(Originally published on EY.com)
EY is No. 1 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list
Can I be the leader I want to be? When I think about my role models, I often feel they are so different from me — these strong characters who can make the impossible possible. I had doubts about whether I could be — or wanted to be — such a person in order to be a successful leader. After having been promoted to partner in 2007, served as the Asia-Pacific Transaction Support Leader from 2015 to 2016 and recently taken on the role as the Greater China TAS Leader, I can confidently say that being an effective leader doesn’t mean you have to change who you are, or be someone that you’re not. The secret to keeping your own style and being yourself is having trust that your team and colleagues are there to support you.
Delegating doesn’t mean you can’t control quality. I think women set a high bar for themselves on how to get things done and we also have a very high attention to detail. This also means we put ourselves under tremendous pressure. For instance, I’ve seen a female partner almost burn out because she was trying to take on too much instead of delegating. Thankfully, I was able to reassure her by letting her know that I’ve been there myself, too. We all have. That’s why I try to coach women making the transition from senior manager to partner to be more willing to delegate responsibility to their teammates. Delegating doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality. It’s also a critical way to let people grow.
Don’t presume you’re always the expert. And equally, don’t feel ashamed to acknowledge that you don’t know something. Getting team input and gaining different perspectives is one way that you can be a more inclusive leader. It also means that you’re getting the best of everyone’s ideas, instead of just making your own judgement all the time.
In her shoes. I feel I am able to build a unique connection with my female colleagues, because I’ve often been in their situation before. As their sponsor, I can engage them one-on-one to understand more about their personal, family and career goals so that I can help resolve any potential work-life balance conflicts. Being able to have a genuine discussion with them really helps them to believe they can make it work.
How much do you have to give up as a woman to be a leader? I think most aspiring female executives often wonder “how much they have to give up” in order to become an effective leader. As a sponsor for women, I try to help them see that being a female leader at EY is not like that. They don’t have to become someone they’re not in order to succeed.