Donna. Role Models, Mentors and Heroes. Leaders and Leadership

posted February 3rd, 2010 by Janet Graham - Leave a Comment

I asked Donna whether she had role models, mentors, and heroes. And if she did, what she saw in how they behaved that she found admirable and influential, how they had helped her grow and develop personally and/or professionally, and what impact, if any, having one had on her success. She said: “I wish I could say that I had role models. When I started there were few women in senior positions in business and I didn’t know any women that combined work and children.  That’s different now.  There are more role models so young girls and women starting out can see what works and what doesn’t work.  In terms of heroes and mentors, I did have mentors and friends or a network of sorts.  Sometimes it wasn’t a mentor; it was just having someone to ask for advice.  They could help you in certain situations. It wasn’t necessarily the more traditional senior and junior mentor type relationship. Some of it was more lateral and that’s key.  You can’t have enough support in terms of a network of people in the industry and outside the industry.”


I asked Donna whether she had a hero. She said she couldn’t think of any heroes.  She said there were people that she admired that had made a difference in her career but she couldn’t think of anyone off hand who was a hero. 


I asked Donna whether she saw herself as a role model, mentor, hero or leader and she said: “I think I’m a role model.  I try to be a mentor.  I don’t think of myself as a hero.  Hopefully I’m a leader.  I certainly do think that for women coming into the industry I provide an example of how you can make it work – whether it’s right for them or not.  I do try to mentor women, and men but more young women, as much as possible because one of the things that has changed over the years, is that now we’re prepared to talk to women about the issues that you face when you’re in your career whereas when I started out you never wanted to ask a question, like what’s your maternity leave policy, because no one would hire you. No one talked about it.  That’s changed today.  So women in the industry can give young women advice and guidance.  It’s like giving them the good, the bad, and the ugly.  You show them that it’s possible to combine family and work but that it has challenges and can be hard work.  So I hope I’m a mentor and a role model. I don’t think of myself as a hero.  Doesn’t hero sound awfully kind of over the top?”


I asked Donna to think of the people she considered to be leaders and the qualities she associated with them and what she saw as their impact on the world. She said:  “You know what, the number one quality is understanding people. I think understanding and caring about people and then understanding how you can use that to accomplish your objectives.  You have to actually like people, understand them, care about them. It’s the only way you get people working for you and with you to accomplish goals. And I’d say that applies in business, in charitable activities… in life.”


I asked Donna to think of someone she didn’t consider to be a leader and the qualities she associated with them. And she said: “I think the biggest thing is sometimes we have people in positions that we assume to be leaders because of the position they are in and they aren’t actually leaders. They manage as oppose to leading and their focus is on the goal as opposed to how they get there. They don’t actually make the organization stronger or encourage the people that are working with them.  It comes back to whether or not you’re thinking about strengthening an organization as you go.


I asked Donna to think of the people she had the greatest difficulty with and how she  would characterize them and their impact on the world around them. She said: “In this industry… well in any industry… you have to learn to deal with different people. As a woman, you have to learn how to deal, in particular, with strong personalities that have not traditionally been used to women in senior roles.  This was much more of a factor years ago but you still have a little bit of it now. You know what, they taught me a lot about being persistent and getting to know what people are really like.  At the end of the day, learning what makes people tick helps you figure out how to get what you need or how to manage them or how to go around them if necessary.  As a woman, you’ve got to figure out how to be tough without being too tough, without going overboard.”


What Strikes Me?


The importance of being able to deal with strong personalities


Persistence pays off


The number one quality of a leader is understanding people


It is critical to understand people and what makes them tick


You have to actually like people, understand them, care about them. It’s the only way you get people working for you and with you to accomplish goals


Women have to be tough, without being too tough


Having a network, inside and outside the industry is key


What Strikes You?


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