The Extraordinary Life Of An Extraordinary Leader
Interview with L. Aruna Dhir
By Eileen Bild, Columnist & Featured Contributor at BIZCATALYST360.com and WomensVoicesMagazine.com
In my interview with L. Aruna Dhir, I find a unique person of integrity, wisdom, and strength that goes beyond the norm. Her perseverance through hardships and a determination to be the best version of herself has lead L. Aruna Dhir down a path that has raised her to the top of her profession. It is apparent that her mindset about herself and life has been integral in the unfolding of her success as a writer, mentor, communications expert, hotelier, and leader. When you read this article, you will be inspired by the choices she has made giving her the opportunities to achieve the milestones set as a child.
L. Aruna Dhir shares her passion for writing and how she followed the golden nuggets set before her, taking each stepping stone with grace and empowerment for maximizing her performance. I hope you enjoy reading about the journey one may take, with unforeseen potential, guiding you up a road of trials, tribulations, joys, and happiness.
You have quite an extensive and varied background in education, public relations, writing, marketing, and communications. Share with me how they have all culminated together to assist you in becoming who you are today as a consultant, author, and hospitality & features writer.
L. Aruna Dhir:
I began my career as a Freelance Journalist and Correspondent for a Regional Newspaper, focusing on social, contemporary, developmental issues. This began while I was studying for my Post Graduation and Masters in Philosophy, helping me to consolidate the time at hand and channelize it into the professional arena while still acquiring my educational degrees.
My penchant for writing began at a very early age, as early as Eight or Nine when I wrote my first poem. While in Middle School, my essays always stood apart so much that my English Teacher - Ms. Hemalini Masih - loaned me one of the most comprehensive biographies on English poets from Alexander Pope to WB Yeats. The Red cloth bound Hardcover turned out to be a cornerstone book for me, nudging my spirit and my core towards writing, with leaves from the lives of famous poets as the guiding gauge.
From the beginning, I had eclectic interests, from animals to nature, gardening to geography, socio-anthropology to psychology and Public Relations. This, perhaps, paved the way for me to chart a course in different genres of writing from features to poetry to business writing and then the several tributaries within the realm of business writing itself.
The other two shaping chisels that helped me assimilate, integrate and contribute knowledge-based thought leadership have been - firstly, an innate "pursuit of excellence" that I have doggedly followed and secondly, the "benchmarked, best places" I have had the privilege to work in, that allowed blossoming of talent, creative freedom and an opportunity to present innovative thought and strategy amalgamated with the larger brand ethos.
Then, there has been this discernible DNA to learn, create and pass on that has always egged me to ideate, build and proffer knowledge and expertise amongst teams, peers and protégés; first as an award-winning Manager and then as a globally read Writer.
You are considered one of the finest and highly followed international Hospitality writers with columns running in best ranked global hospitality publications ehotelier, Hospitality Net, Bizcatalyst 360, 4hoteliers, and CFO Connect. Where does your writing inspiration come from and how do the connections impact you as a leader?
L. Aruna Dhir:
The inspiration truly comes from the eagerness to create a webbed world of knowledge sharing, outstanding merit, a bank of thought and experience-based treasure that is available to many in an environment of intellectual brilliance.
It is a two-way street. The more you share your knowledge, the more you learn via interactions of the highest caliber and with intersections of highly experienced thoughts and comments.
Who is really a Leader? It is someone who pursues excellence in work, perpetuates acuity, inspires and inculcates talent, encourages merit and allows for a suitably fertile ground for growth and creativity to blossom in an equalitarian environment. As people who may have reached a certain station in our levels of expertness, we owe it to others to build such a healthy, mindful and mentally enhancing milieu.
When you were young, what did you want to be when you became an adult? Has your career path aligned with this vision you had as a child? Looking back, do you feel your intentions set at an early age have impacted who you have become?
