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Mother's Day special: How being a mother shapes the leadership style of these 9 leaders

Mother's Day special: How being a mother shapes the leadership style of these 9 leaders

Mental resilience and tenacity; selflessness; the value of unconditional support, and more — nine regional leaders reflect on their journey of motherhood (and paw-renthood!) and how it intersects with the workplace.

Come 12 May 2024 (Sunday), many countries and territories in the Asia Pacific will be celebrating Mother's Day.

Motherhood today is acknowledged in so many forms these days — whether it's through a biological relationship, through adoption, or even through paw-renthood, each bringing its own beauty, uniqueness, and colour to the picture. One of the many common threads binding these different forms, though, is the set of lessons and learnings everyone can learn from.

Reflecting on this, in this special feature, the team at HRO speaks to nine leaders in the region for a peek into how their lessons in motherhood have honed their leadership style in their roles in the workplace.

- Feature by Arina Sofiah, Priya Sunil, Sarah Gideon & Tracy Chan.

HRO wishes all mothers and paw-rents a Happy Mother's Day!

Elayne Gan, General Manager of APAC, Dow Jones

What’s enriching as a working mother to two children is seeing the beliefs I value as a parent translate to being a successful leader. Parents deal with constant change and being adaptable means anticipating the unexpected, problem-solving on the go, embracing new ideas, and being strategically nimble. Being encouraging in a sports-loving family means helping my kids thrive and stay positive, while motivating them when they fail.

Similarly, I’m a cheerleader to my teams to give their best and create a positive environment for success. Despite temper tantrums and teen angst, you never give up on your kids.

That same mental resilience and tenacity is essential to deal with everyday challenges.

Patricia Lee, Corporate Affairs Director, Asia Pacific Breweries Singapore (Part of The HEINEKEN Company)

As a mother of two, I've come to appreciate the profound values hidden in the chaos of parenting- patience, integrity, trust and respect, the power of vulnerability, as well as the courage of letting my kids make mistakes and learn from them. The same values that have now shaped my leadership approach. These are not just soft skills but essential pillars for building robust teams and cultivating a winning culture in the workplace.

It's about creating an environment where everyone feels heard, valued, and supported; ultimately fostering a culture of trust and collaboration where we can all thrive.

Jolene Huang, Chief Talent Officer, Singapore & Southeast Asia, Publicis Groupe

Being a mother again after more than a decade has forced me to unlearn and relearn.

Simply because times have changed and there are many new technology and new knowledge that just weren’t available back then for a new mum.

This, in turn, reminded me one should never be complacent and learning never stops regardless of what career stage you are at.

Sapna Saxena, Vice President Human Resources, Coca Cola

As someone who cherishes the role of being a guardian to my beloved pets and serves as the Head of HR, the nurturing journey has instilled in me patience, empathy, and the value of unconditional support. These core virtues seamlessly weave into my professional fabric, guiding me to foster success in others with genuine care. Within the sphere of motherhood, whether towards human children or cherished pets, every moment is an opportunity for growth and understanding—a practice I actively bring into the workplace to cultivate an environment where individuals feel deeply valued and empowered.

This unique blend of nurturing and leadership skills has not only sculpted me into a better mentor but has also underscored the significance of creating meaningful connections within our teams.

In celebrating Mother's Day 2024, we're reminded that the lessons of motherhood, inclusive of all forms of caregiving, expand well beyond our homes, enriching our professional lives with unparalleled depth, compassion, and resilience.

Shana Kruse, Vice President, Human Resources, Starbucks Asia Pacific

As a mother of two, I have learned the importance of selflessness, understanding that true leadership means prioritising the needs of others. I have also come to appreciate the unique strengths found in individuality, to help foster a culture of belonging that leads to better outcomes.

While there are highs and lows to navigate in any day-to-day, having a team built on trust can truly bring strength to act with courage.

Since becoming a parent, I do see truth in the adage “the days are long, but the years are short”.

As such, I celebrate moments of joy every day – a value that is cherished at Starbucks.

Zann Lee, Managing Director of Skechers Southeast Asia

Raising two children has taught me invaluable lessons and traits which I use in challenging work scenarios.

I have learnt to be more patient and calm when dealing with difficult or stressful situations; have more empathy and understanding for colleagues and staff, and developed better resilience in the face of setbacks.

These characteristics are essential in my leadership role because they allow me to overcome complex challenges effectively, strengthen relationships with my team, and inspire others to never give up and achieve their full potential.

Winnie Wong, Senior Human Resources Manager, Hong Kong, Taiwan & Singapore, ASSA ABLOY Opening Solutions Hong Kong

Achieving a balance between work and family is vital to our professional career success and overall quality of life. Urgent commitments at work may cause the disintegration of a family while poor work-life balance can lead to limited tolerance, fatigue and stress. I have been learning how to achieve a perfect equilibrium for some years.

After I became a mother of two, I realised it is rather an integration between work and family life.

Similar to how I engage the employees at work, I would ensure my family feels valued so I would prioritise spending quality time unwinding with my family, like cooking with the kids, reading them bedtime stories, and joining parent meetings.

Also, the transparency of job description – communicating with my family to exchange each other’s expectations and responsibilities, to make sure that everyone knows what daily chores they need to accomplish and can do to help the others.

After all, coming home after a long day of work and seeing my children smiling happily are the greatest things in life!

Wendy Foong, Regional People Director, APAC, Inchcape

Motherhood did not come naturally for me. It was through a couple of difficult pregnancies that I have come to treasure children as precious gifts. Parenthood has taught me unconditional love and acceptance of others as unique individuals with their own gifts. Through these, I have learnt the value of patience, adaptability, and empathy. These qualities have been invaluable in both my personal and professional life.

I have learned to approach everything with an open and inclusive mindset, whether it is raising children or navigating new workplace situations.

Having an inclusive mindset prepared me to embrace new ideas with agility and resourcefulness at Inchcape, where we foster collaboration and cultivate a culture of excellence.

No matter where you are in your parenting journey, I wish you a day of celebration to honour your unwavering love, strength, and determination.

Shazy Tan, Senior Manager, Global Mobility, Visa

On our evening walks around the neighbourhood, Adam is a great reminder to find joy and wonder in the small things. He lives in the present moment and is always ready for some fun.

Stopping in his tracks to gently play with stray cats demonstrates his priority in expressing compassion and empathy over rushing to a destination.

Mobility can be hectic due to its dynamic nature and the ability to consciously step back and take the time to re-evaluate how we approach challenges allows me the opportunity to draw up creative solutions that may not naturally occur under time-pressure.

Photos: Provided

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