YSPN sat with Sarv Girn, a Senior Financial Services Executive with 30 years’ experience driving technological innovation, to hear his take on the nuts and bolts of performing as a leader.
How do you define good leadership?
Leadership has 3–4 aspects to it. It’s setting a vision for a group of people, and being able to convey why it should be important to them. Where you’re going, what it’s like, when you’ll get there, and what that will mean. Good leaders break vision down to step-by-step tasks, behaviours and plans.
Remember that leadership is an ongoing journey. Get feedback from people around you to keep in-touch with the situation. Leadership isn’t about hierarchy; it’s about building a community. If you do your job right, you’ll walk away having set up a legacy.
What are the practical things people can do to exercise these behaviours?
Understanding context is important; do your own investigation, and bring multiple sources together. Different people have different experiences and expectations. Go to the CFO, the team members, to industry bodies. Establish what people want to achieve by talking to them about what they see going on. Take notes, and once you’ve worked out what needs to happen, go back to your team and clearly explain the game-plan going forward.
How have Sikh values (in particular Seva) impacted your career?
Each person has something to offer as seva. Find your values “sweet spot” through self-reflection, because when you working aligned to them, you’re bring out the best in yourself.
I remember hearing a great story of a CEO who always pushed to break into the executive ranks, but for years couldn’t. It took moving to the health care sector for him to see real value in his work, and because he saw it mattered, ultimately landed the top job. If you see purpose in your career, you’ll excel through it.
What are some actionable ways people can practice Seva (community service) in their careers?
As Sikhs, we’re lucky to have the Gurdwara (Sikh temple) where we can do seva. It’s easy to get involved in whatever way you can. If you can’t cook, you can go wash “bartaan” (dishes) and that can be your seva.
In a similar way, the lesson sunk in for me a few years ago during a professional development course. The realisation struck that helping people with their career was a way to do seva. After this I got involved in mentoring work, helping non-profits, and coaching leaders. Doing seva, redefined for what I’m experienced and qualified to do.
What were some of the challenges you faced entering the Australian market? How did you overcome them?
Though possibly less the case now compared to when I came to Australia, but in the UK you keep bumping into people. In Australia this didn’t happen often, with everything being slightly more spread out. Naturally, this makes it hard to build personal and professional networks, and when you’re new to a market and community, has a huge impact on your career prospects.
Here it’s important to be patient, you can’t set goals for this. Don’t actively note names and numbers, let it happen naturally. Pursuing interests authentically is enough. If you get involved in things in genuine and interesting ways, it will lead to connections.
What’s one important piece of advice you’d give to a new migrant in our community?
Our community often lacks confidence integrating into Australian society. Integrating is hard, and learning language and culture is harder still. Confidence comes from self-reflection of what you’re good at and what you’re not. When you know what your gaps are, you can do something about it.
In building relationships, confidence develops as you master local humour. It’s built little by little, as you interact with people around you. Reach out to connect with others, and especially with people more senior.
On this front, our migrants have plenty to offer the Australian community. People who’ve grown up here often can’t speak Punjabi/Hindi well, and if they were in India, roles on language and social dynamics are reversed. Our migrants should remember our native languages and culture are valuable, and gives them footing to interact with Australians on equal terms.