L. Aruna Dhir:
Even as a child, my favourite pastimes were reading and writing; far more than games and other forms of entertainment. Then; as a young adult, my choice for moonlighting and summer jobs was working with Regional Newspapers and becoming the City Correspondent for National Magazines.
From being a Keats fan to a Wordsworth acolyte and then becoming an ardent disciple of Sun Tzu, Freud, Jung, Maslow and Adler to following the writing styles of Bach, Kafka, Hemingway, Kotler and Carlzon; the realization came fast and quick that I wanted to be able to coach, mentor and guide through the influence and impact of the written word.
After the initial toddler temptations with toy needles and stethoscope and the games around playing Doctor, I began to understand my fascination with words and the interest in people - their mind, their intellect, their behaviour and the uniqueness we as a people bring to the world. Hence, it indeed was a natural veering towards first Psychology, then Public Relations and finally Hospitality - the quintessential business which is of the people, by the people, and for the people.
So, it is safe to say that I always wanted to be a Writer and wished to create a professional playfield where I could create, communicate, share, stimulate and encourage insight and produce know-how that can have a lasting value.
Business communication is key to success. Please share what you believe are the top qualities of communication every business should be practicing. Why are they so important?
L. Aruna Dhir:
Communications is the single most important key to your Brand positioning, Brand awareness, Brand recognition and Brand association.
Whatever you may do - from providing medical care to creating an aspirational lifestyle; whatever you may wish to sell from air travel to Z-plus security, it must be communicated to your target audience. That is what Business Communications is all about - building and cementing relationships with your clientele and strategizing to deliver your Company message to them in the best possible and relatable ways.
When in doubt about how to devise the most effective communication capsules, always remember to adhere to the 7 Cs of Communication - Be Clear, Concise, Concrete, Correct, Coherent, Complete and Courteous. With this simple maxim, you can never go wrong in ensuring maximum reach, frequency, and penetration of your messages to the target audience.
With the advent of new Communication channels that are easily searchable, play round the clock and have the propensity for information to be dug out of the archives with just a mere click, it becomes imperative that the Communications professional and all the other Company spokespeople are cautious, clear, honest, conscientious and with a global outlook in the way they communicate, not only professionally but also personally.
If Communication has the power to build a brand and keep it on top of the mind recall level, it also has the proclivity to break the brand and create reverse value in the minds of the public.
The best Communications Strategy for any Company would involve the following essential aspects - It bears value for the Brand and its products, carries a promise of service delivery, is coherent and customer-engaging, reliable and realistic and is delivered in a timely fashion.
You have been a Cultural Ambassador under the aegis of Rotary International. Tell me more about this prestigious position.
L. Aruna Dhir:
In the summer of 2001, I was selected as a delegate under the prestigious Group Study Exchange (GSE) Program of Rotary International. The role entailed representing India to a select group of opinion-makers in the United States, as a Cultural Ambassador under the aegis of Rotary International.
We travelled through the designated regions of Washington DC and the State of Maryland and interacted with industry leaders, City Opinion makers, State Decision makers, experts, trade professionals and luminaries in their respective fields to introduce the philosophy and essence of India as a Country of huge global significance. The Fellowship was also about learning the American business, professional and personal best practices and community initiatives and to exchange ideas on business, social, cultural, educational and youth engagements between the two countries.
And in 2003, I participated in the IXth Commonwealth Study Conference held in Australia that was chaired by Princess Anne. The theme of this Conference was "People first in the global community." It put the individual in the centre of the flux of globalization and endeavoured to understand the relationship and integration between the citizen and the community, corporation and nation-state the citizen exists and thrives in.
Both these international experiences have been defining interfaces in shaping thought and helping me to become a more aware, compassionate and significantly contributing Global Citizen.
As of November 2017, I have been inducted as a Board Member into AELD – the Association of Emerging Leaders Dialogues, a Commonwealth Forum for sharing ideas and achievement and presided over by HRH The Princess Royal, Princess Anne.
