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Leading with Grit and Grace - An Ode

TalentNomics India’s 5th Annual Leadership Conference, themed “Leading with Grit and Grace” was held on November 5th and 6th, 2020. This was our first virtual conference and we hosted this jointly with our partner Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS). There were more than 20 speakers from around the World and the event was attended by 500 Indian and International participants.

We at TalentNomics India are overwhelmed at the outstanding response to our Conference

The conference has an interesting back story and what better time than now to share the wonderful Life and Leadership lessons we have gained in the course of the conference journey from its conception to its execution.


At TalentNomics India, we pride ourselves in always delivering Quality. To ensure that, we like to plan every offering in advance, plan it well so that it is executed well. In that spirit, the genesis of the Conference 2020 began sometime in June 2019, in order to roll it out as announced in the 2nd week of February 2020.Looking back, the theme chosen then seems so staid and boring to the world we are now in!

The Conference life cycle was one of the toughest Leadership tests we were put through. Here’s the lowdown.

Our first Leadership test: The Covid-19 Tsunami hit the world and us! All our good and proactive planning were put to rest.

Question: To do or not to do?

We went through many internal discussions and a lot of back & forth with our Conference partners, KAS. We traversed the entire spectrum: from postponement to cancelling, from In-person to Virtual. The uncertainty around the pandemic seemed to keep the goal post and the field a continuously moving target.

Our final Response & Decision: We bit the bullet. The Bold decision to make Conference 2020 happen was taken.

Our partners KAS extended their complete support to go virtual in early June 2020.

The Second Leadership test: Putting together a Virtual Conference was completely uncharted territory.

Question: Virtual Conference? What would it entail? How should we go about it?

There was only one certainty within our team: To put together a world class global event.

The Challenges: With a very small team that had no expertise in managing any virtual event, we had taken the plunge into real deep waters. It seemed as if our collective learning and expertise of managing four previous successful conferences seemed to hold very little value.

It is an understatement that it has been a very steep upward learning curve.

What was on the plate?

  • deciding on the soft areas of theme, concept note, format, dates, speakers, audience profile, to identifying appropriate technology platform and marketing expertise.

  • identifying and detailing out the specs on each requirement to an absolute minutest detail with no margin for error.

  • almost signing up with vendors, to the deal falling apart and starting all over again.

  • the voluminous paper work, getting contracts signed, enlisting partners and managing payments.

All of this within very tight deadlines. A tight rope walk it has been.

Our mood and emotions? Swung from being confident one day to being down in the dumps the other, from wondering if we had bitten off more than we could chew- as a team we have been through it all.

Many sleepless nights, outbursts, realignment, setback in team, downsizing and resizing, Corona hitting within our team. Some tough calls had to be taken. We continued to swim with all this and more.

All was not lost. All was not dismal either. Within the chaos and a madness there was a method and an unfoldment. In true spirit the proverbial “when the going gets tough, the tough in us all” got going. And How!!

How we coped: The tough spot we were in and the virus made us humble and grateful at the same time.

In all humility, we reached out to our amazing Advisory Board, Advisory Council, our networks of friends, family and well-wishers. Support poured in from many unexpected quarters. From that moment onwards, there was no looking back as a team for us.

We set up a brainstorming team for planning. It was a collective pool of varied talent and skill sets that worked earnestly, with commitment. There was fun, camaraderie, learning, a lightness and ease that was a source of abundant positivity and energy.

Genuine good intent was visible for all those who aligned with us. From speakers, vendors, partners, volunteers, all other stakeholders.

The Third Leadership Lesson: Unleashing the potential within

Question: What did we discover about ourselves?

A vast reserve of strength and resilience within each one of us. A seeming setback became an opportunity to grow. We recalibrated, realigned, re-skilled, re-invented.

  • We broke a number of our own Self beliefs and limitations.

  • We truly went global- audience, speakers, partners, participation and most importantly in our mindsets.

  • We on- boarded new team members virtually and have been able to establish warm bonds, even though still virtual.

  • We were always willing to learn from and provide support to each other. At times it was frustrating not to be not sitting across the table with each other. Over time we built in efficiencies in the processes of coordination, feedback, quick turnaround times straddling time zones.

  • Each member in the team fully, wholly and completely owned the conference and the role assigned working under tremendous pressure with composure.

  • We worked tirelessly across time zones: US, Europe, India, Japan, clocking an average of 20 hours work days, 5 days a week for 2.5 months!

It was sheer Grit and Grace at play- living, breathing and displaying our Conference title in every moment, every decision, every risk taken, holding and supporting each other.

A parting note to the Ode

Our lesson is a story of reboot. Starting afresh, of learning and building something ground up – reinventing our conference from scratch in a virtual setup and making a success of it.

As a team we have added newer dimensions to the erstwhile VUCA definition.

It’s been a great boost to our levels of confidence. This has been a truly worthwhile journey of growth and learning for us all at TalentNomics India. Priceless indeed.

Written by Dr. Geeta Kumar

Geeta Kumar is Senior Advisor, TalentNomics India. She is an Organization Development Consultant enabling and facilitating individuals and organizations to unravel and realize their full potentials. She is the Founder and Principal Consultant, Pragati. She works in the areas of Inclusivity, Diversity and Gender Dynamics, Culture & Change Management. She is committed to Preparing Women for Leadership. Geeta’s guiding philosophy in life is that learning is a continuum and believes that human beings are continuously learning in every environment and in every context either to adapt or to transcend the existing context.


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