Caroline Thomaes, Country Leader of Procter and Gamble (P&G) for the Benelux, shares her views on leadership in today’s world. As a leader and as a woman, Caroline feels she “has it all”. We have asked her what type of Leadership is needed today and how to get there. She says:
“Today, leadership is all about soft skills. The future is soft skills. It is constant, life-long learning. The best leaders are the best learners. We reinvent ourselves, understand how we can make an impact and learn something new every day.
I see my impact. I lead with my heart. I care. Today’s leadership is about caring. I always find time for my people no matter what I do. I ask every member of my team: What is the superpower you have?
A leader today needs to be authentic. When you are authentic, people follow your lead. You cannot be fake. You cannot be ‘all talk and no walk’. You need to be a transparent, mature and share responsibility. Otherwise, your followers will neither trust you nor rely on you for the tough decisions that need to be made.”
Being a caring, inclusive leader
“Being an inclusive leader is something you build day by day. Take small steps every single day. Stop other people’s and your own wrong behaviour, by being aware of any stereotypes and bias. Being present at every moment with undivided attention is essential.
However, this is very difficult. Today’s leaders are constantly struggling to keep up with various demands, different issues to understand, as well as their phone and email. We are regularly needed. Focusing on the here and now and being with every person that requires your attention can be a challenge, but this is who an inclusive leader has to be.”
Three top tips for leaders in today’s world
Number 1. Be aware. Be agile. Be adaptable.
“Be aware of people’s different profiles. Use tools like the MBTI and other, so you can be aware of different personalities in your team. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. For this, you need to be able to listen, to use your emotional intelligence and to decode.”
Number 2. Surround yourself with people who can tell you the truth.
“This is about stimulating courageous followership– people who are not afraid to speak up, people who can tell you what you are not seeing, your blind spots. Reverse mentoring works very well. For instance, pair a top leader with a younger employee and you will learn a lot.“
As part of this number 2 strategy at P&G, Caroline has put together the Speak Up campaign ‘Straight Talk’. A campaign about people being free to communicate everything they have to say in a constructive way: “This is very precious input for leaders as it opens the door to new possibilities, helps overcome blind spots and creates more collective intelligence.“
Number 3. Engage in constant learning.
“An inclusive leader is first of all a leader, someone who delivers through people. Make a regular appointment with yourself. You need to make time for yourself and give time back to others. This can be through training, speaking, sharing or mentoring but if you don’t learn every day, you will rapidly hit the wall.
In this fast-moving world, a leader needs to be ready to learn anything and this until the last moment of our lives. Good enough is not acceptable anymore. We have to be ready to juggle several tasks at once. In today’s world, we have to excel.”