What has been some of your most valuable struggles as you have worked your way towards the success you have achieved. How have they inspired you to be the best version of yourself?
L. Aruna Dhir:
The most potent struggle that I have faced has been at a personal level. From growing up in a much feted and fawned upon the environment as a daughter of a very senior Government Official to falling into a life of anonymity and dejection when my father passed away when I was only Nine, the contrast of the two existences was sharp, rude, harsh, strongly impressionable and with lasting lessons. As we all know, in our primarily patriarchal society, a fatherless world for a child is rugged and unrelenting.
I had to learn fast to gather all the strewn up bits – psychological, physical, emotional, social – around me and learn to create my own identity in such a manner that I could manage to stand above and outside the crowd. At that age, it was not only an ambitious exercise but one that allowed for survival and brought in the aspect of a social standing.
The second struggle has been the aspect of reaching milestones after milestones in the absence of any Godfather or Benefactor. But growing and developing on one"s own steam brings in satisfaction of the highest order – one that is matchless and has a level of permanence to it.
From being India"s first–ever Creative Writer for the Indian greeting cards giant – ARCHIES Greetings and Gifts Ltd. and coming out with several series of cards sold by my byline – an unprecedented feat that has not been repeated since to being voted as one of the finest Hospitality PR professionals nationally to finally gaining a following of readers for one"s industry writings – the fact that it was effort based and not via external push or endorsement gives one the eternal hope that one can not only dream and aspire but also endeavour to attain.
The third struggle was woven around the battle one had to fight with one"s own self. I had to overcome my own shyness, introversion, fear, and insecurities to come out on top of whatever I began to dabble in – whether it was working in the very public and visual mediums of radio and television, or combating my own low confidence levels to try and become a good public speaker and to push myself from being a wallflower and a desk warrior to go out in the open and win my own race in the very glamorous, very "in-the-public-eye," very exposure-laden industry of Five Star hotels.
The fourth significant struggle came via the opportunity to work in diversified industries – from Social Expressions to Journalism to Education to Diplomatic to Hospitality to finally Writing. When you work in different industries, you must be prepared to unlearn, learn and relearn; which no doubt is a magnificent teacher but one that brings with it a huge amount of challenges. But if you allow the seed of "excellence" to germinate and grow and if you stoke the fire of "being the best in what you do" then success begins to walk by your side despite the struggles and trials and tribulations.
Tell me three power thoughts you feel have been instrumental in the strength of your achievements, leading to all the various projects you are involved in, the columns you write for and the high-profile positions you hold.
L. Aruna Dhir:
These three definitely have been the personal motivators. Dream Big. Dream beyond one"s Zone. Dream outside one"s comfort level. Define one"s personality as distinctive in one"s profession. Define one"s genre that helps stand you apart. Define your style. Define your personal statement. Define your personal mission and Vision. Finally, cut off from the cookie-cutter conveyor belt and be discernible. Be Different. Present a body of work that is distinct and singularly special. Be distinguishable.
What is your favorite quote?
L. Aruna Dhir:
In fact, I have two:
"Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime, and, departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time."
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night"
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
For anyone reading this interview, please share what you believe sets you apart, giving you the ability to reach a level of success enabling you to be a leader, mentor and highly respected professional.
L. Aruna Dhir:
To be hopefully individualistic, keep myself motivated and not lose sight of my intended targets for life, I have devised a set of two formulae – there is a "G" formula and then there is an "E" formula.
"G" formula comprises of Gratitude, Goals, and Gumption.
The foremost thing that I wish to bear in mind is Gratitude. In almost all my endeavours I resolve that I must "pay it back" and "pay it forward." None of us grow up as islands. Neither do we gain, learn and attain while being in a world of one. In our personal voyage, we gather so much obligation and debt along the way – of the world, of our family, of our teachers, of our mentors, even of our detractors and critics and finally of the Almighty. Hence, it becomes imperative to pay back to the world and the Universe what we have so richly reaped from it.
