My year of looking inwards

by Hema Patel, General Manager, Lightbox


As 2017 draws to a close, I find myself focusing on the year that was. It has been a year that has not been short on challenges, yet rewarding in so many ways. The theme of the year for me has been introspection.


Lesson #1 – Imposter Syndrome and self-doubt are opportunity wasters

I started 2017 as a newly appointed yet temporary (‘acting’) leader of a very successful media business – a dream job. The ‘Acting’ title was interesting psychologically and I often referred to myself as a ‘pretend’ GM. I had an initial reluctance to make the big decisions just in case the “real deal” was eventually appointed. The realisation eventually struck that that was actually me and that by not making those calls, I was doing both the business and myself an injustice. My advice: any kind of promotion is an opportunity to prove to yourself and world that you can do this, temporary or not – rise to the challenge. I did, and it worked out ok for me!


Lesson #2 – that crazy old cliché of following your gut instinct

As I leaned forward into the role, I started asking questions well outside my comfort zone in disciplines I felt I was not versed in (product, brand, data). I consulted widely with more experienced and seasoned professionals in these areas and the resounding response was “keep going, trust yourself, you’re asking all the right questions”. This was a very painful process for my teams and external agencies but we got there, with an acknowledgement that we reached a great outcome.  My advice: trust yourself and seek counsel if required.


Lesson #3 – know thyself so that others may know you

This year, I have had not one but 4 or 5 opportunities to work on developing my ‘personal purpose’ statement, with the terrifying outcome of sharing this with my peers, my team, my leadership course cohorts. It has been a valuable exercise in truly knowing myself – what makes me tick? What’s important to me?  What’s my vision? Sharing something so personal feels like opening the door to your heart, which for a reasonably private person was not an easy thing to do. And here’s the thing: vulnerability invites vulnerability which in turn creates trust, empathy and much stronger ties. It’s worth taking the risk!


Lesson #4 – be true to yourself

The interesting thing about lesson #3 is that it paves the way for lesson #4. How can you be true to yourself if you don’t know who you are and what you stand for? How can you be authentic and relatable? Short answer: you can’t.


Lesson #5 – become the change you want to see in the world – M.Gandhi

I’ve had this quotation in my lounge for years and I’m finally starting to understand what it means for me. In a year where diversity & inclusion has been so topical (see our CEO’s speech here) and after the early years of my career where I tried to blend in, I have felt reluctant to be the poster child. But if not me, then who? This has come with its own challenges and actually, embodies each of the lessons above. Am I Indian enough? (I’m a Kiwi by birth). Should I do anything to help? How important is this to me? Is this true to who I am? However, when I took a step back, I realised this was bigger than me. I have a responsibility to working parents, emerging leaders, minority groups, my senior leaders/peers – and to myself – to lean forward. It’s personally very challenging and I feel hugely conflicted but let’s just say I’m working on it.


So 2017, I salute you. I have learned a lot by looking in and have had some extraordinary mentors and coaches to help me along the way. You know who you are and I am truly grateful. Let’s see what 2018 brings.

Hema Patel

Participant in the Play Contemporary Leadership group 2017


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