To define a leader, especially someone whose presence can fill an entire room with warmth, liveliness and authority all at once, is a tough brief to crack. But the eternal ad-man in me rises up to this challenge as I pen my admiration – shared by many of my peers – for Monaz Todywalla: a CEO, leader par excellence and all-round amazing human being.
It’s been nearly 22 years since my stint at Madison, where I remember being introduced to Monaz – a young and ambitious planner; bright, diligent, and driven to achieve great heights. The spark of her being and the energy she brought into any situation was affable even then; something that made me consider her for leadership positions at Maxus later on and, more recently, at PHD.
As the adage goes, ‘you’re never too young to dream big’, and I couldn’t think of a better person than Monaz, who has championed this saying since the start of her career and lives by this truth every single day. Her transition from a planner to an evolved leader who leads with inspiration has been a beautiful journey to witness. Look closely and you’ll still see vignettes of the wide-eyed Padawan, walking in through the doors of Madison even today – with fire in her belly, curiosity to learn and steadfast integrity to uphold the highest benchmarks of delivery.
Leadership comes in many forms. Some find strength in eloquence, some in judgment, and some in courage. And then there are those that exemplify all of these and more. Monaz’s infectious enthusiasm for excellence is something that translates into a number of things for her people – be it leading with her heart and her ‘no-bullshit, no-pretense’ attitude, or the courage with which she sticks up for her people and never backs down from voicing her opinions.
I may lose track of recollecting the number of times she has gone above and beyond being a team player while standing her ground as a true taskmaster. Monaz is a fighter – she has backed me, backed her team, she has backed situations when the going gets tough, and over the years, has made several media professionals incredibly proud to work in this industry. Time and again, she has shown that staying humble, trusting people and effectively collaborating can lead to a highly engaged culture with a winning mindset.
Working passionately has always been the cornerstone of Monaz’s work ethic, and it is this passion that you can see translating into her efforts in creating an inclusive tomorrow that embraces diversity and equity across all walks of life. When she’s not striving to deliver greater value to clients beyond mandated KPIs, you can find her working away on the sidelines lending her voice to topics close to her heart across the power corridors of India’s business landscape. In a day and age where it is getting increasingly difficult to place one’s faith in people, her high moral standards, deep-rooted sense of security and taking pride in people’s success – no matter how big or small, are rare traits to behold and celebrate.
From walking the empathetic route in the shoes of her people, clients and partners to embracing the long view and owning the narrative, she has shaped the current vision and direction for PHD Media, and in turn, empowered an army of professionals to embrace the future with courage, curiosity and innovation.
To this wonderful leader and great friend – thank you for being the North Star for so many. I’m certain I speak for a good deal of people when I say that we’re so glad to have a friend and a leader like you on our side! That and of course, the endless moments of breaking bread and sharing the best food under the sun. I suppose that’s the greatest plus side of going shoulder to shoulder with an effervescent foodie – neither a dull nor a hungry moment by her side.
(The author is Group CEO, Omnicom Media Group India.)