My leadership path has spanned industries as disparate as automotive, telecom, financial services, and now, law, as McCarthy Tétrault’s first woman non-attorney in a senior leadership role. To use Sheryl Sandberg’s language, it truly has been a “jungle gym.” Whatever the field, though, one common theme has emerged: change.
Throughout my career I have been engaged in industries undergoing significant upheaval. Seeing change as an opportunity rather than a detriment was an early lesson and has shaped my leadership style and decision making.
While each specific role has had its unique challenges, I have always navigated and driven change by becoming a respected partner; insisting on transparency; establishing a clear vision; inspiring others to accept progress; and taking a hands-on approach, all while safeguarding a company’s culture.
In periods of fluctuation, steady leadership is invaluable and it begins with listening and authenticity. Oftentimes, the loudest person is neither the most knowledgeable nor the most powerful. Similarly, nothing slows progress like inauthenticity. I never downplay traits like femininity. For example, I embrace my passion for dressing fashionably. Throughout my career, listening and authenticity has been integral to my success, allowing me to deliver results and build mutually beneficial relationships and networks.
I have always sought new opportunities by choosing a path that offered the best challenge, not the most prestigious title. This is an important lesson for young women: No matter their title or status, everyone is a leader. They all have the ability to influence decisions, wherever they are in the corporate hierarchy or not.
I have been fortunate to have great mentors who have shaped my leadership style and continue to help me hone my skillset. Mentors come in many forms—peers, staff members, bosses, friends, and family—and many of mine have given me similar advice: People don’t follow the title, they follow the person. In other words, a leader is only as good as the team he or she hires, so I always start by identifying the best people for the job.
Finally, I cannot overstate the value of open-mindedness. Change truly is an opportunity and my ability to not only recognize it, but to use it as an advantage and for results has been a key factor in my success.
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?
My mother was and continues to be a role model for me in business and in my personal life. She demonstrates the importance of values and has always provided positive reinforcement that has guided me throughout my life. Being from a traditional family herself, my mother was ahead of her time by exposing me to non-traditional roles. She guided me to think beyond traditional roles for women and what our small community thought was appropriate. This encouraged me to constantly seek the next challenge, which led me to New York City and now Toronto where I can fulfill my career and personal goals of being a wife, a good role model, and mentor.