’As a young girl Lilamani was quite the dreamer, silently living in a world of her imagination…which was perhaps not a bad thing, because she pursued, in real life, some rather special dreams.’’
She began her professional life as an English Writer. Then she got into a job in advertising and developed pretty fast into Writer plus Visualizer, Conceptualist, Film maker, Client Service Manager and Brand Builder of the extraordinary kind besides many other roles.
In that first Ad Agency, the Grants Group, where she made these strides, she was eventually both the Account Director and Creative Director of the Company’s biggest brand portfolio! Senior jobs at two ends of the Scale! Jobs that are normally never held by the same person because it is rarely that someone has these ‘conflicting’ talents!
So no wonder then, that she was at some point, approached by J Walter Thompson, one of the first multinationals to set up in Sri Lanka, who hired her first as Creative Director, and then soon appointed her as their first Sri Lankan Agency Head.
After some wonderful years leading the teams at JWT, she was head hunted by the Interpublic Group of New York to set up the Lowe Lintas brand in Sri Lanka, at the special request of their biggest multinational Client, Unilever.
So Lilamani became the Founder CEO of Lowe LDB which soon became one of the leading Ad Agency’s in Sri Lanka, building an impressive Client portfolio, winning Awards across every discipline and becoming the only Ad Agency in Sri Lanka to be appointed a Superbrand.
Lilamani has an amazing reputation for being a business leader with a creative mind. Scores of young people who worked with her vividly remember her challenging yet mentoring style and her brand building skills which she generously shared with them.
‘She was tough and demanding, first of herself, and then of us all. But underneath that exterior that exuded professional excellence, she has a heart of gold! ‘said one of her, then, senior managers who today heads an Agency himself.
Her Agency is highly awarded. She herself won the Zonta Award for Advertising many years ago, and very recently, the ‘Inspirational Woman of the Year’ award for 2016, presented by Women in Management and IFC.
Her biggest achievement she says is that while being deeply involved in the demands of her career, she was a single mum, who also brought up a family of four young people, who she says are today, polished professionals and world citizens. How did she have time for them? Ah that’s another story!
Her advice to young people: ‘Seek the thing you LOVE to do, not just like to do, but LOVE to do. Then train as best as you can in that discipline. You will come into work with a spring in your step and fire in your belly, and infect everyone else.’
Her advice to senior managers: ‘Create a Culture of Excellence. If you ever come across someone who is potentially better than yourself, grab that person. Never hire a mediocre talent. Mediocrity breeds mediocrity!’
Lilamani counts some four decades in the Industry. And 23 years of running Lowe LDB and is acknowledged by the Industry as being a fine Professional, a Creative Mind and a Business Leader. Nowadays, Lilamani also lectures, teaches … and paints. She recently held a solo show of her paintings.
Is she an empowered woman?
” . . . well I hope I helped inspire people around me ” is her answer.
I believe every woman should have the freedom to be whatever she wants to be, not conditioned by customs or held back by family demands or financial imperatives. She might choose to be a wife and mother and cherish the role of homemaker; and still be empowered! Or she might pursue a career all the way to the top, while also nurturing a family.
I did not seek that role. I was busy living life. Circumstances thrust me into a career while bringing up a family of four. I found I was one of those passionate women who rose and rose in her job territory, so I found myself thrust in situations that enabled me to be motivational and engaging and (with divine grace) even inspirational to young people of both genders. I believe I naturally reached out and shepherded talent wherever I found it.
She pursues excellence. She pushes the challenges and boundaries. She recognises and celebrates the milestones and the people along the way who are part of her life experience and her growth. She is conscious of weaknesses and addresses them with humility. She sometimes gives up some opportunity, if it’s hurtful to someone else. She is not ruthless. But has grace. Even under pressure!
She can genuinely watch out for and take every opportunity to guide and mentor young people. She can design training or exposure opportunities in groups or disciplines for young talent. She has empathy for young people going round in a groove, or older people stuck in a rut. ’She is very conscious of equal opportunity when hiring. She is not afraid of hiring the brilliant who has the potential to be better than herself.
I believe every woman should find the thing she LOVES to do, to be, in life.
Not just LIKES to be . . . but LOVES. Then go after getting the best training to be VERY GOOD at that thing she loves. So are you in the thing you love to be?
If stuck in a rut, relook at your skills and goals at your training and experience levels. Redefine your own capabilities with honesty. And reach for a refresher, or for excellence, all over again. It will show! And it will rejuvenate you.