promotion Incharge.

In this role, I spearheaded dynamic campaigns to elevate the organization's online presence. My commitment to the job and a results-driven approach quickly earned me a promotion to the position of Marketing Manager Intern. In this capacity, I took on broader responsibilities, working on strategic initiatives and collaborating with a diverse team.

This leadership journey was marked by a passion for social impact, a dedication to continuous learning, and the ability to adapt to new challenges. The support and recognition I received from Free Pads for India set the stage for my progression, shaping me into a leader who values both the team's success and the positive impact on the community.

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

In managing remote work from India for a USA-based company, my daily routine is strategically structured to navigate the significant time zone difference. Rising at 6:00 AM, I kickstart my day with a wholesome breakfast and a brief morning routine to set a positive tone.

From 7:00 AM to 1:00 PM, I dive into the Morning Work Block, focusing on priority tasks, attending virtual meetings with the USA team, and addressing urgent matters during their late afternoon and early evening.

Following a lunch break from 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM for recharging, I designate 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM as a Midday Rest period, allowing for a brief nap or relaxation to prepare for later work hours.

The Afternoon Work Block from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM sees a resumption of ongoing projects, collaboration with the USA team during their morning hours, and attendance at virtual meetings as required.

An Evening Break and Preparation from 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM allow for dinner and readiness for the extended work hours during the night.

From 9:00 PM to 4:30 AM, the Night Work Block becomes crucial. During these deep night hours, I focus on real-time collaboration, engage in virtual meetings, and address critical issues as the USA workday begins.

The transition to sleep from 4:30 AM to 5:30 AM involves winding down work-related tasks, replying to any urgent emails, and preparing for rest.

Ensuring sufficient sleep from 5:30 AM to 6:00 AM is vital, allowing me to start the next workday well-rested. This structured routine enables effective time zone management, ensuring productivity during overlapping hours with the USA team while prioritizing my health and well-being.

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

A recent leadership lesson that has resonated with me is the profound impact of appreciating and acknowledging the team's efforts, leading to the emergence of hidden talents.

In the midst of a challenging project, I made a conscious effort to express genuine appreciation for each team member's contributions, recognizing their dedication and unique skills. As a result, I witnessed a remarkable transformation within the team. Individuals who were typically reserved or had skills not fully utilized began to showcase their hidden talents.

This experience served as a powerful reminder that a leader's acknowledgment and encouragement can create a positive and empowering environment. When team members feel valued and recognized, they are more likely to step outside their comfort zones, take initiative, and unveil talents that may have remained hidden.

The lesson learned is clear: fostering a culture of appreciation and recognition not only boosts team morale but also cultivates an atmosphere where individuals feel confident in showcasing their full range of abilities. It underscores the importance of seeing and acknowledging the unique strengths each team member brings to the table, contributing to a more collaborative and innovative work environment.

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 influenced my leadership journey is "Leaders Eat Last" by Simon Sinek. This impactful read emphasizes the significance of creating a workplace culture centered around trust, collaboration, and a deep sense of belonging.

As I delved into the book, Sinek's insights resonated deeply with my own leadership philosophy. The concept of selfless leadership, where leaders prioritize the well-being and success of their team members, deeply impacted my approach. Inspired by the idea that leaders should serve and support their teams, I began implementing practices that fostered a sense of community and shared purpose.

The book reinforced the importance of appreciating and recognizing the team's efforts. I started actively acknowledging individual contributions and expressing gratitude for their hard work. This intentional appreciation not only boosted team morale but also prompted team members to reveal their hidden talents and strengths.

Moreover, "Leaders Eat Last" underscored the significance of continuous learning and adaptability in leadership. I became more receptive to feedback, implemented changes based on insights from the team, and embraced a growth-oriented mindset.

In essence, this book significantly impacted my leadership style by emphasizing the importance of empathy, trust, and creating an environment where individuals feel valued. It served as a catalyst for a cultural shift within my team, fostering a stronger sense of collaboration, innovation, and collective success.

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

If I could offer one piece of advice to a young leader, it would be this: Showcase your skillset through your work, and don't hesitate to let the world see your capabilities.

In the dynamic landscape of leadership, actions often speak louder than words. Instead of hiding your skills or waiting for recognition, actively demonstrate your capabilities through the impact you create in your projects and responsibilities. Be proactive in taking on challenges that align with your strengths, and consistently deliver results that showcase your unique skillset.

Remember that genuine leadership is not just about telling people what you can do; it's about showing them through your actions. Let your work be a testament to your abilities, and be willing to take on tasks that allow your skills to shine. This approach not only builds credibility but also sets you apart as a leader who leads by example.

So, my advice is simple: Be confident, work hard, and let the world witness the value you bring. When your skills are evident through the tangible impact you make, others will naturally recognize and appreciate your leadership abilities.

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

One meaningful story that stands out from my time as a leader involves a challenging project where the team faced unexpected setbacks. Instead of focusing solely on the obstacles, I chose to approach the situation with a positive and solution-oriented mindset.

During a team meeting, I openly acknowledged the difficulties we were encountering but emphasized our collective strength and capability to overcome them. I encouraged an open dialogue, inviting team members to share their insights and suggestions for navigating the challenges.

One team member, who had been relatively reserved in the past, spoke up and proposed an innovative solution that hadn't been considered before. It turned out that this individual possessed a unique skill set and perspective that was instrumental in overcoming a key aspect of the project hurdles.

The experience reinforced the importance of fostering a positive team culture, where challenges are viewed as opportunities for growth. By maintaining a solution-focused approach and encouraging open communication, the team not only successfully addressed the immediate issues but also uncovered hidden talents and strengths within the group.

This story highlights the transformative power of leadership that emphasizes collaboration, resilience, and recognizing the untapped potential within a team. It reinforces my belief that a positive and inclusive leadership style can unlock creativity and innovation, even in the face of adversity.

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