Today’s leaders face a whole new set of expectations in the way they motivate people. New-age employees want to be led and not managed; building trust and relationship with them is key, affirms Laura Quigley, Managing Director, Southeast Asia, Integral Ad Science.

Q Share with us your top lessons on your way up and across the career ladder.

I’m the Managing Director, Southeast Asia (SEA) at Integral Ad Science (IAS) and I’ve been in this role close to a year now. Currently, I look after eight markets in SEA and manage a team of over 30 people in the region. Prior to this role, I worked at IAS Australia and before that at Google in the UK as well at a UK programmatic agency managing teams. I’d say I’m fairly new in my leadership role and over the course of my 12-year career in EMEA and APAC I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some strong leaders who helped shape my own leadership style.

As a leader, I’ve enjoyed mentoring, building people and knowledge sharing the most. Building teams for success and challenging norms fuels my day. I’ve come to understand that leadership is not about 'me' but 'we', this may sound like a simple concept but can actually take a life-time to put in practice and I’m glad it’s ingrained early in my work ethos. It’s how well and willingly the team functions together to achieve common objectives is how successful the leader is. Becoming a leader takes time and it doesn't have an end date on it, you will always be learning and trying new things to continue your development.

I’ve come to understand that leadership is not about 'me' but 'we', this may sound like a simple concept but can actually take a life-time to put in practice and I’m glad it’s ingrained early in my work ethos.

Tom Peter’s quote, "the best leaders don't create more followers, they create more leaders” resonates with me and I’ve found this to be true as I progress in my career. Building up others requires a love of learning and professional development and I’m excited to be in a position to be able to do that.

I've found the following lessons to be invaluable in my career journey:

  • Speak up when you don’t understand or disagree - Not clarifying, or failing to voice disagreements perhaps might be one of the biggest reasons that the best or contrary ideas aren’t tabled during meetings. It’s important to find your voice and ask questions and if needed, disagree and suggest alternatives.
  • Challenge yourself and continue to learn not just in your specific function or role but in other areas of the business - Needless to say that this will help accelerate one’s growth learning curve and also professional growth. Eg. If you do not understand Finance, spend time with the team and understand how that particular department functions and the role it plays in the smooth functioning of the organisation.
  • Each individual is a work in progress, alive with possibilities - Cannot overstate the importance of ‘bonding’ and knowing the individuals in your team, understanding their motivations, celebrating their strengths and working closely to achieve business objectives. Close-knit, motivated teams create magic.
  • Be open to advise and trust your instincts - It’s important to find your voice, have an opinion, keep updated with industry happenings and know your goals. Create a circle of trust around you and bounce off ideas with them and go with your intuition, take calculated risks- mistakes will and do happen, learn from them and do the best you can.

Q What are some leadership best practices that have proved evergreen?

Being an effective leader requires constant focus, perseverance and building a team that is accountable and designed to get results. Without the team, there can be no real leadership. The following leadership practices among others have stood me in good stead regardless of any transitions:

  • Create a collaborative and open environment - where employees can freely give feedback/suggestions. One obstacle that often prevents employees from active participation and putting forward their ideas is a fear of judgment or rejection. This impediment can be overcome by establishing a creative and judgment-free workplace culture where new ideas and discussions are consistently welcome, whether they are small and strange or ambitious and dramatic.
  • Recognise contributions and celebrate success - public recognition is a great way to celebrate an achievement, not only does it bring most visibility to the individual or team but it can also serve as an educational moment to inform others in the company on the value of the work. Positive reinforcements can be a powerful tool.
  • Employee communication - Change is the only constant and leaders are expected to make changes to keep up with constantly evolving business demands. Change, whether large or small, needs to be explained and communicated, specifically changes that affect how employees perform in their jobs. Constant and consistent communication helps leaders effectively manage expectations and get the teams through transitions.

Q How have you seen the needs from leaders evolve?

Organisations of today are facing unprecedented demands fueled by digitalisation, innovation, and disruption. Leaders find themselves in unchartered territories and are expected to meet today’s demands efficiently while simultaneously make the best bets for tomorrow’s growth and do so with agility. Previous generations of leaders could at least count on a reasonably stable world, where change unfolded at a much slower pace. These days, the past is less predictive to inform the future, the present exists for about a second and the future is almost unimaginable. Today’s leaders need to figure out the right balance between investing in today’s efficiency and building tomorrow’s next big idea and they do not have a whole lot of time to do that! When dealing with today’s issues, leaders constantly need to balance long-term perspective with the pressures of producing short-term results.

Leading today’s multicultural, diverse, millennial workforce who’s beliefs and value systems are different, requires distinct skill sets. There’s a huge contrast between the old leadership style of administrating versus the new model of connecting, mentoring and inspiring.

The leaders I worked with earlier basically had to figure out what needs to be done and then instruct the teams with what, when, where, and how to do it. Today’s leaders face a whole new set of expectations in the way they motivate the people. New-age employees want to be led and not managed. Building trust and relationship with them is key.

Today’s leaders face a whole new set of expectations in the way they motivate the people. New-age employees want to be led and not managed; building trust and relationship with them is key.

Q With this in mind, what does the mindset of a good leader look like to you? And how can this be inculcated in upcoming leaders, and front‐line staff?

In this hyper-changing world, leaders will be challenged and they will need to become more innovative and proactive, anticipating issues and possibilities in newer markets, changing consumer preferences and products. They will need to embrace new ways of communicating with the internal and external stakeholders and have a global mindset when affecting changes. If organisations truly want their leaders to have growth mindsets, leaders will need room to experiment and grow as individuals to positively influence their organisations’ futures.

Here are a few crucial leadership traits for creating a growth mindset in upcoming leaders and frontline staff:

  • Break down silos: A growth mindset sees those silos as barriers to growth. Leaders who are hungry for growth break down silos and seek greater collaboration and alignment to pursue opportunities.
  • Stay open-minded: Today’s leaders must grow with their people and create environments of transparency and collaboration in which teams can grow and evolve together.
  • Harness potential: It’s imperative for leaders to spend time with the teams and get to know them. Everyone brings unique skill sets and leaders with growth mindset will empower the teams, leverage their strengths and help them grow personally and professionally.
  • Risk-taking: Companies operate in environments where ambiguity and uncertainty are the order of the day. Leaders must embrace uncertainty and see through the ambiguity to find previously unseen opportunities and take risks to get necessary outcomes.
  • Learn every day: Growth-oriented leaders prioritise learning. They network with industry peers, read news and views, listen to podcasts, keep updated with trends, etc. It enhances their situational awareness and helps increase their circle of influence and navigate the business challenges better.

This interview was published in Human Resources Online’s January-February 2020 edition of the Singapore magazine and will soon be published in the Q1 edition of the Malaysia magazine.

hrsg jan feb20

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