Q&A with Anish Manrai: Why Diverse Leadership Matters
Columbia Association (CA) Assistant Director of Community Programs and Services Anish Manrai made Columbia his home in 2013. He first joined CA as the general manager of racquet sports and quickly rose to his assistant director position. In that role, Anish manages and oversees the day-to-day member, guest and team member experiences at more than 35 CA facilities.
Outside of his professional achievements, Anish is a proud Indian immigrant. In January 2021, he joined the Board of Directors at Luminus, a local non-profit that supports the journeys of all foreign-born individuals.
We asked Anish to share what it meant for him to be a leader at CA and a representative for his community.
Why does diverse leadership matter?
The more diverse perspectives we have, the more we can provide this community with what it needs and deserves to keep moving forward. It allows us to have those conversations authentically, to be a champion for DE&I.
No two people see things the same way, which is why it’s exciting to learn and engage with people with different backgrounds. Their combined experiences and viewpoints are what make CA a great place to work and grow.
Can you tell us about your involvement with the Luminus Network for New Americans?
I first heard about the Luminus Network for New Americans years ago, when I used their legal services to become an American citizen. In 2018, I was re-introduced to Luminus during the Howard County Leadership Premier Program. I learned more about the ways Luminus is dedicated to elevating our immigrant neighbors in Columbia, from language services to housing help. Like CA, Luminus is all about being a community that welcomes and celebrates all cultures.
When the pandemic happened, it really exposed the many inequities in our society, especially with the immigrant population. I wanted to be part of the solution, and was thrilled to join the Luminus Board of Directors in January 2021.
What does it mean to you to be part of an organization that is rooted in inclusion?
Diversity is one of our founding values, and equity and inclusion are considered equally important. Inclusion is embedded in what we do at every level — there’s a commitment to making sure people feel welcome, seen and valued. It’s reflected in CA’s hiring practices and how our diverse community is represented.
Throughout my life, I’ve definitely had experiences where I didn’t feel that sense of welcome and inclusivity. Columbia is so appealing because it’s a true community where people put humanity first and value building relationships.
What are you most looking forward to for CA’s future?
I look at CA’s facilities and programs as the “third place” in people’s lives. The third place is somewhere you feel like you belong — a safe space outside of your home (the first place) and work (the second place). If we want to truly be that third place and create that sense of belonging, caring and connecting is at the center of it. If people truly feel cared for and connected with, we can bridge a lot of barriers.
My personal core values are caring and connecting, and I’m proud to have a President/CEO that exhibits those values in every interaction. When it starts from the top, it permeates every level. It sets the tone for who we are and what we’re going to be.
I take pride in the fact that we talk about DE&I openly as an organization and community. It’s intentional and deliberate; we don’t shy away from it. The journey has just begun but I truly believe we’re on the right path, and we’re absolutely committed to staying on this path.