As part of our Leading Women series, we want to highlight the professional challenges and career aspirations of the women we work with here in Asia. In this story, we speak to Leanne Taylor, Chief Operating Officer of Asia Pacific and Japan at Citrix, about the value of mentorship, the one advice that changed her professional outlook, as well as the place that she cannot wait to fly to for vacation once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
Question: What, in your opinion, is the biggest challenge for the next generation of female leaders here in Asia?
I think the first challenge is that of work-life choices. In my generation, we talk about work-life balance but, as we move on to more roles and responsibilities, it’s not necessarily about balance, but choice. It’s about choosing the times that you spend with the family, the times you spend at work and being comfortable about segregating the two. The second challenge is finding the right sponsor, be it male or female — someone who is prepared to go the mile for you based on what you are capable of delivering. The final challenge, I think, is paying it forward. Instead of just focusing on progression, it’s also about how you can help other women and bring them along your journey.
Q: Which female figure has inspired you the most?
Frances Frei is an American academic from the Harvard Business School, and she absolutely inspires me in terms of her thinking, her ideas around sponsorships and building trust in an organisation. She’s also focused on using logic and authenticity to drive action.
Q: How do you engage with and empower others?
I think we need to create an environment where people want to come to work, to engage with each other and deliver collectively for a common purpose. It is about setting clear expectations. When I look at the teams that I have built, we all understand what we were trying to deliver, so creating an environment that encourages the team to say, “I want to do something better” or “I want to do something more”, that’s key.
Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Early on in my career, I worked for a fantastic man from Zambia. He told me that if I couldn’t be replaced, then I couldn’t be promoted. So you want to find the best talent within the organisation and develop that talent, because you need to constantly be thinking about how to level up and find people who can replace you. You also have to make sure that this person is going to be comfortable in your role, even if you’re no longer in that organisation. That way you can move on to do other things, be it vertically or laterally.
Q: How did you gain your confidence as a leader?
I learnt to be comfortable in saying that I don’t have all the answers. In a business setting, I know what we are driving towards, I know that we need to find the right people and I know we need to start driving for outcomes. However, I also know that I don’t know the answers. I’m confident about being me. I think the more authentic you are, the more trustworthy you are to others.
Q: Why is being a mentor such an important part of your career?
On one level, when I mentor other people, I get the opportunity to share my learnings and help people navigate obstacles that they might be facing. On another level, when you are mentoring someone within your own industry or organisation, you get to know some of the challenges that people are facing, and it gives you insights to the culture and obstacles. This feedback system allows you to drive change. Another thing is that people tend to have the perception that your career is a vertical. However, when you talk to these people, they start to realise that their ability is so much wider than just that vertical path. So mentoring not only helps me understand what’s on the ground, but it highlights the problems I might not have been aware of.
Q: What energises you the most?
Being with people and a sense of achievement. I love being in the office or meeting with customers. When you are sitting in a room during collaborative discussions, with everybody trying to solve a problem, it is just brilliant. Also, I am constantly setting goals for myself, so when I feel like I am progressing towards a goal, it really energises me.
Q: Where are you going for your first vacation once the travel bans are lifted?
Probably the Maldives. I absolutely love spending time in the water. I have two children who love snorkeling, and it’s one of those places that removes the complexities of life, even if it’s just for a few days. Hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later!