Rhea Leckie, Author and CEO, shares her views on Leadership, Indian Corporates and the Global Mindset

Be it as a storyteller, author, CEO or adventure sports enthusiast, Rhea Leckie believes in living her life to the mantra of ‘anything is possible’. JBM traces her journey.

Born in London, bred in India and shaped in UK across 20 cultural stints, Rhea Leckie’s (Duttagupta) story has its humble roots in a young girl from a middle class Bengali home with heaps of self-belief and a restlessness, daring to take the plunge in rescripting her destiny. Rhea did not know at the time that she would one day become one of the youngest directors at Pricewaterhouse Coopers in UK.

Read the full article from DNA India in pdf format

Award : Best Career Coach Event : World HRD & Coaching Congress, Mumbai, India- Feb 16, 2013.

Home grown: EDF Energy training leaders for uncertainty

Following integration with British Energy in early 2009, EDF Energy looked to refocus its leadership. There was a need to develop a pool of future-focused leaders who could build and implement a long-term vision of how the organisation would contribute in an uncertain future.

Utilities employees, broadly speaking, tend to be technically wired with strong left brain reliance. Building their internal and external relationship base is often challenging, which means they can find it tough to inspire people through change, to build strong teams in uncertain times and to improve their leadership visibility and personal impact. A programme has been implemented lo help EDF managers access their right brain and emotional intelligence, not to replace their technical expertise but to complement it. This has resulted in improved morale, performance and profits.

During 2009, a talent review and succession planning process identified a group of senior managers to attend a strategic leadership development programme. This was designed to accelerate executives’ ability to build a “leadership toolkit” and to develop the resilience to meet tough challenges head-on. The participants were at a grade where they had to move beyond technical leadership and direct their energy to influencing a range of people, including staff reporting to them, colleagues, clients and suppliers.

The specific benefits are shown in the table, but as leadership impact ultimately drives business success, it’s really about turning senior managers into the leaders of tomorrow.

Read the full article in Utility Week

Leadership matters, more now, than ever. The team in charge of the organisation, its DNA at the apex, can make or ruin the business. Character, a combination of identity and reputation is just as essential for top teams as is skill and competence. The correct code builds a strong I leadership DNA, by bridging the growing disconnect between the ‘leader’ and the ‘ship’ it leads.

Read the full article in HRD Director

Rhea Duttagupta, founder and MD of CorporateDNA Consulting presents the case for women needing ‘to be themselves’ and shedding the male cloak to advance up the corporate ladder with more grace and less compromise.

Read the full article in Talent Management Magazine

Building a client base with the three Ts – tenacity, truth and trust…

Rhea Duttagupta was on the road to becoming a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers when she had one of those “now or never” moments – and decided to form Corporate DNA Consulting, a business that works with senior managers and directors to implement culture change and team-building within organisations…

Read the full article in The Telegraph Business Club

‘Invited by the Malaysian Government, Rhea shared a platform with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Women to inspire the audience of 1200, August 2008.’

Rhea was nominated for the prestigious Women of the Future Awards in association with Shell in Nov 2008 for entrepreneurship in Corporate Britain.

Women don’t have to adopt male traits to show they are competent and able to lead…

A 2008 Learning Lab facilitated by Rhea Duttagupta, sponsored by Shell Malaysia

Rhea Duttagupta, founder of CorporateDNA, a consultancy firm in the UK, started off the Learning Lab by asking the 220 women who had enthusiastically showed up for her Learning Lab: “Why have you come to this workshop?” Tellingly, most answered: “You!”

Rhea had completely charmed the 1,200-strong audience during the morning’s panel session with her natural poise and leadership qualities. At the Learning Lab, she used the symbol of a maze to depict the leadership journey. “Women coming to the top is a little like going through a maze,” she said, adding the journey they take is inevitably complicated, full of twists and turns. “Being good and hardworking is not good enough,” she stressed. “You need to master certain codes and laws.”

She went on to share ‘The Laws of Leadership’, which she developed after interviewing leaders (men and women) from around the world. While these “laws” have been distilled for a book she is producing, and are applicable to both sexes, those presented at the Learning Lab were tweaked to be more relevant to women.

1. Political Savvy.

This is about being aware of all those things that go on in an organisation that are normally not talked about. E.g. somebody backstabs you, plays mind games with you, doesn’t tell you the big picture, etc. While the organisational structure is what is presented to the world, it is actually the underlying, silent, political structure that is more important.

“Men are generally better at deciphering the political structure, while women say politics is a bad thing and stay away from it,” said Rhea. “So women put in many hours, but don’t see any results. You have to accept the politics and see how you can navigate your way through it. You need to find out how to get all the information you need that you won’t get from the official handbook or your line manager.”

2. Being Authentic.

Women find it very difficult to be true to themselves because there are lots of value judgments that say being soft or feminine is not good. “That’s rubbish!” said Rhea. “Being feminine will make you a more human leader than lots of male leaders.”

3. Teaming With Men.

It’s not productive to say men don’t understand us and are out to get us. Of course, it’s not always easy to be “one of the lads” either! “Many times, I’ve entered a room, 17 men are talking, and suddenly they stop talking. It’s scary… that silence… because you think you’ve done something wrong,” Rhea related. “But it’s not you… it’s them!”

