My name is Chayya Syal and I am an award winning Broadcast Journalist who’s also been listed in Forbes 30 under 30. I have been a journalist for the last seven to eight years. In that time I have seen the way that news is created dramatically shift from print to digital, the onset of social media, how news is distributed and the development of an overall social distrust of journalists and media outlets. However, there has never been a more exciting time to work as a journalist. We literally have the world in the palms of our hands and can access information at the touch of a button. But a career in journalism does not come without its difficulties, its compromises and its challenges. It involves long hours, working anti-social hours, being exposed to people and stories which can sometimes be emotionally harrowing and sometimes journalists are killed, kidnapped, tortured or held ransom for simply doing their job.
I had never really considered myself to be a leader because growing up the leaders that I saw on television and read about in books didn’t look or sound like me. They were louder, more aggressive, controversial, outgoing and much more vocal than I was. As a child, I was very quiet, and as a young adult, I still am very quiet. I have always been much more of a cerebral, persevering and observant person which I suppose came from a childhood of reading, writing stories and painting. In hindsight, I ended up doing these things, so that I had an emotionally safe space to grow up in.
This was great for developing creativity, but, what makes a person a strong leader?
I would say that it’s much more about mindset and being mentally resilient. I believe that too many of us place an emphasis on what we see, rather than, what we feel and what we develop inside. To me, it is far more powerful. You see for many years, I subconsciously learnt similar personalities like mine were not considered good enough to be leadership material. I remember one occasion where I was openly rejected at an Entrepreneurship Training Day for not demonstrating my leadership skills because I was ‘quiet.’ It stung me. How could being quiet be perceived as being un-leadership like? Some of the greatest names of our time like Bill Gates, Golda Meir, Mahatma Gandhi and Oprah Winfrey admits to being naturally quiet – but powerful and successful – people. And that’s when it dawned on me.
In the years that I grew up reading books and writing stories, I had gained a wide range of vocabulary and an incredibly deep feeling of reassurance from reading stories which have helped pull me through many times where I felt like a failure. I had also developed a strong sense of empathy purely from painting, reading about art and writing. All of which were traits which helped me to develop resilience, perseverance and allowed me to see things through to the end. I have found these traits have hugely helped me to overcome my own share of adversities – both professional and personal.
Being a leader is not about how extroverted you are or how loud your voice is. It is about having conviction in the decisions you make. It is about understanding how people work emotionally and having enough self-belief and confidence to back yourself enough to want to do well. And that is something we cannot teach in schools but can learn in our daily lives and by paying closer and better attention to our well-being and personal development.
— Chayya Syal (Former Learning Coordinator at NHSF Reading)