In this Leadership Insider series, Margaret Jaouadi speaks with senior-level business leaders to ask them what in their view are the top 3 leadership skills needed by the leaders of tomorrow to succeed in this changing world and why and what shaped them as a leader.
For this installment, Paul Galanti, Head of Sector – Industrials, Americas at Pacific International Executive Search introduced Margaret to Colleen Capel, a strategic human capital leader who most recently served as Chief People Officer at Evolution Markets Inc., the company that offers a range of strategic financial and transactional services to global participants in the energy and environmental markets.
Thank you for participating in our Leadership Insider series, Colleen. Before we start talking about leadership skills, please introduce yourself and tell us about your leadership journey.
My leadership journey has been significantly shaped by a blend of personal and professional experiences. From the start, my core values, crucial for effective leadership, were instilled by my family, particularly my parents. What has truly molded my leadership style, however, is the diversity of industries and cultures I’ve engaged with throughout my career.
Working across various sectors has not only broadened my business acumen but has also equipped me with a range of solutions, agility, and analytical capabilities. This diversity became apparent during my recent role at Evolution Markets Inc., institutional brokerage services for global energy and environmental markets. My tenure there offered me a unique experience regarding organizational talent priorities – where, unlike larger traditional corporate businesses I worked at previously such as Wiley, S&P Global Market Intelligence, PwC, or JPMorgan Chase which focus on continuous leadership and talent development of its people, the emphasis was primarily on the success of brokerage services. I had to approach my role differently, adopting a distinct approach to influence and execute new people and culture priorities in an organization with historically different priorities, ensure professional fulfillment, and demonstrate the value HR brings.
I believe that stepping out of my comfort zone with each change in the industry has been pivotal. It provided me with a unique perspective and allowed me to approach challenges with a broader mindset. Recently transitioning from Evolution Markets after being acquired, I am eager to embrace a new role that will further expand my business experience. This continual exploration and adaptation in different industries enables me to bring innovative solutions to the table, enhancing my effectiveness as an executive and HR leader. Overall, my leadership journey emphasizes the importance of diverse experiences in driving success in leadership roles.
You have worked with and collaborated with many diverse leaders and you are one yourself. So, tell me, what are the top three qualities that you find crucial for future leaders to be successful given the advancement of technology, namely AI, and the changing world we live in today?
Well, Margaret, that’s a thoughtful question, and as I reflect on the evolving landscape shaped by technology, especially AI, and the fast-paced changes in our world, among the many essential skills, these three stand out to me. Now, these aren’t necessarily in any specific order, but each holds its significance.
Emotional intelligence is paramount. Leaders must grasp the nuances of human interactions, empathize with team members, and build strong relationships. This is especially crucial in a world where technology, like AI, is advancing rapidly, emphasizing the importance and the need for human connections and understanding.
Adaptability is an indispensable second key quality. Leaders need to be agile, willing to pivot, and adept at navigating uncertainty. The traditional approach of having a fixed long-term plan may no longer suffice in the face of rapid technological changes and more generally VUCA. The ability to unlearn, reevaluate strategies, and guide teams through frequent changes is key.
The third critical skill is discernment. As we rely more on technology and AI for information, leaders must question, analyze, and verify data. Discernment involves challenging assumptions and ensuring that decisions are rooted in genuine, accurate information rather than blindly accepting what AI or other sources present. This skill becomes increasingly crucial as technology shapes our perception of truth.
What is even more important is that these qualities must be underpinned by strong values. Leaders should uphold honesty, trust, and a human-centered approach. In a world where AI lacks the human touch, these values provide the anchor for effective leadership.
In my view, emotional intelligence, adaptability, and discernment, when coupled with strong values of honesty, leading with the heart, and remembering our shared humanity, create a robust foundation for leaders to thrive in an ever-changing environment.
My last question, Colleen, what is the biggest thing from your past that shaped you as a leader?
When reflecting on what has shaped me the most as a leader, I’d say it’s a combination of diverse experiences, global exposure, and the influence of role models and mentors along the way.
Firstly, the diverse experiences and backgrounds I’ve had throughout my career played a significant role. Whether it’s navigating the dynamics of a professional services organization, a bank like JP Morgan Chase, or a publishing and research institution like Wiley, each brought unique challenges and required distinct leadership approaches. Additionally, the experiences of working with unique cultures and individuals from around the world have significantly influenced my leadership style and my view that one must think globally, but act locally. Leading change in India, for instance, demands a different approach than in the UK, Philippines, Brazil, Sri Lanka, or any other country.
Moreover, encountering various challenges and experiencing failures has been a significant part of my leadership journey. The distinct challenges posed by each industry and the different failures I’ve encountered have served as opportunities for learning, adapting my approach, and refining my leadership style. Employee relations at J.P. Morgan Chase, for instance, posed challenges of a different nature compared to similar situations at PriceWaterhouseCoopers or say in India versus France.
Another crucial factor has been the influence of role models and mentors, whether they were aware of it or not. Early in my career, the first person I worked for unknowingly shaped my perspective on leadership. The way she treated me, acknowledged my role, and interacted with me left a lasting impact. Later, as I progressed into managerial roles, I consciously approached others with respect, understanding the importance of supporting them in their roles and as unique individuals.
A prior manager, long-time mentor, and good friend taught me the importance of giving back and reciprocation. Understanding that asking for help should be followed by a genuine offer to assist others in return. This valuable lesson in giving back and fostering a culture of mutual support has become an integral part of my leadership philosophy.
So, in essence, it’s the blend of diverse experiences, overcoming challenges, and the influence of mentors that have collectively shaped me as a leader, impacting how I approach challenges, lead change, and interact with those around me.
Thank you for your insights.
It’s not every day that one gets the reflect on their experiences in such depth, and I appreciate the thought-provoking conversation. The process of discussing and contemplating these aspects of my leadership journey has truly been enlightening.
I look forward to the outcomes of your collective findings and am grateful to have been a part of this insightful exchange. Thank you once again for this engaging opportunity.
For a confidential chat about how Pacific International can assist you with your Talent Acquisitions and Diversity challenges, please contact Manuel Preg or one of our Executive Search Consultants specialising in your sector.
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