Leadership in Action: Raj Gowda

Leadership in Action is our ongoing series featuring inspiring leaders who are taking conscious leadership into their workplaces and lives.

Raj Gowda is a Build and Release Manager for Cricut, makers of tools to help people live creative lives. He attended Crafted Leadership’s Lead by Design training for Cricut leadership in 2020.

What’s a habit you had to give up to advance your leadership?

Being a “Yes-man.” A long career in the service industry instilled in me the notion of doing everything in your power to facilitate a customer, project, team member was the right way to build professional relationships and be a good leader. This superhero role provided a false sense of accomplishment and pride. Looking back, I realize that this move has always ended with frustration and resentment (towards my colleagues and work relationships). Not being able to recognize that I have been falling Below the Line regularly resulted in failed long-term relationships at work which involve trust, respect and delegation. Once this fallacy was recognized and corrected, I have been able to build lasting relationships and able to accomplish higher leadership goals.

What’s your go-to leadership quote or motto?

“My friend, drop all your preconceived and fixed ideas and be neutral. Do you know why this cup is useful? Because it is empty.” — Bruce Lee

If you were the CEO of your own company, what’s the first leadership skill you’d want everyone to master?

Conflict Resolution” would be an absolute must-have skill. Conflict resolution is what sets a successful business from an unsuccessful one. If we are unable to overcome conflicts and commit to a single vision, we as a business are doomed.

Tell us one reason why emotional literacy is important to leadership.

I am a firm believer that business exists because of people and not the other way around. I recall a heated discussion during the initial phase of my career with my then-manager. He was adamant that the business/company defined the employee. I disagreed and he was livid. He believed that the brand name of the company aided the employee’s own brand and nothing mattered more than the company.

I believe that the people make a company great and our emotions and their expressions make us humans. Not being able to speak the language of emotions implies you do not understand how humans work and is a recipe for failure.

A successful business has its finger on the pulse of its employees’ emotion and helps facilitate a safe environment for expression of these emotions.

Who did you learn your leadership style from?

My first manager Mr. Manoj Trivedi, an exceptionally smart and emotionally intelligent leader, sat me down one day during my rage/meltdown regarding a task that was not getting done. The rage was targeted towards a team who continued to ignore my requests and disrespect me and my time.

He introduced me to the concept of emotional intelligence; to this day I regard him as my hero.

Not only did he tackle my emotions, but he educated me on ways to overcome personal emotions in a business setting. I learned that people are unpredictable, what is predictable is my reaction to them. Nothing is to be taken personally, at the end of the day the vision/goal of the business is what matters.

How did Crafted Leadership change how you see leadership?

The Drama Triangle and Healthy Responsibility have been game changers. More delegation, more trust, more value is being added. I have team members who are ecstatic to be part of my team. For a long time I was under the assumption that as a leader my job was to make up for my team’s shortcoming. Being a hero severely impacted my mental health and work relationships. I am reaping the benefits even during these testing times where we have been asked to work from home (COVID-19 virus pandemic). My team’s value addition has not been impacted.

What is the key quality in yourself that got you to where you are?

Emotional intelligence has been a key factor for my success. As a manager I have faced every emotion there is at my workplace (with employees and my managers). Family drama, trauma, hardcore beliefs, anger, belittling, discrimination, harassment to name a few. Being able to manage my own emotions during heated discussions/emotional incidents has resulted in strong ethics, improved personal branding and improved work relationships.

Who or what motivates you when you are down?

Working out at the gym gives me the outlet to distance myself from the problems/events causing turmoil. The change in focus allows my mind to take control of my emotions and evaluate the ongoing downturn from various perspectives. Being healthy (both physical and mental) provides the energy and stamina needed to implement the tough decisions to overcome the challenges being faced.



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