Asian Executive Presence: Rahul Shah

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Rahul is a speaker and strategist in the area of Communications for the last 12 years as a founder of Path Layers Business Services. The eloquent speaker says that sometimes wearing a fedora hat helps amplify his coolness. But from what we have observed, he is full of presence even without it. Rahul has grown his influence further by building a strong personal development community called Up Your Game since 2016 which offers no-fee sessions to anyone who wants to better themselves. 

1. What does leadership mean to you?

Early in my entrepreneurial journey, I came across an article detailing how a pack of wolves function. I will use that as an analogy. 

In a wolf pack, the first three are the old or sick. Then come five strong ones. In the centre are the rest of the pack members, then the five strongest following. Last is the alpha. In that position, he can see everything and accordingly, decide the direction. He positions himself to watch all of the pack. 

That defined for me what it means to be a leader. 

1)     It is about ensuring that the weakest in the team are looked out for, not sacrificed, not left behind, supported by those who have the strengths that make up for their weakness. 

2)     A leader ensures the organisation’s growth is in tandem with his team’s ability to keep up. In that sense, it is his vested interest to provide his team is always strengthening, upgrading and upskilling to be able to pace up. For that, he needs to know each member of his team well. 

3)     A leader should always put his team, their progress, their direction, their wellbeing, their journeys ahead of himself. 

4)     A leader should be well positioned to have an overview of how his team is doing, pre-empt foreseeable risks or threats or challenges, direct his team to navigate around or respond to such stressful situations and help them get to their goals. He needs to be close enough to his team to be familiar with what they are encountering and dealing with. 

5)     A leader should be a visionary, a guide and a facilitator.

2. What made you strive for a leadership role? 

I never actually strived for leadership roles. I do not see leadership as something to have or attain. Leadership to me is a verb. It is something that you do. When you practice self-leadership, from my experience, you naturally fill voids and people who require that support, guidance, mentoring and facilitation will start looking out for you to lead because they trust you or respect you or simply like you. 


3. Who inspires you?

I have, through my journey, learnt something from every person that I have interacted with. I am a huge believer of every atom in our Universe having within it stored wisdom waiting for us to uncover. However if I must mention specifics, as cliché as it may sound, my family has been my greatest influence in shaping my leadership approach. 

My late grandmother’s tough love, discipline and respect for time and routine, father’s uncompromising and unwavering values, principles and hard work, mother’s unconditional love, nurturing and sacrifices, brother’s stubborn pursuit of unfiltered truth, blunt honesty and ambition, aunt’s ability to find meaning and purpose in the most trivial tasks, sister-in-law’s adaptability and prudence have allowed me to find my own balanced approach to self-leadership. More importantly, it prepared me to interact with and co-exist with individuals with as many dissimilarities as there are similarities. They shaped me fundamentally as the individual that I came to be. 

Marriage also brought with it more mentors and individuals that helped to add different perspectives and dimensions. I learnt how storytelling can connect people even in day to day conversations from my father-in-law, the role faith and believe can play in providing strong anchors in tough situations from my mother-in-law, the importance of staying connected, staying in the know and keeping oneself updated of latest happenings from siblings through marriage. 

The second most important lesson from all these mentors is The Value of Relationships. Being able to relate and with that relatability to form healthy, trust-based relationships are the most basic yet most universal tool that any leader can have in their leadership toolkit. 

The most valuable lesson I have learnt, and also the most recent, is from my wife. She has helped me to realise that for any leader to succeed, he needs to be committed, without the option to quit, in his pursuit to make things work. Through unwavering attention, tactful yet honest open communication, a genuine interest to be actively involved in the best and the worst that the journey may bring and thorough dedication to the bigger purpose, commitment helps to hold teams together even in the harshest of storms. 

While prominent figures can inspire us greatly, it is essential that leaders draw greater inspiration from those around them to truly be able to appreciate and tap on their value and their strengths.


3. How did your Asian values influence your approach to building your presence?

Humility, service and a focus on right actions over outcomes are pillars that rose out of my exposure to religions and faiths early in my life. The starting point was in understanding the concepts of Karma & Dharma. I will be happy to take up anyone’s offer to have a more in-depth discussion on this over juice or coffee ☺ 

4. What knowledge/skill did you have to learn on your journey to leadership? 

I am an extreme introvert. Learning how to be around people was the hardest skill to learn. Along with that comes learning how to start and hold meaningful conversations, how to tell stories that can inspire and influence people and learn how to connect with people’s intrinsic motivational drivers. You cannot be much of a leader when people do not even notice you. So I had to learn those skills. 


5. What was your greatest challenge/struggle? 

I have never seen situations as challenges or struggles. I see tough moments as obstacles or blockages in a maze. You simply need to discover the path around it. I see situations simplistically and even with a strong element of naivety. Of course, as we run businesses, there will be ups and downs. Take it in stride. Move onward. 


6. What was your moment of greatest fulfilment so far?

On my 21st birthday, I took that first step towards living my life by my design by starting my own business. I overcame the mental blocks, the external noises and the emotional roller coaster to take that first step. Every other professional achievement since is only the result of that one action. Each new win only adds to how fulfilling that one act and that one decision feels. 

Take that first step. Even when you are not sure, take it. Leaders Consistently Take First Steps.


7. What would you tell an executive aspiring to leadership roles?

Do away with what textbooks, prominent personalities or even this interview tells you about leadership. Find inspiration from every source but at the end of the day do not try to replicate. Use that inspiration to experiment with your own unique blend of leadership style and approach that makes you unique, stand out, comfortable and works for you. 

Secondly, focus on people, people, people with all the authenticity, curiosity, sincerity and humility that you can muster. 


About Asian Executive Presence

Asian Executive Presence movement is started by Dean Shams to bring an Asian perspective and voice to the topic of developing Executive Presence. The blog features Asian executives, entrepreneurs and leaders who exude presence. They are either hand picked by Dean or nominated. The interviews are meant to gain a deeper understanding of how these individuals think about leadership and building a strong presence. You don't have to be a top executive to exude presence. Leadership can be displayed and experienced at any level of the corporate ladder. This movement celebrates that. 

Know someone who exudes presence? Nominate him/her to be interviewed. Click here