Lowering the Waterline as we Stumble Towards Inclusion
Jun 14 2024

I read a lot, but I have not read many books in the last several years, let alone non-fiction books, so the fact I finished this book is a small miracle and a testament to the authors interesting storytelling! I was introduced to Priya Nalkur by a mutual friend, Elizabeth Davis, this past April, and I was fortunate to join one of her book launches in Austin.  As a fellow South Asian woman and entrepreneur who grew up primarily in North America, I felt an instant connection with her and her stories.

Navigating the choppy waters of leadership is never smooth sailing, especially when you’re trying to foster a sense of inclusion in a world that’s anything but perfect. Her book “Stumbling Towards Inclusion – Finding Grace in Imperfect Leadership” captures this tumultuous journey with a blend of wisdom, grace, and a refreshing dose of humanity.

Reading her book felt like catching up with a wise friend over tea, the kind who doesn’t just nod sympathetically but offers insightful nuggets wrapped in relatable anecdotes. Her stories of leadership mishaps and the subsequent learning curves are similar to the stumbles I’ve had while juggling my entrepreneurial ventures and personal life (which, if you’ve read my blog over the last 15 years, you know are sometimes hilariously clumsy).

Priya doesn’t shy away from the imperfections that come with leadership. She weaves in her personal experiences with research, creating a tapestry that’s as educational as it is comforting. It’s a relief to know that even seasoned leaders fumble. Her stories include humor, making the heavy topics she addresses—bias, privilege, and systemic barriers—feel approachable.

Chapter 40, “Lowering the Waterline,” particularly stood out for me. She uses the metaphor of an iceberg to discuss how we often only see the tip of someone’s behavior, while their values, fears, and motivations lie hidden beneath the surface. This chapter was a powerful reminder to look beyond the obvious and understand the deeper currents that drive people. Throughout my career, I have tried to understand why people act the way they do or say the things they say. Playing out those scenarios often helps connect dots and discover reasons that others may not see.

Her actionable tips on fostering an inclusive environment are practical and empathetic. She emphasizes small, consistent efforts over grand gestures. It’s the little changes, like making sure every voice is heard during meetings or actively seeking out diverse perspectives, that build a truly inclusive culture.  One of my Top 5 Strengths based on the Strengths Finder 2.0 assessment is Includer so many of the suggestions she shared about inclusivity resonated with me.

Priya beautifully ties everything together at the end of her book by highlighting the importance of rapport, equanimity, and courage. She stresses that building genuine connections (rapport), maintaining mental calmness and composure (equanimity), and facing challenges with bravery (courage) are essential components of effective and inclusive leadership.

“Stumbling Towards Inclusion” is a must-read for anyone looking to lead with authenticity and heart. Priya’s insights are a guiding light for those of us striving to create spaces where everyone feels valued, even if we stumble a bit along the way. The book is a testament to the power of perseverance, humility, and, yes, a good sense of humor.

In the end, what she offers is not a roadmap to perfect leadership but a compassionate guide to navigating its imperfections. And isn’t that what we all need? A little grace as we stumble towards our own versions of inclusion.

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Random Stuff and Bobby Jindal
Oct 22 2007

What a day!  It started out with a potty training disaster and an overflowing toilet and ended (well not quite ended yet) with me playing Power Rangers with my son before putting him to bed.  In between, there was a plumber, a photographer, many business related calls/emails/documents, a trip to Jiffy Lube for an overdue oil change, a trip to Bed Bath & Beyond for an overpriced plunger, telling my 5 year old son repeatedly that he cannot play on a football team right now, dinner, and a few scenes of the Jungle Book.  Phew!

In the middle of my interesting day, history was made and that was the election of Piyush “Bobby” Jindal as the governor of Louisiana.  Now normally someone being elected as the governor of any state is news but NOT history making news.  Bobby is the first Indian American to be elected Governor of a US state.  Why is this interesting to me?  Well because I am South Asian.  I remember when I was a teenager in West Texas I would joke with my friends about the fact that since I was born in another country, I could never be the president of the United States.  Back then, the fact that I was a woman didn’t enter into my analysis of whether or not I could be President some day.  The only loophole we found was that I could become the Speaker of the House and if something (God forbid) happened to the President and Vice President, I could for a few seconds actually be President until they realized I was a naturalized US citizen and not a native born one.

As I’m sure you can tell, I did not end up pursuing a political career (thank goodness!).  I am pretty sure that the political world would have driven me nuts!  

If you’d like to read about what other South Asians are saying about Bobby winning the election, look no further than Sepia Mutiny.  Sepia Mutiny is an irreverent blog for South Asians about South Asian stuff.  I happened upon it a few months ago and have been fascinated by the dialogue that goes on there.  The October 21, 2007 post on Bobby Jindal by Anna already has close to 500 comments!  Many of their posts draw hundreds of comments.

Personally, I do not have the same political leanings as Bobby.  He is a very strict conservative, and I am moderate in my political philosophy.  However, I have to say a hearty ‘congrats’ to him for making history.  Plus if he accomplishes what he says he wants to which is to get rid of corruption in Louisiana politics and bring in more aid for Katrina victims then more power to him! He along with people like Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, and all the high-tech entrepreneurs of South Asian descent have made it a bit easier for the rest of us brown immigrants to contribute to the glorious US of A. 🙂

OK, now I’m going to go watch Heroes before ending my interesting day.  I wonder what tomorrow will bring…

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