Lessons for Aspiring Leaders

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we asked HR Director, Naomi Austen, to share some of the insights and lessons that helped shape her career.

‘‘we want to ensure that we are showing the next generation of women what opportunities can be afforded to them, with the right pathways."

In your opinion, what are the characteristics of a great leader?

A great leader is someone who has integrity, is professional, and inspirational. They promote balance, focus on others, are able to plan and lead. For me, a leader needs to show empathy, be open, and listen to other people’s ideas, I see that as a strength. A great leader delegates, praises, and empowers others. I think they should have an element of fun about them too.

Women leaders bring balance and look at things holistically and encompass the work/life balance into the delivery of what is required.

Why is it so important that women have leadership positions?

It is important to have a mixture of genders in leadership positions. Regardless of what gender you are, you add a value that no one else can bring. You bring yourself, your individual traits, which is what makes you a great leader. For me, it is vital to have balance in leadership, creating empowerment for those around you. Showing confidence and giving credit to others’ abilities. There is still a lack of women in leadership roles and we want to ensure that we are showing the next generation of women what opportunities can be afforded to them, with the right pathways.

How do you think female leaders can be seen as powerful allies and champions by other women at all levels?

I think if I told my 15-year-old self that other girls/women would be powerful allies, I may have been cynical! However, as I have grown up and progressed in my career, I have truly found this in abundance. This is about creating a good and positive network of people around you, people that can mentor you, guide you, you can learn from, and they can learn from you. You just have to be yourself and embrace those around you. Rid yourself of negative people.

Which woman has inspired you the most and why?

I have three. My first HR line manager, a lady called Mandy Fitzmaurice. We still speak now, and often, and if I am in a situation where I am unsure of something, I quite often ask myself what Mandy would do. Mandy was the best line manager, she gave me confidence, opportunities, and helped my growth. I admire Michelle Obama and Jacinda Ardern. Both women have shown amazing empowerment and leadership skills. They use their positions for good causes, to highlight the challenges around the world, and help create and promote solutions and opportunities. Both are never afraid of speaking up about wrongdoings.

How have you developed your confidence as a leader?

I’ve been myself, which is critical. I can be fierce, loyal, but also empathetic. I truly believe that everyone has a place and with the right managers and leaders, everyone is capable of great things. My confidence has come from having great line managers, the opportunities afforded to me, and also from making mistakes. We all make mistakes, and when we do, we learn and do it differently next time. The transition from Manager to Leader is integral. One of the main things I have kept is a sense of humour!

What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?

Have a route (it’s ok to take the scenic route!), know your goals, but mostly be yourself. Find a mentor outside your organisation and learn, listen, and understand. Don’t be afraid of anything, have confidence.

#IWD2021 #womeninleadership