Each week we will give you a Q&A on their experience with SHE Leads and about their ambitions as leaders. This week we spoke with Agnieszka Sledz, Head of System Design and Engineering at Clear Marine.
What are your ambitions as a future leader?
My goal is to promote diversity, inclusion and breaking homogenous management environments. I believe business in the general sense can only benefit from allowing different points of view to be heard and considered. We cannot approach new challenges with the tool set we have always used. Diversified teams have broader views of situation, leading to optimal solutions.
What would be your goals as a leader?
Firstly, I believe in authenticity, attempts to copy the leadership style of male leaders is leading nowhere.
Secondly, I believe in creating solid teams, because a great leader does not have to have all the answers and ideas, rather they create the culture where everyone feels safe to lets his/her creativity “go wild” and have their ideas valued at the same time.
Having experienced working for big companies in Asia, shifting to running a family business in Poland, then moving to Norway and joining an exciting start-up, I would promote building teams with people of diverse experience.
What are the three words that your employees would say about you as a leader?
Who is your role model?
Inspiration can come from many surprising directions! I am feeding my curiosity by reading books, and my latest favourite authors are Olga Tokarczuk (a Polish writer, activist, and public intellectual) and Gloria Steinem (an American feminist journalist and social political activist).
I am always keeping a watchful eye on the politic stage, observing Erna Solberg, Michelle Obama, Jacinda Ardern and the growing leader of the feminist movement in Poland, Marta Lempart.
Very important sources of my inspiration are my daughters, who amaze me daily with their perspectives, unusual solutions, their optimism, and curiosity.
What are the lessons in your professional career that you have learned the most from?
Various stages of my career came with different learning experiences.
Years spent in South Korea, where I have been exposed to Asian work-culture and a multicultural environment, taught me a valuable lesson in that mutual respect must be a foundation for team cooperation. Being open to different points of view leads to the building of an effective and dynamic team.
Entrepreneurial experience in my home country was a lesson in financial responsibility, for myself, the business and employees. As a business owner and leader, I also have deeply understood how important it is to engage and inspire.
Working in a start-up in Norway taught me about managing flexibility. Working in a new country boosted my skills in effectively building and navigating networks inside and outside of my organization.
Why did you join SHE Leads? What did you hope to learn from the mentors?
I needed fresh inspiration, to network outside maritime industry, hoping to learn new tools to boost my personal and professional development. It was very exciting to begin the SHE Leads journey from defining our values and strengthening understanding of ourselves.
I was looking forward to the mentoring program, as I wanted to learn from a different perspective of my perception of professional dilemmas, ensure that my intuition guides me well and help to extent/build my network. Suggestions of the new tools necessary in solving new issues and keep myself accountable to my decisions are very much appreciated as well.
What do you think would be your strengths and weaknesses as a leader?
I am convinced that my strongest feature as a leader is creating a good space/arena for my team, by trusting people and the expertise they bring.
My career path was built in various countries, cultures and from different positions, this gives me strong situation adaptability when leading international/diverse teams. As I have already mentioned above, I possess ability to handle conflicts well, navigating networks, and operating effectively in uncertain situations.
I like to think that what others see as weakness is actually my strength. Being a foreigner in Norway closes some doors, however in dynamic times we should take a more extraordinary approach to reach success. What I learned in Asia is that without the risk, there is no future—and with multicultural cooperation we can move projects at a great pace, learn from each other and inspire!
What are the key takeaways from SHE Leads?
We all should begin from deep understanding of our core values, strengths, and shortcomings. Being aware of them gives us strength to communicate well and to keep integrity in challenging situations. The great value is to form a solid team, where you truly trust each other, challenge each other and work with and through each other.
During the program I have increased my awareness of the importance of mindfulness and design thinking.
Forming mastermind groups is one of the key takeaways. We are building trust and a supportive arena, which is allowing us to discuss our professional dilemmas, ask the right questions and advise each other.
Obviously having a great, experienced mentor is a dream came true! It is not my first mentoring journey and I really appreciate the preparation materials we were given by SHE Leads. Knowing how to navigate this valuable time, having proper tools and indications gives the opportunity to make the most of it, for both mentor and mentee.
Why would you recommend future leaders to join SHE Leads?
For me it is a great chance to broaden my network and meet inspiring female leaders willing to discuss my professional issues and dilemmas. I am amazed that after spending a whole day on learning, I am still super energized at the end of the day; I have a general feeling of being empowered, understanding myself deeper and gradually building up my self-esteem. •
Check out SHE Leads Virtual, launching 2021.