Role models don’t need to be perfect, says Across the Pond’s Finance Director Sinthiya Croos – they should be able to show their vulnerabilities as well as their strengths
The importance of role models cannot be underestimated, particularly when it comes to diversity. Earlier this year, I listened to CBI president Lord Bilimoria launching Leaders For Race Equity, a new CBI and 30% Club initiative to improve diversity in the leadership pipeline. He spoke about the importance of role models “Aspiration breeds inspiration which breeds achievement which breeds aspiration. It’s a virtuous circle,” he said. I couldn’t agree more.
I’ve recently finished the ICAEW’s Women in Leadership programme, a course which empowers women to use their natural strengths to develop an authentic leadership style and build confidence to become more impactful and influential as leaders. As a part of a network of female leaders from different industries and backgrounds, we learn from peers and personal coaches and ultimately build our confidence and self belief. One thing that I’ve been able to take away from this is that you are capable of anything with confidence and self belief and the most effective way to realise this is to surround yourself with peers, mentors, coaches and role models.
They are so valuable on so many levels – they inspire you to think beyond what you believe you are capable of, they challenge you, pushing you beyond your limits and they bring their past experiences to share with you to help you navigate new and sometimes challenging situations. A support system is often not something you realise you need when you’re so junior, but its importance is becoming more and more apparent and they can be found everywhere.
Role models are essential for diversity and inclusion. If you can see it, you can be it. I read a blog by leadership coach, Tanya Gordon who, as an ambitious child, talks about being “stumped because there was noone around me who was doing what I want to do.” Tanya ended up turning to the small screen for her role model – “Oprah became my TV mentor.”
I’ve had a few role models throughout my career – the great directors at my previous company, You and Mr Jones (now The Brandtech Group). It was the first time I have come across a handful of women in leadership positions. It was a revelation that someone like me could be in that position. They all brought their own personal experiences and attitudes to the business, not imitating the male counterparts, it was refreshing to see. I’ve also had a coach who I feel was pivotal to not only me getting my current job but also accepting the challenges of returning to work as a full time mum and understanding my own barriers. It’s because of those coaching experiences that I grew in confidence, and began to focus on my strengths rather than my weaknesses. Books such as How Women Rise by Sally Helgeson and Marshall Goldsmith opened my eyes as well.
Here at Across the Pond, I look up to our CEO Julie Cohen who believes in honesty and authenticity and she practises these values. She reminds me that the modern-day role model shows their vulnerabilities as well as their strengths.
The open and honest leader is representative of the new tribe of role models – and very welcomed. They show it’s okay to let the ball drop because you know they’re going to pick it back up again. As Daniel H Pink says, “When we disclose our mistakes and our vulnerabilities, we fear that people will think less of us, but that’s often not the case…They often think more of us. The reason I think is that sense of connection and that sense of affinity.” In creating this safe environment for the culture, businesses thrive. It’s a very different mentality to what I was taught, growing up and it has me questioning what my potential is.
GEN Z ATTITUDE
Recently, I’ve seen a shift in attitude, inspired by the younger generation, in how they perceive work and what they demand from a working environment. Young people such as the activist Malala, poet Amanda Gorman and Mercury Music Prize nominee Self Esteem are almost the new role models for us. We’ve been so linear, but they remind us that the world is not linear anymore.
We’ve recently seen shifts in the talent market where the employee demands are now starting to outweigh what’s currently on offer. Young people are not letting employers hold power over their lives. They know what they want, they’ve got it together and they’re making it clear they don’t need us to survive. They’re placing their bets everywhere, and they have the confidence to go out and do it because they know we’re not going to fix it for them – they have to do it themselves.
It goes to show that role models come in different guises, ages and backgrounds. But the most important thing is finding someone who inspires you – or being that person to inspire others – so we can keep the virtuous circle of aspiration turning.