She went on to say it’s perfectly ok to ask them why they stopped talking. You could even take it one step further and say, let’s stop talking football and talk about gardening instead! “You don’t have to comply all the time. You don’t need to be frightened,” said Rhea.

One “teaming up” technique she advocates strongly is going out with male colleagues now and again, for example for a teh tarik session or lunch. “Once a week, try to do something informal. A lot of organisations have breakfasts together.”

4. Building Your PR.

In some cultures, women find it very hard to build their PR. “You learn it’s wrong to promote yourself. But there’s nothing wrong with PR. PR is about visibility. That when you work hard, it gets noticed and rewarded,” explained Rhea. “Even women who are introverted can work on their PR. Do it through someone else. Make sure your manager promotes your work.”

5. Perfectionism – no!


o one is perfect and there is no need to expect to be good at everything. Also, it is only human to make mistakes. In fact, making mistakes is part of learning and gaining experience.

6. Make Your Words Count.

It’s important to deliver on what you say. “Keeping your word is very important. Women tend to promise too much, and then cannot deliver, because you always want to please,” said Rhea. Language is so important – many people can literally “talk their way to the top”. Use language carefully. Talk with confidence but with humility and compassion at the same time.

7. Managing Your Emotions.

Women are said to be more emotional than men. While some emotions can be positive, such as feelings of empathy, it is important to be able to control negative emotions, such as anger and frustration. This applies equally to men.

8. Knowing What You Want.

Without a goal to aspire to, you cannot plan your road to success.

9. Being Comfortable with Power.

Women have more power than men, but are not aware of it or are too shy to use it. “It’s not about control or structural hierarchy. It’s about how you influence others,” said Rhea. “Use the attributes God has given you. We are ruled by our hearts, heads and gut. Women have more heart and gut than head. Today, a lot of important decisions on, say, global warming, need more heart-gut decisions. So when you leave the house, don’t leave your heart behind. Take it to the office with you.”

10. Focus on Your Strengths.

Work out what you are really good at and use it to the max. “Focus on your strengths and make the most of it. Really excel at this and your weaknesses won’t matter,” she said.

11. Courage & Risks.

In order to get to reach your full potential, you need to take some risks. Of course, these should be measured and worth taking. In other words, there is a difference between clever risk-taking and blind foolhardiness!

12. Embrace Conflict.

Conflict will exist in every organisation; in every sphere of life. Accept it, and learn how to deal with it in a politically smart way.

13. Think Success.

This is self-explanatory!

14. Different is Good.

You don’t have to be a follower. The more you celebrate your differences, the more creative the organisation will be.

15. Learning to say No.

How do you say no to your line manager who’s just promised to promote you? “Even in the UK, British women can be very compliant. When a manager says do something, they say consider it done,” said Rhea. “It’s really important you say no. But say why you’re saying no. For example, you can say, ‘Fine, I’m happy to do that, but something has to come off.’ We’re all human beings.”

16. 60/40 rule

According to research, 60 per cent of success is attributed to interpretation and only 40 per cent to pure information. “Sometimes, you spend too much time collecting information, researching data. But more important is how you interpret this info,” asserted Rhea. “Say you’re suggesting you deserve a promotion, in addition to your bosses hearing the data (your reasons for a promotion), they are also interpreting that information. You need to be aware of that.”

17. Lead with Integrity & Truth Telling.

The ability to stand out and tell the truth is quite hard, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Learn to use language like: “The way you spoke to me, it’s not fair.” According to Rhea, it’s also not easy to accept the truth. For example, you may ask people how they perceive you, and then not be able to take their comments. “But again, this is a question of getting used to it.”

18. Make Mistakes.

Taking on new tasks and learning from mistakes is a faster way to developing than going on any programme.

19. Ask for Help.

It takes real humility to say you don’t know how to do something. “But asking for help from men is one of the fastest ways of getting the job done.” From her own experience, and as she found out from the participants, it can be harder to get help from women than men! In response to the point about women not helping each other out, Rhea provided some tips on “teaming up with women”:

? Move On & Let Go. Do not dwell on negative comment. Do not become too personal about criticism.

? Treat Others the Way You Want to be Treated. The problem here is like the mother-in-law, daughter-in-law syndrome. Just as successful women have had to climb the corporate ladder the hard way, they intend for others after them to face the same challenges. But women need to cooperate with each other and support each other as much as possible.

? Be honest and take honesty. Women’s ability to switch from the left to right hemisphere is far stronger than men’s. “So, we hear 80% of what is said, and leave 20% to our imagination! And we get hurt. Men are more objective,” said Rhea. Her advice: control the desire to imagine that 20%.

? Coaching and mentoring. Female coaches can be a great way to improve yourself and develop a good relationship with your female superior. Some of the best coaches we have are at home: our husbands, wives, parents, in-laws…

Rhea ended the workshop by asking the participants to work in groups and come out with the five things they are going to do differently with immediate effect.

Our thanks to Shell Malaysia for sponsoring this workshop.