Legacy of Leadership

“GIA education brought instant credibility, and it opened doors for me in the industry.”

– Preeti Kurani, Leadership Coach, mindshifts.co, and GIA Graduate Gemologist®, Graduate Pearls and AJP™

Please tell us about your journey in the world of business so far, especially about your transition into leadership coaching from the traditional world of gems and jewellery.

Through my career in the gem and jewellery industry, I’ve embraced unconventional thinking and challenged traditional norms. As an outsider entering a traditional industry, my focus was not solely on the business itself, but rather on my values and passion for the field. The captivating colours, structures, and scientific aspects of gemstones intrigued me greatly, and I dedicated a significant portion of my early professional years to educating myself in this domain. I constantly asked myself what I wanted to do and pursued opportunities that provided personal growth.

Transitioning and pivoting have always been central to my career. I can identify three key moments of transition that shaped my journey. The first was establishing my own retail excellence institute, a unique concept within the industry. By keeping my ear to the ground and understanding market gaps and consumer demands, I pursued this venture for three years. The second pivotal moment occurred when I joined GIA as an instructor. This opportunity opened doors for me and led me to work with a regional jewellery company and later with De Beers.

It was during my time at De Beers that I underwent various leadership programmes, which sparked my interest in leadership coaching.

Taking a six-month break to reflect on my future, I felt a strong desire to give back and share my experiences and expertise. With a background in business and career development, I transitioned into leadership coaching to help cultivate future leaders. I firmly believe in the importance of remaining open to new opportunities and being willing to adapt and pivot along the way.

Charles Darwin, the renowned biologist, stated that species that outlast others are not necessarily the mightiest but are the ones who are the most adaptive to change. How do you see strong legacy values in the context of this remark?

Adaptability is crucial for long-term sustainability and stability in organisations. Visionary leaders focus on the future, embrace change, and have a growth mindset. They also exhibit high emotional intelligence, which helps them understand their environment and the needs of their customers and employees. Other traits, I would say, are context and cognitive agility. Context and cognitive agility go hand-in-hand. Context refers to the operating environment and markets, while cognitive agility is the ability to respond quickly to changing circumstances. These traits are commonly found in successful leaders who aim to make a lasting impact and a legacy is created in the process.

And while adaptability is crucial, it is essential to be mindful that adaptability should only be pursued with purpose. Context is a determining factor in assessing the need for adaptability.

For instance, if the target audience consists of older generations who prefer in-store experiences, a complete shift to online platforms may not be necessary. Adaptability should be applied selectively, aligning with the demands of the situation and context.

As an executive coach and leadership facilitator, in your observation, how does a leader go about evaluating their succession to make their legacy stronger?

When considering successors for a business – regardless of whether it’s a homegrown or corporate enterprise – certain factors should be evaluated. The first is whether potential successors have a genuine passion for the business and believe in its legacy. It’s also important that they possess the mindset to build upon the existing legacy rather than just dismantling it or pursuing an entirely different path. Furthermore, successors need to have the necessary skills, competencies, and attitude to effectively lead and carry the business forward. I believe, succession should be by design and not by default. This approach applies universally – whether it’s a family-owned business or a large multinational corporation.

What are the similarities and differences in the values of gem and jewellery and non-gem and jewellery businesses?

I believe that common values for leaders – regardless of the industry – include a growth-mindset. The other is understanding that leaders don’t need to have all the answers, but should focus on mobilising and hiring the right people. This mindset shift is rapidly evolving and emphasises on building a diverse team that contributes to growth and skill development of the business.

There are many other values that leaders commonly share, such as credibility, courage, openness, and boldness. However, there are differences in approach and mindset between industries. Larger businesses, financial institutions and tech giants typically adopt an outside-in approach, which I like to describe as a bottom-up approach. This approach involves starting with the consumer and ideating with their needs in mind.

In the luxury and jewellery industries, emotions play a significant role, leading to a top-down approach that prioritises excellent quality and service to cater to customers’ desire for a feel-good experience.

The key difference lies in the approach, but it’s important to note that a top-down approach may not always be necessary. While there are changes happening, in this approach it’s important to value and appreciate the core foundation of the industry, which is the emotional significance of jewellery. No one proposes with a smartwatch or a smartphone; typically, people choose to propose with a diamond ring. Whether it is celebrations, promotions, or passing down heirlooms from one generation to another, jewellery holds immense value. It is crucial for us to acknowledge and value this fundamental aspect of our industry, as it has played a pivotal role in our continued success and growth.

What was your experience at GIA as a student?

When I enrolled in GIA, I already had prior knowledge from completing another course at a gem institute. However, the education I received at GIA was truly transformative. They are the creators of the 4Cs, and learning from GIA was a game-changer. The way I used to grade diamonds before was completely different from GIA’s approach, and I realised I had been doing it incorrectly all along. All of this shifted my perspective and deepened my understanding of the industry.

For me, GIA education brought instant credibility; people trusted me more when they learned about my GIA credentials, and it opened doors for me in the industry. This is particularly valuable for those who may not have a gem and jewellery background. GIA’s rigorous and accurate education can open doors to opportunities to become a grader, purchaser, or work in an auction house.

GIA has been instrumental in my professional growth, giving me the capabilities and knowledge to thrive globally. It holds a special place in my heart because it provided me with a platform to expand my reach and establish myself as a trusted professional. Without GIA education, I wouldn’t have achieved the same level of success and recognition in the industry.

Excerpts taken from GIA India’s Legacy of Leadership Knowledge Series interview conducted live on Zoom. Attendance by invitation only. Register on collective.GIA.edu as GIA alumni to get notified about upcoming events.

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