Welcome to our Beyond Recruitment Women in Leadership series, dedicated to the journeys of women in leadership across New Zealand businesses. There’s currently a lot of discussion around women not being in leadership roles, not joining the executive ranks or not serving on boards. We’ve found however, that there are so many stories to share of women who have done well in leadership, and so many organisations that are running fantastic programs to allow women to grow in leadership roles.
We recently sat down with Shirvani Mudaly, Head of Human Resources at Yellow New Zealand to talk about leadership, learnings and her experience as a woman in leadership.
Shirvani believes that leadership consists of two parts; the natural leadership traits that show themselves organically, and that moment when you get into a position to become a people leader. Shirvani said that her natural leadership stood out fairly early on. “I think my leadership attributes came out quite young. Even when I was in high school and working at a part time job at a supermarket. Very quickly after a few months I’d gone from working checkouts to being the supervisor; so I think there was always some natural leadership traits there.”
“I think there are definitely quite a few elements of leadership that are innate.” Shirvani continues, speaking on the innate vs learned leadership debate. “I certainly don’t think you can’t learn at all; we’re rolling out programmes at the moment about developing leaders and learning about becoming a great leader. I think the really great leaders, a lot of it is innate…But I think absolutely anyone can learn anything at any time, so I don’t think it’s restricted to that.”
Lessons to Learn
However, even with a natural predisposition for leadership, there’s still a lot to learn. Shirvani cites her biggest leadership lesson as learning how to execute. “A lot of people talk about having great ideas and great strategies, which is essential and very critical,” Shirvani says. “But I think the ability to take those ideas and strategies and actually execute and put them in place is something that’s so critical to anyone’s success. I still see time and time again, great ideas, great strategies, but sometimes they just stay on the paper.”
A lot of that learning can come from good mentorship and coaching. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have, in every role I’ve had so far, really great leaders that I report to,” said Shirvani. “I think what’s been key with that is [your mentor] always knowing what you don’t know, and the ability to learn from any situation you’ve been involved in.”
“I would say attitude and behavior, especially as you get up the ladder, sometimes overtakes technical ability. The more senior you get, the more people you have underneath you and the more technical experts you have [at your disposal], so the ability to build relationships to be able to get things done becomes more critical I think. So I would say just be really conscious about relationships in the workplace; how you treat people in workplace, how you behave. That sincere approach.”
For women aspiring to become leaders, Shirvani has this to say. “Just be quite tenacious with your goals, really. There are always going to be people who will give you feedback that maybe you’re not ready for the next step, or you haven’t got the skillset for this, and honestly, quite bluntly, I would say that if you believe yourself and you know what you can do, just ignore it and keep going on your journey. And if you just; head down, you do a good job, you execute, it comes. People recongise you when you do a good job, I think, in most organisations.”
We’d like to send out a big thank you to Shirvani for sitting down with us and sharing her experiences and insights.
Watch this space for the next edition of the Women in Leadership blog series, and if you have a great story you’d like to share, then feel free to get in touch.