I lead a dynamic legal services team that provides exceptional strategic and tactical support on mergers and acquisitions, complex contracts, securities, and regulatory issues for a major Canadian telecommunications company. I take pride in my leadership abilities and what I have been able to achieve professionally and personally. I am also exceptionally proud of my three grown children who are pursuing their dreams and becoming leaders.
I have always made my family my first priority and I can say with confidence that this decision has not only made me a better leader, but it has also helped other working women. To illustrate, in 1987, I was the first lawyer in my Canadian law firm, Stikeman Elliott, to request and be granted a maternity leave. Until then, the firm had no policy in place.
Many women think they need to act like a man to be respected as a leader. My experience is that women do not need to try to imitate men; we can succeed by approaching situations and tasks as women. Our work style and viewpoints may be different at times, yet they can be complementary. I believe our workplaces and society as a whole will benefit if we encourage diverse approaches and perspectives.
I have had a few extraordinary mentors who have taught me some important lessons about leadership success. Firstly, regardless of your profession, you must embrace ambiguity and change and recognize that our work is constantly evolving. Secondly, you must be willing to prove your own abilities and have the self-confidence to promote yourself. If you neglect to do so, other people may not notice the unique skills you have to offer. Thirdly, never forget the value of your team. Gaining your team’s respect and developing an effective succession plan is the best possible endorsement for your leadership. Lastly, and most importantly, if you identify your passions and skills, success will come much more easily. If you don’t love your work, you probably won’t be very good at it.
Throughout my career, I have had to work long hours and achieving a healthy work/life balance has been difficult. There is no secret to balance, but I think it helps to be organized, as well as have good support, an ability to control stress, and a sense of humour to resolve work challenges.
How has education affected your career?
My post-secondary education was life changing. At the University of Montreal, I gained an appreciation for civic duty, serving as a senior member of the student council. At Oxford University, I developed an analytical approach, which has served me well throughout my career. Also, thanks to the many events at Oxford, I also became more outgoing and learned how to network effectively. Additionally, earning a graduate degree at this venerable institution enabled me to stand out among other young lawyers.
Is there a role model who has had a profound impact on your career and/or life? What did he/she motivate you to do?
Céline Hervieux-Payette has been a supportive role model and mentor to me for many years. She is a Canadian senator and a former federal minister, telecommunications executive, lawyer, and champion of women. Céline pursued her career in law after raising her three children. I admire her greatly because she is bold, savvy, determined, compassionate, and courageous.