SO WHAT CAN I, a 39-year old-woman who is the youngest vice-president in the Sagicor Group, have to say about leadership? A woman who started her first management role at 30 years old? A woman who aspires to be a chief executive officer (CEO).
There is the old adage; leaders are born, not made. In some respects that may or may not be true, but I do believe I was a born leader. How many of you have ever been and still are described as bossy? In my formative years, my teachers often described me as bossy. It was written in my report almost every year; it was said to me on numerous occasions both by my teachers and fellow students when I was at primary school.
It was bossy when I organised lunch time play, I was bossy when I organised book exchanges at school and I was seen as bossy when I carried out my duties as a primary school prefect. Many years later, I learnt to shrug that label off, because as far as I was concerned I saw issues which needed to be solved and had a special skill for achieving various solutions.
Recently, I came across a Facebook meme where a young girl about four years old is saying to a group of children, ‘I am not bossy; these are my emerging leadership skills!’. Needless to say, I totally identify with that young lady! In addition, in coming to grips with my “bossy” label, reading an article by none other than Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, also helped me a great deal.
Sheryl related that young girls are often told that they are bossy, when in fact they are demonstrating early leadership skills, which ought to be nurtured and coached rather than labelled as negative. So do develop that bossy young lady you know – she is a future leader if channelled in the right direction!
One of the key concepts I believe leaders need to embrace is the whole issue of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is a concept of “being” and is effectively applied to leadership situations with ease.
A leader who is said to be emotionally intelligent is one who is good at self-assessments and can objectively analyse his or her attributes and shortcomings, and has empathy and compassion as well as emotional restraint. So this is not a leader who throws tantrums and explodes at employees.
An emotionally intelligent leader is focussed on relationship building and effective communication. So a leader who is diametrically opposed to the autocratic, transactional style that is often a legacy of colonial economies, is an emotionally intelligent leader. An emotionally intelligent person is very often what distinguishes a manager from a leader. The emotionally intelligent leader does not adopt the position of the sink or swim mentality.
My first CEO in the private sector was an emotionally intelligent leader. Yes, he had his critics who would say he was too passive, maybe not ruthless, but we can all agree that if there was someone who possessed both high IQ and EQ – which is what emotional intelligence is sometimes referred – that would be Stephen Alleyne, now deceased, who was CEO of Life of Barbados.
Stephen had the uncanny ability to coach, guide you and simply inspire loyalty, not to mention lots of hard work, because he was truly an emotionally intelligent leader. He knew his strengths and weaknesses, he understood his staff’s concerns, he cared and he communicated well and often.
One of the key tenets of leadership that we as leaders need to embrace would be emotional intelligence. A friend of mine has coined a term, that he is a solutionist – not a problem solver but a solutionist! I realise that in order to make a difference with your actions leaders have to be solutionists!
One of the best things that ever happened to me in my early career was an admonition from my then boss. We were in Miami filming an ad, when I heard that someone on my level in Trinidad was being promoted. I was hurt and furious and I approached my boss and I said: “Why can’t I get promoted too – he is only responsible for Trinidad, I am Barbados, Eastern Caribbean and Dutch Netherland Antilles and I have more work to do than him”.
My boss said to me: “I don’t see any managerial qualities in you”.
That rocked my world – I went into an immediate sulk. I cried that night in the hotel room and the next day I bought books on leadership because I knew I couldn’t be a brand specialist for the rest of my life! And in reading those books I realised what was being said. I always approached my manager with problems – I delegated upwards. Good leaders don’t do that, they identify solutions, not excuses, and certainly not problems.
Good leaders remove obstacles from their staff; they provide solutions and do not spend time bemoaning problems in the organisation or club. they spend time seeking solutions. Leaders solve, and are therefore solutionists!
Tracey Knight-Lloyd is vice president, customer experience at Sagicor General Insurance Inc. She made these remarks at a Business and Professional Women’s Club of Barbados event. The concluding part will be published next week.