I’m the youngest in the family. Not the entire family – there’s a lot of us – but the baby in my immediate family. So I inevitably never got the blame (sorry, big bro), was always last to find out important news and was afforded a certain level of leniency; I still had Asian parents so I didn’t get off scot-free!
It wasn’t all good though. Being the youngest means you’re sheltered, and I was often told I’m “too soft.” What all of this means in the context of The Xec. programme and the world of PR isn’t obvious.
But when I look back to my younger years, I think about the influence it had on the kind of leader I am today. And while I thought being a little soft put me at a loss, I soon learnt how to use it to my advantage.
The ‘Andrex puppy’ approach
The person that started work at Harvard six and a half years ago is incredibly different to the kid from Crawley. I was shy and I didn’t speak up for myself or others at a young age. Worst still, I bottled up my emotions.
I just didn’t really know who I was and I didn’t afford myself the time to work it out. Eventually, it became part of my mental health journey to embrace the kind of person I wanted to be, instead of suppressing my feelings. It’s why I went to therapy and became a mental health first aider, to help others around me.
I’m glad I did too because I was able to embrace my personality in so many ways, personally and professionally. Joining Harvard, my then team leader and current MD described me as an Andrex puppy. Enthusiastic, curious and, you guessed it, a little soft.
She meant it as a good thing though and something to learn from. Thankfully, I listened.
Listen to yourself and help others
Being born in the UK but with roots in Zambia and India, I look around and see very few role models that I can relate to. And I can only imagine how many other shy, sheltered Asian men there are in the world.
We must do so much more to support young talent from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic backgrounds and destigmatise what it means to discuss mental health openly. One in two communications professionals experienced stress, anxiety, or burnout last year, and eight in 10 of those who reported mental health challenges to their employer went on to feel discriminated against by colleagues.
Both stats paint a serious picture that we must do so much more collectively; ironic that comms professionals lack the empathy and understanding to openly communicate!
Don’t change… for anyone.
So if you’re shy like me, be shy. If you’re extroverted, embrace it. But do not for a second change who you are. And find your place in this weird world of PR because there’s space for everyone.
I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of being the baby boy at home. I love that though… I still get away with loads! What I have grown to love is being a leader in my team, a line manager and an emotional, shy leader at that.
I try to be transparent and honest with anyone that I work with – good or bad. I like to think that’s my superpower. And if I ever get it wrong, I hope someone tells me so I can learn from it.