Developing functional and leadership expertise will be a defining characteristic of organizations and teams that succeed. As companies become flatter, and more responsibility is placed upon the shoulders of their managers, it is important to equip professionals with a leadership tool kit. Relationship building, maturity, and courage are among the most important components in my leadership tool box; and continuous improvement in these areas will be critical to my success as I move closer to the executive suite.

The greatest lesson I have learned in business is the importance of relationships. I began my career in sales, where my success was not based solely on my ability to master the job, but more so on what I could persuade others to do for and with me. This humbling, yet important, lesson helped me to realize that every person has a unique experience or perspective that must be considered in conjunction with my goals. The ability to influence is critical, as leaders must be able to inspire others to move beyond their individual silos and to work together towards a common vision.

An effective leader also possesses the ability to place her personal interests aside and do what is best for the team. This requires maturity and selflessness. I am thankful that as Unilever continues to change, it has provided me with new opportunities to lead larger teams. Further, as my sphere of influence increases, I am committed to ensuring that our work force looks more like the marketplace in which we compete.

While people with similar backgrounds, experiences and personalities would be a delight to work with, they may not provide a significant competitive advantage for the company in the long run. The excitement and real reward for me comes from recruiting diverse people to be members of my team. It takes courage to extend beyond cultural norms, but both my department and this organization will reap the benefits of many different types of people contributing to the achievement of our common goals.

Throughout my career, I have been blessed to work with people who are smart, passionate and committed. My leadership style is a part of my professional brand, and my success will be determined to the extent i leave a place in better shape than it was when I arrived.