Also, having achieved a certain position, having gathered a bank of knowledge, having accumulated experience of meaningful value, it becomes our moral commitment to pay it forward to those who are our co-travellers in this journey of life.
The second thing is Goals. There are milestones to be crossed, destinations to be reached; flags to be posted on personal Summits that one has garnered ambition for.
The third is Gumption and Grit. One just has to be courageous in the face of all adversity. One must persevere and be consistent in one"s efforts. One must foster a zeal within that is both zestful and full of enthusiasm a zillion times over. That is what keeps you going and prods you on to carve a unique passage through this incarnation.
The "E" formula helps me define and differentiate my enterprise. I see it as a five-point credo and aim to infuse the following five integral aspects into any work that I take on, be it a project, an assignment or a piece of writing –
Exciting – it should stimulate interest in the reader/end user. Engaging – it must inculcate participation and free-flowing exchange of ideas. Exceptional – it should offer a unique value and must be of high merit. Empowering – it should equip the reader/end user with knowledge, insight, and acumen. Enlightening – it must have a vision, it must impart wisdom, it must bear a "Wow" factor and encourage excellence.
We all have a story and your journey has been blessed with many extraordinary experiences. Along the way, you have gained some wisdom regarding choices, mindset, communication and public relations. What words of wisdom would you like to pass along to inspire others to believe in themselves and reach their highest potential?
L. Aruna Dhir:
As a keen observer of people from different walks of life and their behaviour, I have come to the conclusion that success is not only the life-force of an Identity but that it is also subjective.
While each of us may dance to a different music, beat our own course on a virgin path, look at possibilities with our unique pair of eyes and give distinct shapes to our professional destiny moulding the clay of nous and effort in our separate ways; the bottom line for measuring success remains universally the same. You ought to be the best in what you do, deliver to the best of your ability and strive for greater excellence at all times; it is then that you are truly successful.
The most important quality to be successful remains the age-old one of hard work. If you need to get somewhere you will have to burn the midnight oil to get there. There are no shortcuts or quick fixes.
The second quality would be persistence, perseverance and a consistent internal push. We would not have had light bulbs or telephones or planes or the revolutionizing concepts of relativity and
Archimedes principle, to cite a few examples, had it not been for the never-say-die spirit of these zealous, determined folk.
The third most important quality is, undoubtedly, passion. That definitely is the main driver in your path to success. If you don"t let that little light within you extinguish or quell the inner voice that pushes you on and if you keep the fire in your belly alive and stoked then it is passion that does it for you. It is passion that keeps you motivated in the face of flak, failure or fear.
Fervour, ardour, enthusiasm, craze, drive – call it by any name but it is passion that is your undying spirit which keeps your dreams alive and brings you a step closer to your coveted calling.
It is important to maintain a slick intellect, razor-sharp mind, and well-oiled mental faculties; regardless of the stressful environment we work in and the exigencies we face day in and day out. In fact, application of intelligence, astuteness, quick-wittedness and mental alacrity differentiate the tough from the beaten, the winners from losers.
Also, develop an affinity with the three Cs of attitude –
Be Confident in yourself and in all that your qualifications and experience have richly treasured up in you. Be confident to learn, change and adapt.
Be Courageous. Hone your courage to meet biggest challenges, toughest professional terrains and the harshest of winds that may blow against you.
Be Compassionate. It is imperative to see things from the other"s point of view, treat them kindly and be empathetic in team-work; the last being the prerequisite to ensure that the ship sails smoothly in the same direction with no parts of it divided or torn apart by strife and discordance.
Finally, always strive to be a Professional in whatever you do! And here"s how I would define a Professional – Be a mentor, be positive, make mistakes and learn from them, make no compromises, always deliver, always take charge, be a perpetual learner, be a visionary and always see the Big Picture!
L. Aruna Dhir