Nina Godiwalla on How Selfless Leadership Creates Virtuous Cycles

In Chapter 15 of 22 in her 2011 Capture Your Flag interview, author Nina Godiwalla answers "What Does It Mean to Be a Leader in What You Do?"  Godiwalla notes the importance of conviction in leadership - believing in what you do.  She compares and contrasts leading and managing.  Godiwalla notes how shared passions and beliefs complement selfless approach to serve others that creates virtuous cycles, or positive feedback loops.  Godiwalla is the author of "Suits: A Woman on Wall Street".  She is also a public speaker on workplace diversity and founder and CEO of Mindworks, where she teaches mind-based stress reduction techniques to help organizations improve employee wellbeing.  Godiwalla holds an MBA from the Wharton School of Business, an MA in Creative Writing from Dartmouth University and her BBA from the University of Texas at Austin. 


Erik Michielsen:  What does it mean to be a leader in what you do?

Nina Godiwalla:  One the main things about that is believing in what you do.  I think there’s a difference between a manager and a leader and a leader is you’re going through and you’re inspiring people and it’s so important when you are inspiring people that you embody and love and enjoy what you do.  So being a leader, you’re able to take people along with your vision. You have a sense of what people want to do and you have a sense of what your goal is and you have to be able to marry those so that people are doing what they want to do too and I think that’s very challenging.  Managing is telling people what they need to do you know and that it should get done but you’re not really bringing in kind of their spirit with – along with that.  You need to bring in, you know what you want, you believe in it and how do you get the people below you to really believe in that as well.

Erik Michielsen:  And how is that translating into what you do and how you see yourself in the world?

Nina Godiwalla:  Well, part of it is I have a little more flexibility but it’s surrounding yourself I think by the people where you have that shared passion.  You have that shared belief and going back to what you said about networking is, the people that have helped me along the way, I am definitely there to help them as well and the people that haven’t necessarily helped me, I am there to help them because it doesn’t matter.  It’s like it’s not about you did this for me and I did this for you.  It’s kind of you just see it as larger community.  We’re part of this larger world and the more I give to other people, the more things will come back to me.  I mean it’s karma.  It just works that way.  It’s a natural thing. 

So when I’m talking to somebody I mean I have this really this young woman who is just like bursting with entrepreneurial energy and she’s kind of stuck in this, this world where she is not able to use it but she does it a lot in her personal time and I – she's the kind of person that she just wants to connect with me every now and again.  She sends me emails.  She just needs that connection and I don’t think about it as “well, what am I going to get from her, or later on what it’s going to be.”  It’s you’re putting that energy out into the world and I know that later on when she gets herself down and she gets what she wants, she will be helping that other person and it’s that feeling, that feeling that we’re all just looking out for each other and when you’re in this entrepreneurial world, I really feel that people are doing that.  Not everybody but I think the majority of the people and some people they’re not going to help you.  You reach out to some people and they won’t help you or every now and again, you might have to turn someone down but that’s just part of the process.